Is Blogging for Publication Like Bombing for Peace?

I’m sure you all know how the real phrase goes, but if there’s anything I’ve learned from fellow bloggers extraordinaires, it’s that artistic liberty is part of our job descriptions as writers of words, tellers of tales, and purveyors of the improbable, the strange, and the downright impossible.

         I do feel a need to clarify the above statement. I’m not making any claims that blogging is detrimental to publishing–not at all. I believe blogging is a great way to build a platform, network, and, eventually, promotion. My question, one I’ve been pondering for a while, is related to what is considered “published” material these days. In reading submission guidelines for various publications, contests, etc. most of them consider something posted on a blog as “previously published,” therefore negating it as an acceptable submission. It makes sense: why pay to print something that people can find for free online? This is not a discourse on internet piracy, I’ll leave that to the more impassioned and informed.

        Which brings me, in a roundabout fashion, to the point. How does this affect blogging? If I have stories I write that I want to share with you all because (a) I’m a writer and therefore an exhibitionist and (b) I trust the judgement of my readers and want to know if the story has merit, do I refrain from posting because a 1,000 word blog post may invalidate a 100,000 word novel I write one day? Is that really fair? For example, for those of you that have been following, if I wanted to turn Evie and Owen’s story into a novel for publication, all signs point to rejection.

        I enjoy posting stories that I think might have a future as something else, because I want to post quality stories, stories that I think are important, that I take pride in. Sure, I write stories just for the blog. But, if I wanted to take them somewhere and submit–I couldn’t. I’ve come to a bit of a crossroads. Do I hide all my works in progress away, take them off the blog, and give you only the loose bits and pieces that have no place elsewhere? Or, do I continue writing and posting the stories I would like to see be published (in whatever form or draft) in the hopes that the rules will change?

       There are a lot of question marks in this post–they aren’t rhetorical. I would love to hear from you—whether you have personal experience or not. For as the poet, John Donne said “No writer is an island, darlings.” Or something like that.

A Writer Who Actually Writes? Inconceivable.

One of the funniest things people ask me–whether they remember my “hobby” of writing  from the past or my enrollment in graduate school is under discussion–is: “So, have you written anything lately?”

To which I always want to respond: “Have you breathed lately?”

I’m not sure if writers fall in the category of mythical creatures in some people’s minds, perhaps slightly less rare than the spotted whangdoodle or chupacabra, but I think one of the perks of being considered slightly mental by the “responsible, contributing members of society” is that people will ask the most inane questions. Listed here, in no particular order, are some of my favourites (That’s for you, Helena):

1. “So you’re getting a degree in Creative Writing, what do you want to do with that?”

Well, I think I’ll solve world hunger and then perhaps discover an alternate universe that I can then visit with my handcrafted spaceship and/or time machine.

2. “Have you ever written about me?”

No, but if you keep harassing me, I will. And it will not be to your advantage. Or, yes, go read it and then you’ll most likely stop harassing me anyway.

3. “So…like…do you want to work for a newspaper?”

I’m fairly certain the newspaper is supposed to report facts. This issue is, however, under review.

4. “Have you written anything lately?”

Firstly, define “lately.” Have I written anything in the five minutes I’ve been enduring tortuous small-talk with you? No. Have I written something since the last time I spoke to you which was before we had learner’s permits, much less driver’s licences? Yes. Several things.

5. “Can I read your blog?”

Well, I don’t know, can you? You may read my blog. If you follow me on any form of social media you’re harassed with it weekly. If you can’t manage to find then then I will assume, no, you can’t read it.

6. “Do you write stuff like Twilight?”

*Screams and throws whatever heavy object closest at hand at offending questioner*

Related rant: Five Things Your Writer Friends Want You to Know

(The title of this page should be read in the voice of Vizzini)

So What Comes Next?

“So, what comes next?” is the question that follows swiftly on the heels of someone finding out I’m graduating in December, a semester early. It is slightly more dreaded than that other favorite question of acquaintances, long-lost friends, and older relatives: “How is the love life?”

Since a dead pan response such as this one suggested by my sister –“Just tell people that you’re going to become a killer for hire and the first people you’re going to go after are all the people who ask you what you’re going to do when you graduate…”– is unfortunately off the table, I’m usually left trying to formulate some other response that doesn’t convey utter panic. “I’m working on getting an internship,” or “I’m still figuring things out,” or anything that is polite and hopefully stops the conversation in its tracks.

Because the truth of the matter is, I don’t know. Yet. I’ve heard two very different viewpoints on my so-called “lack of direction” (thanks, tactful friend). One is that my uncertainty is completely normal–college graduates everywhere are trying to figure out what to do with their degree and students still in college will change their degrees several times over the course of their college career. Unfortunately for me–and very fortunately for many of my friends–they have a clear view of what they want to do and where they are going. The other view is that you should know exactly what you are doing with your life as soon as you graduate. Maybe people have epiphanies as their tasseled caps rain down on them and they clutch their diplomas. But I doubt it.

I think uncertainty is more widespread than a cocksure knowledge of what you want to do. In fact, I do know what I want to do. I want to write, I want to explore, I want to travel, and I want to have adventures–in whatever capacity any or all of those things are possible. Unfortunately, that’s not such a cut and dried answer, like people expect. However, I think people fail to realize that nothing is “certain.” I know English majors who go to law school or are working in business or even for oil companies. I know business majors who work outside the field of their major or decided they want to get a masters in something completely different. I think I simply bought into the “10 year plan” that is ingrained into many of us from middle school: go to high school and get good grades, then do the same in college, then graduate and BAM! a job will fall into your lap. Maybe some of that was true before the economy and the job market fell into the state in which they are now, maybe it was just a sneaky plan to get all of us to do our homework. But the truth is, having a “plan” sometimes becomes completely moot.

I was watching The Dark Knight yesterday and the character the Joker, played by the late Heath Ledger, says “Notice how nobody panics when everything goes ‘according to plan?'” It’s such a small statement, uttered by a psychopathic anarchist character, but it has a definite ring of truth. It’s the same idea as the aphorism “Even the best laid plans go awry.” You can plan for certain things in life, you can set realistic-achievable goals, but a 10 year plan, or a 5 year plan, or even a 3 year plan can fall apart and crumble down around you. Jobs can be lost, industries can go bankrupt, and any other sort of catastrophe can and possibly will occur.

So who is right in the end? The person with the “Plan” that may or may not make it through Phase one, or the person with an “Idea” that can evolve and hopefully adapt to the curve balls life so often throws?

I don’t have the answer–to this question or to “what comes next”–but I’m willing to hold on tight and find out. As the great Ferris Bueller once said, “The question isn’t ‘what are we going to do,’ the question is ‘what aren’t we going to do?'”