This is the first post in a brief monthly series I’m trying in which I examine some of the career and writing questions I’ve been pondering. These are purely my own opinions, but perhaps something here will resonate with you, too!   I’ve been looking at this blog lately and asking myself whether or not it’s necessary. On the one hand, I find it convenient to have a place to share my thoughts on writing–often, mostly for myself to document my thinking–and as a place to promote things when I have fiction coming out. I use it for my general web-presence, too, since I’ve heavily stepped back from the more fraught social media spaces like Facebook and Twitter. But sometimes I worry that the time I put into the blog takes time away from the most important thing: doing the writing. So, I have to ask myself: as a relatively as-yet unknown author, is a website worth it?

Short Answer? Yes.

It’s actually super important for even a very new writer to have at least a landing page. It may be just a static page you update once a year, but if you have even one story published, you need someplace online (preferably not just a FB page) where your publications are listed and where someone can find your contact information. Why? Because when editors are putting together collections (in my case, like More Recent Dead from Prime Books), they read a lot of fiction, and there’s a chance–even just a small chance–that they may read your published story and decide they want to include it in their book. When I was first starting out, I didn’t realize that a lot of collections from big-time markets were put together in this way, and my invite to More Recent Dead caught me way off guard. But thank GOODNESS I had this blog, because it was via my contact form on this site that editor Paula Guran got ahold of me to ask about including my story, “A Shepherd of the Valley.” If I hadn’t had this site, or if I’d only had a personal FB site (which, given the volume of people on the site, makes it very difficult to ID the correct person with your name), I would have missed that fantastic opportunity. Now, I can’t speak to FB author pages, but given how many times random people I don’t know have asked to be friends only to then push their author page (it’s a #1 complaint among established authors that people are constantly friending them only to ask them to like their author page), I tend to shy away from that form of a web presence. But it might work for you! Just so long as you have SOMEWHERE that clearly links you and your published work and provides contact info: Good!

What about a blog?

This is where things get harrier in my own calculations. The thing is: I like having a blog. I enjoy rambling and tracking my progress. I enjoy the thought of having a long history online that if–blessed if!–I end up really carving a name for myself in this writing field, I could have a huge backlog look at what steps and phases I went through to get there, and maybe that could help or encourage someone else just starting out on this rocky path. I also like interacting with the blogging community. Reading what other people are doing and working on, what’s inspiring them, even just what a favorite author’s day-to-day looks like is something I deeply enjoy, and while I may not yet have a large following of readers, I’d like to be in practice blogging in order to keep in touch with both them and fellow authors with whom I might someday collaborate. Does it take up time I might use for writing? That’s my constant worry, that writing a blog post such as this is taking good writing time away from me, or–more subtly–stealing that precious creative energy that I might otherwise channel towards fiction. But the more I think about this, the more I confirm that this is a groundless fear. Truth is, I can write a blog with lots of background noise or other distractions or in uncomfortable positions with a baby strapped in a bjorn to my chest (current situation: napping baby, heavy bjorn), but that fractured time is really unsuitable for the kind of focus I need to produce new works of fiction. As frustrating as that is, at times, I’ve come to recognize that I do need a certain amount of peace and quiet when I write fiction. I’ve tried writing it during these snatched moments, but it almost always ends up in frustration. I just can’t get into a flow when people are talking around me (one reason I don’t do well writing at cafes, as much as I wish I could), or kiddos are making various demands, or other adults are asking me questions–it’s maddening. So sometimes that does mean I can blog a bit more than I can write in a given day (or week), because I may have more of these high-distraction periods that I can use for blog writing which I could never convert into good fiction writing time. As for whether or not blogging steals creative energy, I don’t think so. They’re two very different kinds of writing. If I were writing more non-fiction, maybe there’d be a bit more conflict, but the fiction I write isn’t badly affected by my having written a blog post now and then. If it did, or if I were just starting out and struggling to produce any fiction work at all, it might be more of an issue, but as it is, I know I can produce a lot of work (even if not as much right now in the midst of New Babyhood). In a way, the blogging keeps me practicing my typing, if nothing else, which means when I can start carving out more quiet time to produce work, my typing skills haven’t completely fallen off the planet. Useful!

