One for the Money, Two for the Show. Or, Why Do We Write Our Blogs, Anyway?

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As I have mentioned before, at the beginning of this year (2022), I decided to write one blog post per week as an experiment. I wanted to see what a weekly writing habit could do for my craft as a writer. I also wanted to see if I could increase traffic to the blog by adding more content.

We are now halfway through the month of August, which means that I have been blogging nearly once a week for eight and a half months. I say nearly, because there have been five weeks across these months when I did not post anything on the blog, and one week when I posted twice. It has now been more than half a year, and I can start seeing some early results.

Let’s look at traffic first. The idea is that the more content you put out there, the more attention your are going to get. Is that true? Yes and no.

Yes, the total number of views on the blog has gone up because I have been blogging more. And no, because even though I have been blogging more and the total number of views has increased as a result, the average number of views per individual post is nearly the same. There is an increase, but the increase is so slight it is negligible. This average per post includes posts that are old as well as new.

This year I invested in an upgrade of my blog platform for the first time. I wanted to see if an upgrade could help increase the blog’s reach.

This year I invested in an upgrade of my blog platform for the first time. I wanted to see if an upgrade could help increase the blog’s reach. Since I started The Boomerang in 2013, I have been using the free version of WordPress. In February of 2022, I paid an annual platform fee for the first time. So far, though, it has been a poor return on investment. Yes, I now have access to Google Analytics, and I am able to add payment buttons to each post for those who wish to support The Boomerang with a small financial contribution (see below), but apart from that, not much has changed.

What about craft, then?

Craft is where I can see that something has changed. I started writing blog posts on The Boomerang in 2013. In 2014, I got my first freelance gig as a recurring contributor to Book Riot. In other words, I have been writing more or less constantly for nine years. Freelancing is mostly a side job to my regular job as instructor at Florida International University, but at times, it has been my main source of income.

This summer, I worked on the submission package that I will use when I query the Codex Gigas book project. I was surprised by how easy the writing process went. Yes, I did get very concerned when the proposal refused to come together, but I didn’t panic, because I found the solution to the problem, and steered the text in that direction instead. Writing the sample chapter was a breeze, which was wholly unexpected. One more thing: I discovered that I have developed a voice.

I am convinced that all of that came together they way it did because I have been writing one blog post every week since January. Every Friday morning, I have written something and published it. Some mornings I had to force myself, other mornings the words came easy. Some weeks, the blog post was written before Friday (spoiler: I am writing this on Thursday August 18, 2022). And some weeks, I decided to take a break. Forcing yourself to be creative when you don’t have to can be as counterproductive as not being creative at all.

As writers, we are bombarded with advice on what to do with our blogs, and why we should start one if we don’t have one. What this advice always boils down to is how to monetize our blogs, how to become rich on our blogs, as if that is a blog’s only purpose. I went into the project of writing one blog post a week influenced by this advice.

As writers, we are bombarded with advice on what to do with our blogs, and why we should start one if we don’t have one. What this advice always boils down to is how to monetize our blogs, how to become rich on our blogs, as if that is a blog’s only purpose. I went into the project of writing one blog post a week influenced by this advice.

However, sometime during the spring, I realized that I don’t care about the money when it comes to The Boomerang. (Don’t get me wrong. I do care about money when it comes to freelance writing, but I don’t work for free for anyone else but myself.) Nor do I care about the number of views on each post.

Once I realized this, I added a new catch phrase to the blog banner. In addition to “Understand History, Understand the World,” the banner now says “Thinking Out Loud with Erika Harlitz-Kern, PhD and Historian-at-Large.” Because that is what I do, and that is what I am. By expressing my thoughts out loud in writing for anyone in the world to read (according to the Stats and Insights, readers of The Boomerang really do live all over the world), I found my voice; I found a way to write even when my mind is blank; and I found a way to wiggle myself out of the corners I sometimes write myself into.

