I started a blog without a clear idea of what I was doing other than establishing a web presence, which I read that I should do as a writer. Early on I established it as a mix of essays on writing and book reviews, because that’s what I wanted it to be. I was advised that I should blog at least twice a week to establish an audience, but I soon found out I didn’t have time to write an essay so frequently in addition to all my other writing work, so I trimmed it back to once a week on weekends. At first I was arbitrary about posting on Saturdays or Sundays, but I got into the habit of posting on Sundays, a habit I have kept for the last couple of years.
I find that my inner schedule-keeper prepares me for having an essay ready by the time Sunday comes. If I have nothing ready by Saturday I can always come up with something by Sunday morning.
If I finish a book, I try to write the review the same day. I want to react to what I have read while it is still fresh in my mind, before the reading of the next volume obscures my reaction to the one before. And there always is a next volume, begun right after finishing the last one. For me reading a book is as significant and profound an experience as taking a journey. I would probably write of a journey, and so I find it very unusual not to write about the experience of reading or rereading a book.
It soon became apparent to me that my blog was much more than an advertisement for my novels, memoirs, and short stories, or a place filler so that someone who searched for information about me as a writer could find something. The blog is another opportunity to speak out as a writer, another venue through which my words can be expressed, as valid a venue as Amazon or Barnes and Noble or Apple or Kobo or any of the other bookstores through which my works can be found.
Material from several of my books first found print on my blog. “The Lost Poem” is a section from my memoir “World Without Pain: The Story of a Search.” Many, though not all, of the essays in “America Redux: Impressions of the United States After Thirty-Five Years Abroad” were first published on my blog. My collection of essays on literature “Reviews and Reflections on Books, Literature, and Writing” is a compilation of essays that I first published on my blog. I see no discrepancy with this. You can read them here on my blog if you like for free, or you can have them all thematically compiled in my books for easy reading. The “Reviews and Reflections” book, in fact, took a lot of work to assemble. Not only did I compile the dozens of essays, sort them, proofread them again in order for clarity, coherence, and balance, but I also created an elaborate table of contents to accompany them so a reader could easily find particular subjects and stories. In the print version the contents run to several pages, with each essay clearly delineated by subject and page number, and in the electronic version each listing in the contents section is hyperlinked to the matching article.
I can track daily how many people come to the blog and what pages they access. When I first started my blog, I did not have many readers. Days would pass when nobody would approach it. Then, as I wrote more and more essays and posted them, the readership gradually increased. It is still not what one would consider a popular blog. In fact, it does not have any significant amount of steady readers. Still I continue to put out my weekly entries. Why?
For one thing, my persistence in continuing the blog comes from the same motivation that drives me to keep publishing books and stories when I have as yet not achieved any significant popular success. Writing is my life’s work, my calling, my talent, that which I was put on this Earth to do. As I have said before, they’ll have to pry the keyboard out of my cold dead hands. The blog posts are ends in themselves, but I will also use many of them when I compile future books. It’s all part of my ongoing legacy as a writer.
There have also been significant special moments, times when recognition of my efforts burst on me unexpectedly. For instance, a few years ago after I wrote an appreciation of some of the great science fiction master writer Cordwainer Smith’s short stories, his daughter wrote to me saying how much she appreciated the essay. On another occasion, after I had written reviews of a few of Henry Miller’s lesser-known books, someone who managed the website of the Henry Miller Memorial Library at Big Sur wrote to me and asked me to contribute a few short articles for the website. I was honored to do so.
I know that some people handle their blogs flippantly and give the content no more consideration than the countless messages they text to their friends, but it has never been so with me. As I said, I consider the blog a part of my legacy as a writer, and I give the blog posts the same care I give any other piece of work, whether a novel or short story or memoir or whatever. I think the Internet is a wonderful tool for a writer. I might post an essay here and nobody might read it. But it is here, posted, for anyone to discover, on an ongoing basis. I may not have much of a following now, but in the future when and if I do, whoever is interested in my work can come back and discover an entire library of material. I wish I had had a blog and had been able to post to it back in my early travel days on the road in the mid-1970s, the days I write about in “World Without Pain: The Story of a Search.” I would have been able to record all the fascinating details of every experience instead of being forced to put it all together in hindsight.