Note: the original form of this post was on Medium. I've now revised and updated it to reflect the current situation.
I’ll admit it: for a long time, I didn’t think of blogging as “real writing.” I thought of it as hobbyist — nothing wrong with that. But if I was going to be a writer, blogging wouldn’t cut it.
Maybe in the early stages of blogging that was true — maybe, before the internet was expected in everyone’s households, blogging was journaling online. Blogging reminds me of my xanga, where teenaged-angst-ridden-Naseem would write key phrases like, “My soul hurts.” (True story.) Blogging reminds me of the journal I wrote every day of my freshman year of high school, chronicling my burgeoning depression and my arguments with my parents.
Now — especially as a narrative nonfiction writer, memoir-y and essay-y and very confessional-y — I can admit that my writing is still that, but also that there is nothing wrong with it. It is a writing form. It is a release not only for the writer, but if thought about (and treated) as another art, is also one for the reader.
That is not to say that everything I write is writing — pieces I am willing to put my name behind on the internet, or in a magazine, or beyond. I think every nonfiction writer comes to a point where they know the difference between “this is a piece” and “I needed to rant.”
Speaking of ranting, the point of this is to discuss why I’ve decided I will pick up blogging in addition to my other writing.
Something like six years ago (Jesus), I discovered a website called 750words.com. Based on an idea from The Artist’s Way, it was (is) designed to encourage writers to write something every day. 750 words is roughly three pages, and the idea is to build writing into your daily habit.
Confession: I am terrible at using this website. Last May, I actually managed to complete my first one-month challenge, where I wrote over 750 words every day for a month. A few of the rambles actually came together in a piece called “If I Were A Boy,” which is in Proximity Magazine, issue 7. A few days later, of course, I missed a day.
That doesn’t mean that I don’t write every day — I do, or at least, almost every day. Even in those days I missed, I was writing in Scrivener or Word or in my notebook. What I love about the site is that the point is to build the habit — there’s no “virtual punishment” for not writing on it. That one month was an amazing reinforcer. Write, write, write.
It was around this time that I really examined my life as a writer. My day job isn’t writing. I’m a scientist, currently working on the differences in concussions between male and female rats. I'm going to be starting a PhD program in the fall, hoping to make the switch from animal to human work.
The truth is, I love what I do. Science has been a part of me as long as writing has been. In many ways, one informs the other. But I do have the daily “should I write full time” struggle, and I think my answer is: I don’t know. I don’t know if I have to know.
Anyway, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that, even if it’s not full time, I identify as a writer and take myself (as a writer) seriously. With support from my partner and best friend, I have begun to rebrand myself as a writer-scientist hybrid.
I'm just now launching my second website, the first now focusing on my career as a scientist (under construction). I launched a Facebook page. And I also decided to join Patreon. I would love if you joined me on all of these things, but especially Patreon.
Patreon is an innovative platform designed for art consumers to support artists they love. What does this mean? Once a month, Patreon will charge you whatever you agree to pledge. Most of that then goes to the artist. Some artists do it per "work," but I write a lot and though this would make for better transparency.
Backing me on Patreon gives me the space to write what I want to--lyrical essays, novels, whatever--without then having to pitch a hundred magazines to supplement my current income. (Science doesn't always pay well.) Literary magazines can take weeks or longer to slog through the slush pile. Websites that pay writers often don't do so in a timely fashion. We need to recognize that writing is real work, and we should honor that.
At the beginning of the year, I read a blog post from a fellow writer called The Relentless Files. Vanessa’s description of what blogging brought her made me pause. I reached out to my best friend, who is an artist, who has been blogging for a year or so now. Said best friend gives herself yearly themes, and this year’s is “victorious.” It’s her celebration of life, of carpe diem-ing, of, in her words, “saying yaaaaaas to life.”
And I thought, hell. Tumblr didn’t work for me, because I didn’t reblog things, and because I don’t use a lot of visuals. But why not an actual blog? One where I write things that aren’t pieces, but are still writing? One where I can write about whatever the hell I want — be it science, be it movies, be it unicorns. One where I can rant about something that happened without feeling like I'm taking up space? I love engaging with people on any level. Isn’t that the purpose of a blog?
My mistake was starting on Medium. Don't get me wrong, the site is great! But whenever I post there, I feel conscious to make it a piece, rather than a post. I wanted to write something every week, but writing a fleshed out, edited piece is hard to do when you're balancing experiments. Then I realized: oh, duh. I can blog about random things on my website. Of course.
Here's another thing: I want to write about what's relevant to people. What do you want to hear about? Gender concerns in the sciences? Mental health issues? Being at an elite university and how it broke me? Having mental illness in the family? Growing up a kid to immigrants? To a brother with autism? Being in an abusive relationship? Why I haven’t watched Jessica Jones? (Hint: it’s for that exact reason.)
I want to do with my blog what I failed to do with my Channillo page — garner a conversation about the things that we all go through, but are often unable to articulate. My Medium channel will remain a place to write fleshed-out pieces (maybe even about conversations started on the blog) and repost from whatever publications I do manage.
I can't promise that I'll blog every week, but this allows me to be much more flexible than before. The possibilities excite me. I hope you'll join me as I begin.