Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Guest Blogger Jesaka Long on How Blogging Improved Her Personal Essay Writing

I "meet" many writers online, and mostly it's a wonderful experience. We commiserate, congratulate, encourage, pick one another's brains. I learn something, maybe they learn something. What's not to like? Sometimes we're in touch for days, sometimes for years, and along the way I usually forget how it was we first crossed virtual paths. A recent new online writing acquaintance is Jesaka Long, a fellow essayist, and a freelance brand and marketing copywriter based in Denver. She’s also a drama editor for Conclave: a Journal of Character, and her nonfiction has recently been published in American Pressings.

Please welcome Jesaka Long

"Armed with enthusiasm, the support of my fellow classmates and three polished pieces, I emerged from my first personal essay class ready to submit, submit, submit. And you know what happened next: rejection, rejection, rejection.

And then more rejection. While I was grateful to receive responses—hey, at least someone was reading—I became discouraged. More than a year after my class, I was still unpublished.

Hungry to get my words in front of an audience beyond friends and classmates, I started a blog. One of my first posts was a short essay that I’d given up on placing. Since then, my writing has improved and I’ve finally secured that first yes.

I credit my blogging with helping me improve my creative non-fiction writing—and here’s why.

· Confidence: Growing an audience on my blog has boosted my belief in my writing ability. Knowing I’ve reached readers beyond those I can count on my fingers encourages me to keep trying, even as I continue to receive rejections.

· Feedback: When people—especially strangers—read my blog posts, I can get immediate feedback, both from comments and statistics. Some posts I thought would go unnoticed have been big hits, prompting heavy traffic and a high number of long, thoughtful comments. On the flip side, headlines I expected to generate good traffic flopped loudly, echoing in the silence that followed. It helps me identify how my words are reaching—or repelling—audiences.

· Habit: Before launching my blog, I was undisciplined, often relying on classes to force me to write on a regular basis. And, although it took me several months to develop a rhythm for writing and publishing posts, I finally settled into a three-times-per-week pattern. I consider this a writing commitment and it’s helped me develop better habits for drafting essays. While I may miss a post or word count goal occasionally, I’m writing far more regularly than I did pre-blog.

· Family Warm Up: I’ve yet to take any type of creative non-fiction writing class without someone asking how to handle work that includes family members. It was a concern for me, too, when I first started writing personal essays, because my family tends to keep its business under lock and key. By sharing short anecdotes about people in my life I’ve been able to gauge reactions. So far, it’s all been positive and, surprisingly, my family seemed to respond with, “well, we knew you were a writer.” It’s also helped that my cousin is a mommy blogger, so I do have a partner in storytelling crime.

I originally thought that a blog would detract from my writing time and focus, but it’s been just the opposite. While I will admit to being a little casual about blog posts (ahem, drafting a post while catching up on a favorite TV show), I’m now much more dedicated to—and protective of—my writing time. And my essays show it."

Note from Lisa: You can read Jesaka's blog here.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post, Jesaka! My online writing group has been discussing the pros/cons of blogging. I land on the pro side for many of the reasons you state in your post. My blog has really helped me develop as a writer.

On a personal note, I'm thankful for your blog and Lisa's blog, too, for providing me with writer inspiration several times a week!

Leightongirl said...

Another vote in favor of blogging. Thanks for the great list of "pros".

Jesaka Long said...

@motherlogue: Thanks for your comment, Liz! I especially like the way you use your blog to process things you've learned in class. It's no surprise that your blog helps your writing given the way you use it as an educational tool. It helps me, too!

@Leightongirl: Thank you for reading and commenting. It's really nice to know that this rings true for other writers.

Lisa, while I'm here, thank you so much for such a fantastic opportunity! It's been wonderful to connect with you and I love the chance to "meet" some of your readers, too.

Alexandra Grabbe said...

I totally agree with Jesaka. I see blogging as practice, like when I was a child and had to practice the piano.

Jesaka Long said...

You just made me laugh, Alexandra! Your point with the piano lessons is so perfect. Doh! Why didn't I think of that? I only took lessons for 10 years. Thanks so much for the reminder.