To summarize, I write this blog for me. Here is where I express my thoughts the way I want to express them. It is only when we write for no one else but ourselves that we develop our voice. Because when we write for ourselves, we set the rules, we set the tone, we decide the parameters.

The Boomerang will not make me rich, but it is making me a better writer. And isn’t that what we all really strive for?

In the words of my friend, the Australian, I shall return.

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Why I Write. Thoughts on Writing in the Age of Relentless Despair

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At the beginning of 2022, I decided I would write one blog post every week for the whole year. I set aside Friday mornings for this task, and around Wednesday, I start thinking about what this week’s blog post will be about. I play around with two, maybe three ideas, but I don’t make my decision until Friday morning when I sit down to write.

This week was no different. Next to me, I have a pile of books that I have read and that I want to discuss; it was only a matter of which book I would choose. But as I sat down, everything that has happened over the past weeks and months (years!) washed over me. All the ideas that I had been playing around with seemed futile and nonsensical. And why would anyone care about what I have to say, anyway?

It was the children of Uvalde, Texas. 19 children around the age of 10, their lives cut short for no reason, and those who can do something to stop it refuse to act. The small towns of Texas resonate with me on a different level than other small towns. When I was a child, my family traveled to Texas several times for family vacations. Because of my father’s job, these vacations were the few times when the whole family did something together.

On these vacations, we would spend two or three weeks driving around the hill countries, badlands, and deserts of Texas, stopping in the small towns that we passed along the way. I was too young to remember exactly where we went, but sometimes names of places resonate with me when I hear them, and the echo inside me always speaks back to me in my father’s voice. Eagle Pass, Laredo, Texas City, Luckenbach, Bandera, Langtrey, Uvalde.

And even though it feels futile to write a blog post this week, I sat down and did it anyway. Why? Because that is what I do. I write. As Joan Didion said, “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.” Arguably, this is her most famous quote, sometimes truncated, sometimes paraphrased, but I believe it is famous because it is true.

A writer writes, that is what makes a writer a writer. It is not the publishing contract or the byline that makes you a writer, nor is it the spinning rolls of paper at a printer’s plant or the code that creates a pdf file. No, it is the act of writing that makes a writer a writer.

Writers write for many reasons, but I think that at the core, we write for the same reasons that Didion wrote: We write to understand. And even though writers write about many different things, I believe that the thing we try and understand with all the things that we write is only one: Ourselves.

To be a writer is to be an observer. To be a writer is to be a person who reacts to their surroundings in such a way that it affects them emotionally.

A writer observes the world and reacts to what they see. This reaction triggers an emotional response and a desire to understand. The response and the desire create a need for release. The release manifests itself in the act of writing. Because, writing is an emotional act, an act that is all-consuming.

Gloria Anzaldúa calls writing “a sensuous act” that “produces anxiety” and “psychic unrest” before the act is committed and the writing complete. “To write, to be a writer,” she says, “I have to trust and believe in myself as a speaker, as a voice … .” A voice for whom? For ourselves.

Didion and Anzaldúa spoke about their personal reasons for writing, and in doing so, they put into words what the rest of us feel. Through the act of speaking in our own voice to express our need to understand, we end up speaking for others.

So, as I sat down to write this week’s blog post, I threw all my ideas to the side. Instead, I started typing in the blank box that my blog platform provides without knowing where I was going or what words would come out. I only knew I needed to say something, but I did not know what. The post that you have just read is what came out of my mind and my heart, through the movements of my fingertips, this Friday morning on May 27, 2022.

I wrote because I felt despair at the world. Too many people are dying for reasons that can be prevented. Mass shootings, war, pandemics and epidemics, climate change. I wrote because I needed to understand why today I felt this despair after nearly three years of sadness and chaos.

Now, I understand why I needed to write what I have written. It was the children of Uvalde. May their memories be a blessing, and may they be the last children to have their lives cut short in this way.

In the words of my friend, the Australian, I shall return.

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