Do I really want to commit to a writing life as a public figure?
I find myself conflicted between my blog and the column. If I impulsively blog, than I potentially ruin a great column topic. I started it because I missed bylines– and the blog led to an actual byline.
Part of the reason I deleted facebook was to focus more the blog– that facebook can become a black hole of time suckage! But I started the blog because last year, I felt that facebook Notes were too insular, and I didn’t have a wide enough audience. So now I have no facebook, and my blog subscriptions have doubled. I may have more comments on the blog itself, which I appreciate.
But I have less interaction about what I’m writing–and that, I miss.
And now that I have a column, I also have less of a desire to be a public figure. Before, I thought I wanted to promote my blog– and get famous. I thought I wanted to get back in journalism full-time as a reporter, and the column was wedging my foot in the door. But now I don’t believe that’s my dream.
I’ve done that. I’ve been a community staff writer for a daily newspaper–three times. I’ve worked weekends, nights, holidays. I’ve covered meetings, which I hate. I’ve written press releases, business stories, death notices, obits, police blotters, spot news, hard news, profiles, movie reviews, and now columns. I’ve been A-1. I’ve written crap stories. I’ve had retractions. I’ve gotten stellar compliments. I’ve been my own photographer, as well as written the captions.
I’ve learned to think like an editor. I know what’s timely, what’s news. I’ve learned to copy edit surgically. I know a strong lead, and I write short graphs. My blog is certainly reflective of my journalism background– long narrative graphs tend to make me itch! With the column, I’ve learned word economy.
I used to resent that as a journalist, I couldn’t have a personal opinion. Now, I just crave privacy. I don’t want to share private details about my beliefs, routine, location and relationships compulsively, as we’ve been conditioned to do through facebook and social media.
Every time I write a column, I have to consider how that will effect my private life, my career. Writing a blog about my political opinions is one thing–but doing in a column when I have my picture in the paper and live in this community is another.
Someone may find my column and read something that changes their mind about hiring me. Although being a columnist gives me a measure of respect and even power, there’s always a trade-off.
I also feel torn about my blog for the same reasons I came to resent facebook: it’s a mirror of my personal life. I keep the details fairly safe and restricted, but people can stalk your blog just like they stalk your profile. People tend to passively read without commenting– I’ve been surprised to find out that some fringe acquaintances read my blog faithfully. I remained oblivious until one day in conversation they tell me– and it’s always a wonderful compliment. And while I’m glad to have their attention, I wish I could engage with them about it. I supposed I feel pride, but it’s more like a one-way mirror– they learn things about me, but I don’t know them any better.
And of course, friends I’m no longer speaking to and exes can check up on me, without having to contact me. All they have to do is Google me. And that’s both comforting and creepy. Because although it may be sweet to think someone misses me, the same potential exists for people to become attached to your words. People I dislike may be reading my blog, and I’ll never know. Strangers may feel they know me, and I’ll never know.
I can certainly write for money–I’m good at it. But I’m starting to wonder if I’d rather be on the other side– editing. Helping to shape the ideas of other writers, helping them find their voice. That would allow me to keep my anonymity, but engage my passion for writing.
Have I outgrown my blog? How long do I want to write a column?
I applied for the column at the behest of a friend from j-school. He previously wrote Common Sense –for five years.
Wow. Five years as a newspaper columnist. That’s difficult to fathom. Can I go the distance?
Questions for 2012.