So, do I need a website?

Website, YES. Absolutely. I need to have at a minimum someplace that: Lists published work and where to find it.
  1. Is identifiably me.
  2. Allows people to contact me easily.
Do I need a blog? No. That’s something I do purely because I enjoy it, and find it a more satisfying method for connecting with folks online than other social media sites. But if you like Instagram or FB or Twitter or whatever, do that instead of a blog. A blog is a project of love for me, but if you love connecting to people via another medium? Do that. Just make sure it isn’t creeping into your optimal writing time, whatever that is for you.
Journal, Misc, Publishing/Editing, Writing

Dr. Eponymous & The Placebo Emporium

LM_InstaPro_Product Photo2It all started with a birthday gift for my little sister back some fifteen-odd years ago. My sister was really into the idea of becoming a vet, so for her birthday, my parents saved up a bunch of old medicine containers and filled them with tic-tacs, Pez, Skittles, and Chiclets to use as “medicine” for when we played vet. It was a great–and rather inexpensive–gift that we enjoyed the heck out of for months, carefully doling out tic-tacs to our stuffed animals (and, of course, eating them ourselves) and writing prescriptions, delighting in “curing” their faux aliments.

The funny thing is that the placebo-effect is actually quite strong. A couple of years ago, my husband (currently finishing up med-school himself) found an article regarding “the placebo-effect” that showed not only that placebos do–in fact–make a measurable, positive impact on people. More surprising than that, however, was the finding that even when you know what you’ve been given is just a placebo, it still creates a placebo-effect. You can take a tic-tac, for example, and say “If I take this, I’ll feel better,” and lo and behold! You just might. Might, of course, is the key word. It’s not actually changing anything in and of itself, but the brain is a powerful (and apparently suggestible) organ.

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A number of years ago I decided to play with the placebo-effect myself, and used a little antique glass bottle wrapped in a Post-It Note for “Productivity Pills.” I put white Tic-Tacs in it, and whenever I was feeling sluggish, or didn’t want to write, or didn’t want to focus at my day-job, I’d pop a “pill” and get back to work. Did the Tic-Tac actually do anything? No, of course not! Well, it may have made my breath a little minty fresh, but otherwise, no. However, popping one from that silly little bottle reminded me that I was supposed to be focusing on getting stuff done, and I got a LOT of writing and work stuff done during those years. Beyond that, it was just seriously fun and made me smile.

Which got me thinking–what if I could make little snake-oil bottles for all the various “writerly ailments” I suffered from? Things like writer’s block, or self-doubt, or rejection blues? When I really got to thinking about it, there were tons of “ailments,” so I decided to start making those snake-oil “cures” for them under two brands: Lucky Muse and Dr. Eponymous.

DrE_RutRemedy_PourLucky Muse is the snarky, snake-oil, cheater’s brand–the “cures” that promise instant success, brilliant prose, loads of money, and all without really having to work at it, because who wouldn’t love a book deal to fall into their laps? Dr. Eponymous is a bit more serious (though still quite snarky, because–hey, it’s me.) writerly ailments for those committed to improving their craft and surviving the day-to-day pains and aches of being a writer.

I’ve also created a few that are for a general audience, which I had a ton of fun giving as gifts this Christmas.

With a little prodding, I’ve finally opened an Etsy shop (called, what else? The Placebo Emporium!) where I sell some of these silly things, and I must say, I’m having a wonderful time! I’ve got quite a list of new “cures” to get designed and put up there, mostly for my own growing apothecary than anything else! Curious? Check out The Placebo Emporium here! Any particular writerly “cures” you’d like to see? Let me know!