Wrap-up 2020: I have fallen back in love with my online journal

Hello friends, I suppose we’ve now hit the end of the year, and this is normally the time when I summarize what’s been up. Last year, I actually summarized the entire decade! As time has gone by, my desire to look back in this way has decreased–or maybe I just no longer think anyone actually cares about how my year has gone.

One thing I’ve found myself surprisingly proud of this year is my online journal–the one you’re reading. When I started it in 2008, there were many extremely popular writer blogs. Even writers you’d never heard of sometimes had blogs with tens of thousands of readers. Many of these blogs were on livejournals, which had had a strong community of writers.

Ultimately, livejournal should’ve been a lesson for writers. An online journal exists best when it’s part of a community, and when it’s on a platform that provides a way for other people in that community to discover your work. The standalone author blog dwindled because all the promotion has to be done on other platforms, which begs the question, why not just have the writing on those platforms too!

Nowadays, authors are into creating substacks and tiny letters: email newsletters, often with tiers for paid subscribers, to deliver their writing. I am totally into that: more power to them.

But here I am, twelve year later, still writing in this space. Most of my readers these days are probably on Facebook, and they never visit this site, since I cross-post the entire text of most (but not all) of my posts directly into Facebook.

And there are advantages to doing it this way. This journal has history and continuity. Many of the old posts aren’t particularly good. Some are actively embarrassing, but the site isn’t going to just disappear. It’ll always be here on the open internet, accessible to anyone with a Google search.

Moreover, the journal chronicles my own progress. When I started it, I wanted to be a science fiction writer. I saw myself as another Lucius Shepherd or Michael Swanwick or Nancy Kress: a sophisticated writer who used the symbology and forms of science fiction to write human-oriented stories. The blog took an abrupt left turn when I sold a contemporary young adult novel, and now it’s taken another turn as I’ve gone into literary fiction (even as I’ve continued to write and publish science fiction stories). I’m proud of my history; I’m proud that I approach literary fiction from a background in commercial fiction.

There are many things I dislike about commercial fiction, but I do like the lack of preciousness and pretension. It is rare in the extreme for a literary writer to have an online journal. I’m sure others exist, besides mine, but I cannot name one.

I think for many years I also felt like my journal needed in some way to be denser and more serious, more careful, more filled with quotes and smart observations. But the process of writing literary essays has been eye-opening. First of all, I’ve realized how much of looking and sounding smart is a sham: I have a huge corpus of general and specific knowledge, and I just steer the essay towards whatever I happen to know about. Secondly, I’ve just gotten more comfortable with my less dense writing style. The words that have been ringing through my head for the past year are Sojourner Truth’s at the Seneca Falls convention. She said something like, even if you guys have a quart of understanding, and I only have a pint, then why not let me have that pint?

Even if I only have a pint of understanding, well, that’s what I have, and that’s still valuable. I don’t understand everything in the universe, but I do understand some things. And the skill of making my points clearly and with nuance, and making them the way I feel comfortable making them, as opposed to the way I feel I’m ‘supposed’ to make them, is a skill I learned from writing this journal.

That having been said, I posted very little this year. Maybe forty-five posts in all, but there were some high quality ones. My favorite are below:

  1. A mea culpa for my intemperate remarks concerning the classics
  2. For your awards consideration (and story notes for “Everquest”)
  3. Decided to give in to despair and bitterness
  4. Five classics that ought to capture you from the first page
  5. Every writer needs a more-successful friend who’s willing to validate their bitterness
  6. Writer’s block is real
  7. If you dislike my novel you’re really not alone
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