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Thursday, May 26, 2011

The House of Words (no. 29), Dave Bonta and the internet, 9

Banner, Via Negativa
MY: So now we have billions of web pages ... It's easy for readers to feel lost; it's easy for writers starting out to feel swamped or invisible. How do you think a writer who wants to make his or her way in an e-world can find a place? How does such a person find the readers who will feel kindred or be interested?
DB: Well, for people who are withdrawn or misanthropic, I don't know what to suggest. But if you're an interesting writer and you're at least a little outgoing, it doesn't take too long to find a community of bloggers to link to and comment on. I fear a lot of people start blogs these days on the advice of editors or agents who neglect to tell them that the most important trait of a good blogger is generosity. If you want people to read you, you have to read them. You need to link to other bloggers and other websites, whether in your posts or in your sidebar (ideally both) — that's how the web grows. I actually border on being too withdrawn to be an effective blogger; I often link to a blog post I like in lieu of leaving a comment. But the thing about comments is, other people besides the blogger see them too, and if your comment is interesting, will click through to check out your own site. I've seen bloggers build up huge readerships due to an ability to leave witty comments on high-traffic blogs.
Banner, Morning Porch
Image from Clive Hicks Jenkins.

Every writer should have some kind of website — they're crazy not to. Whether it should be a blog, and if so, what kind of blog, depends on the writer. There's nothing wrong with maintaining an essentially static site with just occasional updates about readings or new publications. But finding and staying connected to readers and kindred spirits online involves a pretty big commitment in time and energy, which can severely cut into one's writing time. If you're all about the Romantic ideal of the lone writer building an edifice of unique, inspired work, you're best advised to avoid all contact with blogs and blogging to avoid contagion.


  1. I love what Dave says about generosity--I so, so, so agree. It's not just a numbers game of "how many comments do I have"--I'm so appreciative of those who comment on my work, and I genuinely see them as my community (my ideal readers!).

  2. It's true that we should all have a presence out on the web. Perhaps I'll be able to be more generous, to spread the love around a bit more than I have once I have some time to read people's blogs, aside from the one or two I have followed thus far.

  3. Hannah,

    It is pleasant when people comment, and over time one develops a sense of who they are that is satisfying. But I am often surprised in face-to-face meetings by people who never comment mentioning something that was on, or knowing something about me through the blog.

    Those many other people from around the world who read are a sort of invisible, larger body of well-wishers, I trust! Certainly only a very small percentage of visitors comment. I always wonder about those hits from Latvia and Iran and Korea: who are you, out in the world?


    I have gone through periods where I didn't have any time to visit, but I must say that it is more pleasant when there is a sense of give and take.

    If you don't have a lot of time, though, you can probably try and branch out and see what's out there by visiting briefly one new site per day. Then you get a sense of what's out there and also what a blog can become because there's such a variety of slants on what a blog is. And I think that is helpful.


Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.