What is a writer supposed to write about? What a stupid question. The answer is obvious: a writer should write whatever the hell he feels driven to write.
Let’s take a break.
Ok, welcome back. We started this blog post with an oversimplification. No one writes solely what they feel driven to write. You get asked to write forewards, you have to respond to emails and write a regular column because your agent and publisher agreed it’s great for exposure.
For unknown, bottom-feeding writers like myself, I should be writing a blog and social media posts, hustling for an online following that’ll whet a publisher’s appetite. But I’m not sure what that means.
There are some great blogs run by writers – My Red Abyss and IdiotJoyShowland come to mind, two wildly divergent blogs from two British writers (one a poet, the other a philosopher). SK Nicholas at My Red Abyss publishes fiction usually under 500 words, several times a week (sometimes a day). Sam Kriss at IdiotJoyShowland pens infrequent essays about society, culture, politics, etc.
Both sites link to other works they’ve published. In both cases, the writers are writing blogs to improve their careers. And what about for social media?
Some blogs absolutely suck, usually because the writing sucks (successful writers don’t typically seem to have blogs) or because they publish so infrequently that it’s easy to forget about.
Notice, we’re not talking about portfolio sites – any chump can build a list of their published works. We’re talking about writing – articles, poems, essays, polemics, journal entries, etc.
And what about social media? It sucks. You’re expected to have some sort of online following, even though publishers aren’t sure what it’s good for, and doing so over social media is likely the easiest, probably because it’s the most popular, or maybe that works the other way around.
No one uses social media well, and this was one of the problems I’ve wrestled over – how should a writer use social media? Spewing bad takes isn’t going to happen and being a reply guy is lame. The trick to social media is creating content. Go ahead, soak in the corporate marketing of that short word, content.
You have to produce content. What the fuck is that content supposed to be?
This is a problem because I’m a political junkie. No one wants to hear my politics and, frankly, there are plenty of politics that I don’t want to hear.
And that’s the problem, to boil things down: what I want to write isn’t appealing to, probably, a lot of people. Should that matter? Probably not. Is that a good thing or a bag thing? Probably not.
Look, there is a right and a wrong way to write about politics, society, culture, whatever sensitive topic of the day. There is a right and wrong way to offend people.
- Never offend someone personally. You stay away from the broad, stupid comments that idiots like to make about others.
- You make sure you’ve considered all angles and you don’t make broad statements.
- Never take yourself too seriously. Don’t take things personally – be humorous, or be outraged as long as you’re being humorous. Be incredulous, or satirical and definitely be clever.
- Stay humble. You’re not omniscient, not omnipresent, You Don’t Know Everything, and that’s precisely why you don’t make broad, stupid comments.
I’ve put a lot of thought in what to blog and post about and I haven’t much of answer. Perhaps that’s the point of the internet, perhaps it’s still young and we’re still trying to figure out how to use it. Perhaps the point is that I’ll have to experiment, (which I have a short list for:
- Blog: Prose poetry, regular poetry, short fiction, multimedia essays, articles and a journal where I soundboard the thoughts bouncing around in my brain.
- Social media: Witty soundbites? Threads? Probably threads. Probably memes. Definitely making original memes. Links to articles, poems and stories.)
Interesting stuff. I really nailed it. I’m going to write about whatever I want to write about, and we’re going to see what sticks, what I enjoy and what everyone hates. I’ll experiment, and when I have an answer to What Is A Writer Supposed To Write About, perhaps I’ll write an article.