What Do We Have Here?

I started my first blog, In the Realm of PN1997, in April 2005, mainly to chronicle my experience at the Philadelphia Film Festival (back when I lived in Philadelphia). I kept up with it for 5 whole months before I stopped posting. It was my first attempt at a blog, and, as it seems, it met the same lonely fate as a lot of first blogs.

But my interest in blogging was not dead. In March 2006, I took a pre-conference workshop at Computers in Libraries (I should mention, for those who don’t already know, that I am a librarian. The aforementioned PN1997 is a reference to the Library of Congress call number for films). Being a librarian means that I spend way too much time trying out new web gizmos and that I also spend a disproportionate amount of time thinking and talking about them.

In preparation for this workshop, I decided to start a new blog in order to play around with some of the things I learned. That blog, Tombrarian (originally here), has been going strong, more or less, ever since and has made me quasi-famous in certain library circles.

For a long time, Tombrarian served as both my professional and personal blog. Recently, I made the decision to split these two aspects of Tombrarian and created Being and Formulating as my personal blog. I intended that blog to be a place where I could reflect more thoughtfully about things going on in my life (as the title suggests), but it turned into a place where I posted pictures from vacations and pictures of our pets. For whatever reason, I quickly lost enthusiasm for it. I also had a very short-lived blog about our move to Las Vegas, but I got too busy with the actual moving to keep up with it. I know having a blog wither and die on the web happens for a lot of people which is why I’m going into some detail here about my rationale for started yet another blog.

I say that Being and Formulating whithered for “whatever reason.” Actually, I think I know the reason. I have always avoided blogging about one important facet of my life and that is the part dedicated to writing. One reason I have excluded this topic from my blogs is that I have (or had) some desire to become a professional, published writer, and I always thought that putting my work on a website would undermine my chances of getting published through traditional channels. “Self-publishing” is often looked down on, and once something is “published,” even on a website, getting it “published” elsewhere becomes difficult. As you can see by my use of quotation marks, I have some ideas about what getting published means, especially in light of the ease with which one can now self-publish. I intend to speak more to this in future posts.

Another reason why I hesitated to reveal my writing life on the web is my shyness about it and my natural inclination against shameless self-promotion. I write mainly out of some strange compulsion and for my own self-enjoyment. Any desire to publish is, in a way, merely an afterthought. In fact, I often question my desire to publish. I’ve been writing since I was about 15, so after so many years of this being a personal endeavor, I guess something else should happen. Something needs to change. If my work is not a good fit for the traditional published world (or if I’m just too lazy to navigate it), maybe there is another way to share it for someone else’s enjoyment as well.

I also have been hesitant to share because I’ve known too many writers who over-share. And this ties in a bit with self-promotion. I’ve known writers who talk a lot about being writers but who are unaware of their own limitations. In other words, they stink. I never wanted to be one of those people who go on and on about being a writer without having anything to show for it. Writers often over-estimate their skills. A look at a site like Query Shark reinforces this notion. At this site, you can read drafts of agent queries that run the spectrum of quality. Some people have really bad ideas and can barely form a sentence, yet they have written novels that they think are publishable.

Based on some of the queries the author of the site and her commentators like, I get the sense that the kind of things I write may not be a good fit for traditional avenues of publication. I’m not getting this idea solely from this site but from years of paying attention to the publishing industry.

I don’t mean to suggest that the things I write are in any way so radical that they defy conventional standards. I don’t fancy myself this daring and misunderstood writer. As I have gotten older and have come to understand more about the publishing world, I’ve realized that it is very much a business, which isn’t meant to suggest there are not agents, editors, and publishers who are devoted more to quality than to the dollar. The reality of the publishing world is that if books don’t sell, even the most noble of these people will be out on the street. What I mean to say by this explanation is that the type of things I write are not easily marketable. They are not particularly literary nor do they fall neatly into a specific genre. Again, I don’t want to give the impression that I think I’m doing anything special here, just that my style isn’t market-ready. Or, perhaps, I just stink and don’t know it. Hopefully, the feedback I get via this blog will help me figure all this out.

Which is why, now that I’ve finally decided to do something with my writing, a blog feels like the ideal venue. I don’t want to put my writing on the web merely for vanity’s sake. A blog allows this endeavor to be a conversation, and I am hoping people will be interested enough to engage me in this discussion, not only about my own writing, but also about writing in general, about creativity, about the publishing world, and about whatever topics that are tangentially related.

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