I remember when all the writing and publishing bloggers I knew began to “graduate,” posting book deal announcements and slowly (or quickly) abandoning their blogs to the cobwebs as the novels gobbled up more of the available time and energy. At the time, it seemed like a natural progression: build an audience, leverage it into a book deal, emerge from the cocoon of the blog into the sunshine of a “real” writing career, leaving the blog’s dried up husk behind to look on fondly and occasionally climb back into for old times’ sake. And why not? Weren’t the book deals what we wanted? And weren’t they proof that we knew what we were talking about when we posted advice on revising scenes and developing characters? We wanted to be novelists, didn’t we? The blogs were just vehicles—lovely, meaningful, intelligent vehicles, but still vehicles—weren’t they?
I have a friend who worked at a coffee shop for years. She talked to customers all day, read their tarot cards, learned the names of their pets and children, gave them spider plant cuttings and relationship advice. She was such a good employee they gave her a raise and promoted her to manager, upon which she grew very unhappy. She had moved up in the world, but now she was isolated, and her best talents were lying fallow as she attended to the supposedly more desirable job of running the shop. The world sets up all sorts of confusing situations for us. It is especially confusing when the reward for doing something well is to be allowed to do a different something you are perhaps less suited for. If you are an excellent barista, why should it follow that you will be happy as a manager? If you love blogging, why should it follow that you will want to publish novels?
This is not me admitting that writing novels has been a terrible mistake, although I know it might sound that way. I don’t regret a single minute I spent writing WILD AWAKE and a SENSE OF THE INFINITE, strange and difficult as some of those minutes were, and I’ll certainly write more books. But I do question whether the “graduation” model is the best thing for every blogger, every time, and if the prestige we place on having a published novel is an outdated relic that will soon fade out of importance as other forms of writing become more and more valued.
As I approach the conclusion of my own two book deal (a deal that happened as a direct result of writing the INTERN blog), I have been spending a lot of time pondering my next steps as a writer and trying to figure out who I really am. There are a lot of voices in my head. “You should write literary fiction,” says the part of me that still wants to be the next Janet Frame. “You should write another YA,” says the part of me that has a nice home in YA-land and doesn’t want to move. “You should quit writing altogether,” says the part of me that is tired of trying to figure out how to write a book without ripping it apart a dozen times. Then a few days ago, I got an e-mail from an old INTERN reader and another voice whispered, “Maybe you should blog.”
There’s no moving back into your old cocoon, and no adventure in doing the same thing forever just because it works. But if you’re happiest being the person who makes the coffee and hands out spider plant cuttings, that’s a wonderful thing, a worthy thing—and perhaps not a thing to abandon when you get a promotion.