Do the Road Work


Today (or really tomorrow) marks the seven year anniversary of this blog. Twice a week, every Monday and Thursday, for seven years, I have brought my grandmother and a few others some sort of tidbit from my life or POV.

What has it brought me? Oh, people know a lot more about my cat than I feel comfortable with. My mother knows how much I drink. At times I hear a student use a joke I have written and it makes me sweat in horror-filled pride. I have gotten in trouble a few times when people didn’t take to my humor or the particular snark I was flinging.

How I viewed blogging in the beginning is vastly different from the reality I have come to know. I figured it was just a matter of time before I’d be vaulted to international blogging fame and that some literary agent would come out of the woodwork to offer me a six figure publishing contract in order to snatch up the brilliant blogging juice dripping out of my brilliant blogger’s brain. But this has not happened.

My readership is built of my extended community, and probably my blog has otherwise gone unnoticed on the gigantic internet. It exists there as one of surely millions of relatively unknown blogs like small roadside diners.

To those thinking of blogging or writing, this result might seem counter-intuitive. Why get into it if you aren’t going to make money or achieve fame?

Answer: because it could quite possibly be the best thing to do for your writing. The two best things I have done for my writing was a novel and this blog. The novel was bad. This is in not a plea for sympathy or an indirect request for validation or reassurance (no it was great!). The novel was the best I could do then. But it is not good by my standards now, and that’s because I’ve been writing daily for the seven years since it was published. And that’s a damn good thing. Imagine going into the shadowy corners of your parents’ attic and finding a box of your old journals from high school. How would you feel about the writing in those? Right.

But you have to start somewhere. Writing a bad book is better than writing no book. And writing a bad book is the first step to writing a better book, which is the first step to writing a good book.

I’ve heard people say that they have a book or a screenplay “in their head.” I mean no disrespect, but only someone who has sat down and tried to write their screenplay or book knows the Pacific Ocean difference between writing it and having it “in their head.” It’s almost incomparable, but only when you start to write do you understand that that screenplay that is perfect in your head is a piece of shit when you scratch out a chapter. Again, this is the first step to a bad book, which is the first step to a good book.

But in order to attain those levels of bad and then maybe good, you have to finish. And that means doing what boxers call “the road work.” In boxing and in writing this is the tedious training, the training you do when nobody is looking, the flash-less, thankless, exhausting grunt work whose effects you only see incrementally and only after hours upon hours of work and painful effort. But you do see the benefit. And if you really want to write books or stories or movies, you have to put in those hours of road work.

That is what blogging, aside from a lot of fun, has been to me. The road work. I put myself on a schedule that I swore not to miss for any reason. Before travelling I’d write and schedule three weeks of posts. If I was bedridden sick, I’d crawl to my desk and pump out a bad post. I’ve sat in front of this computer absolutely void of ideas, no words coming, but I’d go to the internet, write about a weird national holiday, tell a travel story, or write from my cat’s POV. Anything to get the words in. Anything.

The result is seven years of posts under my belt. 728 posts. Some of them are bad. Some aren’t good. Some are OK. Some were surprisingly popular, some surprisingly unpopular. But you know what? They’re there. They’re fodder. They are practice. They are my road work. It has been an astounding education and I am a far better writer than I have ever been.

And so I say to those of you who want to write – do the road work. Write a blog. Write an hour a day. Put your ass on a schedule, put up your worst poems until they start to get better, then put up more. Post character resumes for the movie you want to write. Move that book from your “in your head” to “on the page.” Do the road work, you will not be sorry.

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