As aspiring authors, we’re encouraged to have a web presence. One easy way to do this is to join a group blog, like the Gem State Writers. Blogging allows writers to participate in an online community, to build an audience, and to make friends in the industry.
Most newbie bloggers are aware of the obvious dangers. They know not to offend the audience with controversial topics like politics or religion. They’re careful not to criticize other writers’ work. They’ve heard about cyber-stalkers and flame wars, but – since they’re not blogging with any malicious intent- they assume it won’t happen to them. Probably their biggest fear is that they’ll run out of subject matter.
No one ever talks about the intangible dangers of blogging, the problems that arise when a reader derives an interpretation that’s vastly different than the author’s intent.
After asking several friends why they’ve abandoned blogging, I’m convinced these perils exist:
Everyone thinks you’re writing about them. No matter how factual and impersonal your blog posts are, there will always be somebody who thinks you’re secretly writing about them. This might be your dearest friend or someone who doesn’t even know your email address. Whether they silently nurse a grudge or publicly recruit a gang to attack you, the result is basically the same. It’s a distraction from your writing.
“Write what you know” is considered showing off. It’s only natural to blog repeatedly about the things you’ve had success with. You might see this as sharing useful information with your reader, and your blog statistics might back up that claim. Still, some of your readers will see it as bragging. You can’t win this game. Don’t even try.
You risk being seen as a hypocrite. If you’re chronicling the writer’s journey, you probably blog about problems you’ve encountered and tips on how to solve them. Again, your intent is to share a moment of insight in the hope that your reader will benefit from your experience. That doesn’t mean that you’re perfect, or that you always successfully follow your own advice.
Your reader, on the other hand, may think that you’re setting yourself up as an expert. Any time–past, present, or future– you deviate from what you’ve set down in print, you open yourself to accusations of hypocrisy.
The real danger is that these types of attacks will stifle your creativity. If you get to the point where you can no longer write for fear of the onslaught, it’s probably time to get out of the blogging business.
I would love to hear your experience and advice on this topic. Have you ever encountered any of these hidden perils of blogging? If so, how did you handle it? If not, do you take blogs at face value, or do you try to read between the lines? Do you think bloggers should be held accountable for always doing everything exactly as they recommend in their blogs?