The blog thing

What Michelle Sagara and Scalzi said.

Lately I’ve been getting a bunch of people writing me wanting advice on how to blog. They’ve been told that it’s a great way to promote their books but they don’t know how or they want some magic recipe for attracting lots of traffic.

I haven’t answered any of those letters yet. (Hey, I owe my mother emails! No one’s ahead of Jan in the email queue.) But mostly I haven’t answered because I really don’t know what to say. For starters, I don’t get lots of traffic. I average around a thousand hits a day,1 which ain’t bad, but it’s no where near the numbers of the truly popular blogs. Also blogging just to promote yourself? Meh.

For me the least interesting part of having a blog is talking about myself and my books. The most fun is ranting and opinionating about stuff I care about like writing, fashion, politics, cricket, Elvis and quokkas. I have a lot of opinions and I likes to share them. More than that I likes to hear other peoples respsonses to my rants. When I first started pontificating online back in 2003, I didn’t allow comments. Mostly I didn’t like the idea of flame wars or dealing with spam. When I switched to proper blogging in 2005 I quickly realised that the comments were the best part.

Blogging’s a dialogue, that’s one of the many reasons I love it. Part of what’s so awesome about Scalzi’s Whatever and the Nielsen Hayden’s Making Light is that they’re communities. They’re smart, argumentative, witty communities and they’re that way because of the high quality posts and comments they’re responding to. You’re never going to wind up with a community like that if all you can talk about are your books. BORING!!

I always have several posts I’m working on at once. Right now I have one about my friend Lisa Herb’s incredibly inspiring non-profit organisation, Alliance for International Women’s Rights, another about torture inspired by this incredible book, which I read because of Scalzi. Then there’s the long-overdue insomnia post, more stuff on fashion, DNA and race, and answers to reader questions about agents, how to give public readings, and world-building.

But most of my posts are an immediate response to something I saw or read or tripped over that day. It’s occasional writing—as in, inspired by a particular occasion. I see a stupid list of rules for writing so I write my own and so on and so forth.

Keeping a blog has changed how I view the world. Mostly for the good, but sometimes for the bad (ish). You know you might have a problem when your friends ask you, “Are you going to blog this argument?” “Er, no,” you tell them as you mentally erase the post you have just composed in your head. “How could you think such a thing?” Or worse when they ask if you’re going to blog the fabulous evening you’ve just had when that was the last thing on your mind because you was just having fun. That’s one of the many reasons I don’t blog about my life directly.

My advice to would-be bloggers is the same as Michelle Sagara’s and Scalzi’s if it’s not fun, don’t do it.

There are many extremely successful writers who don’t blog. There are some wonderful bloggers whose books don’t sell that well. A successful blog is neither here nor there when it come to a successful writing career.

  1. When I first started pontificating online in 2003 I had barely a hundred hits a day []

Email bankruptcy, or, attempting to cope

I am in crunch time. I am in crunchy crunch time. The busyness I have been complaining about has rebounded on itself and leapt to a whole new level of busy. In a word: Aaaarggghh!!!!

I’m going to keep blogging. I made a little bet with myself to see if I could blog every day of July and so far so good. I hate to lose bets with myself. Especially fun ones. Also blogging kind of clears my head. Dunno why but when I’m deep in writing, blogging really helps me to unwind—that and a glass of wine.

However, I’ll no longer be replying to comments as much as I have been (which I know has been down on what it used to be)—Sorry! The UFB has to be rewritten and that’s my top priority.

Then there’s the email problem. A while back John Green declared email bankruptcy. I think I may have to do the same. I have more than five hundred unanswered emails, which I know is nothing compared to Cory Doctorow who gets, like, two thousand a day, but, well, I ain’t coping. Important emails are getting lost in the shuffle. So I’m going to put them all in a folder to be dealt with after crunch time. I hope that if it was important folks will resend.

I’m very sorry for not replying. I suck.

So from now until I’ve finished the rewrites and made solid inroads into the new novel, I’ll be very bad about answering email and your comments here. And if I am responding to comments here in the next few months—that means I’m being an evil procrastinator and you have my full permission to hassle me about it.

Now I return to the UFB.


I have a terrible memory. Especially for people. My memory for names is non-existent unless I’ve met that person many times. My face memory is a little better, but I struggle to place faces. If I see someone I’ve met several times at Young Adult Lit events in a totally different context I often cannot figure out who they are. But usuallly I don’t even recognise the face of the person beaming at me and saying, “Hi, Justine.”

Once the person I’m not remembering starts to recount how we met and describes the conversation I start to figure out who they are. But sometimes even that doesn’t help.

I know I am not alone in this. Almost every writer I know complains about it because we’re often in situations where we’re meeting someone who remembers us because we met at an event, which is a rarity for them, but common for us.

It’s not just a writer problem. Any profession where you’re likely to meet lots of people: retail, teaching, performing etc etc is going to run up against this problem.

I was horrible at remembering my students when I was an academic. To be honest I’ve always been bad at remembering stuff. I sucked at Memory games as a child. Still do.

How do politicians cope? I know Bill Clinton is famous for remembering every single person he’s ever met. But not all politicians are like that. How do they deal with so many different faces?

It could be worse. I know someone who has a condition which means they cannot remember faces. All faces look the same to them. Without name tags or someone prompting them they are lost. They are constantly giving offence.

So, I’m not that bad. And I’m better at faces than Scott is. Though sadly he’s about the same as me on names.

I have gotten better at simply asking the person to tell me how I know them. But often I’m too embarrassed. It feels rude.

Having a bad memory feels rude.

I really hate not remembering people. I know that I’m a wee bit miffed when people don’t remember me (which happens often) and yet here I am constantly doing it to everyone else. So much of the time I act like I know the person and keep the conversation going in the hopes that I can figure it out. Fortunately I usually can. Though there are the horrible moments when I decide they’re someone they’re not. Erk.

Seems to me that there’s only so much space in most (non-Bill Clinton) people’s heads for remembering. So the average person can at most remember, say, a thousand people. Once you meet more than that your brain starts deleting, or pushing them to a less easily accessed part of the hard drive. And creating trouble for you. Stupid brain.

I’m sure there are all these tricks for getting around the limited hard drive space. Hell, I know there are. Friends have taught them to me. But I keep forgetting to try them out.

How do you lot cope?