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The idea for my book formed years ago while I was living in Geneva. Back then, it was just a rough concept. I kept notebooks full of random thoughts, but it wasn't until just over a year ago that I seriously sat down and devoted my time to writing and finishing it.
I thought that I would be able to easily blog, freelance, and write the book but I quickly realized how challenging that was. The act of writing is a lot more than just sitting down at your laptop and having words flow freely out of your fingers.
Conceptualizing, brainstorming, outlining, researching, re-reading, and even taking time to stare at the blinking cursor on a blank page are all part of the preparation required to write.
Blogging has always been a stream-of-conscious release of what's on my mind into neatly organized posts. They're short, manageable chunks of information that I can publish immediately after I write it. There's not a lot of analysis that goes into it, it's more of a way for me to relay and retain moments.
The problem that I found with blogging while trying to freelance and write a book is that it jolted me out of the new world that I was trying to create. Writing about glamping and then trying to get back into my character's mindset broke my concentration in an unproductive way. Putting my blog on the back-burner allowed me to focus my attention on my #1 priority project (the book). I still get the urge to blog every now and then (hence this little post right here) - I'm just not putting as much pressure on myself to blog every few days, every week, or even every month.
Along the way, I learned how very different blogging and book-ing (we'll just pretend that's a word) are. Although they both involve "writing," here are 6 differences that I found between the two:
1. Writing a book is a marathon. Blogging is a sprint.
While I appreciate that many full-time bloggers do put a lot of time and creative effort into their blog posts, I've always utilized blogging as a way to 'thought dump' how I'm feeling about a certain topic or to remember a specific moment in time. Stream-of-conscious writing truly is about letting the words flow freely and not worrying too much about censoring yourself or ensuring that you don't have too many run-on sentences (like I always do). Each blog post is also quite short and talks about different topics.
Writing a book, on the other hand, requires paramount concentration. You have to REALLY love what your book is about because you're going to have to revisit that subject every. single. day. for months, most likely YEARS. Syntax is also extremely important (it still should be to some degree in blog posts, but not nearly as much). If you want to get your book published, you've got to play by the grammar rules and make every last sentence meaningful.
2. SEO vs. LANGUAGE
In the blogosphere, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is crucial for driving traffic to your website (if your goal is to get people to find / read it). This is done by using targeted keywords that search engines will easily recognize. In book writing, you have to vary your language and sentence structure so that the reader doesn't get bored. It's more about finding a unique way of expressing an idea, rather than focusing on the most popular phrases.
3. ATTENTION SPANS
People who read blogs (including myself) have virtually no attention span anymore. They skim (if you've made it this far, I'm really impressed and owe you the biggest hug). People who purchase books are looking for a longer read on a topic. While our collective attention span for reading books has diminished in recent years, it's still longer than blogs. Reading a book on a plane, in the bath, on vacation, or with a cup of coffee on a rainy day, takes more mental concentration than skimming the titles of a blog post so as a writer you've got to be able to captivate readers for longer.
Throughout the process of writing my book I found myself wishing that I could just hyperlink things instead of having to type out the backstory to what I was referencing. Big benefit of blogging is being able to quickly hyperlink to other articles.
Blogging is all in first person. In the book, there are parts where I had to write in third person, which felt very foreign. I'm used to expressing my own thoughts, so I had to flex a different brain muscle trying to interpret and create other people's thoughts.
6. Instant Gratification
We live in a world of instant gratification. Whether it's posting a photo on Instagram and seeing 'likes' in real time, or creating a blog post and hitting publish right after it's done, or sending a text and expecting an immediate response, our generation isn't used to WAITING.
I usually don't prepare my blog posts ahead of time (unless I'm super organized but that hasn't happened for awhile) so after I finish writing this - I'll be sending it out into cyberspace. I don't have to wait for a year, or two years (or more) to see this post published.
In writing a book, there is no instant gratification. It's a lot of self-doubt and self-questioning: What am I doing this for? What if no one even likes it? What if I wasted all of this time for nothing?
The what-ifs are endless and enough to drive you insane. It's cliché but you have to write the book for YOURSELF and try not to worry about what ANYONE ELSE THINKS (it's hard, we all care what other people think to some extent, but in this process worrying about that will kill the book forever).
You have to get used to being alone with your brain and reaping no daily rewards or votes of confidence that what you're doing matters. It's a big risk taking the time to write something that no one might ever read or care about, but the rewards (way down the line) could be huge. Being your own cheerleader throughout the journey will make the victory at the final destination (i.e. finishing a manuscript or publishing a book), that much sweeter.
When technology became a STRESSOR instead of a means of connection/communication (as it was intended), I knew that something had to change. I would be at a coffee shop, or the library, or walking somewhere, and when my cell died... I felt RELIEF.
Not being able to refresh Instagram, or see the ping of a text, made me feel calm.
It's a weird thing to say for someone who has a "blog" but I started documenting things in this virtual home of mine before #selfie or #sponsored were even in our vocabulary. As a freelancer, I recognize that part of my job is to keep up with social media -- it's part of how I get work and promote pieces etc. And don't get me wrong, I DO LIKE a lot of the "good things" about it - I like having a timeline of photos to look back on fun memories + seeing what my pals are up to.
But as humans - we tend to take things to extremes - and I've hit my limit lately with my cell phone. It's sucking my soul and I'm spending my days reacting to this little device instead of being proactive in accomplishing bigger goals.
Without my phone dying on its own, I never physically shut it OFF. Do you remember the last time you did that for more than a day? Two days? A week? I've started self-imposed "PHONE BLACKOUTS" where I power it down for 24 - 36 hours to see how productive I can be. It's INSANE how much you can get done when your mind isn't twitching to refresh and respond. I also try to treat texts like emails, whereas I dedicate time to respond thoughtfully after I've completed my To Do list for the day.
Along with keeping up with the never-ending 24/7 freelance writing grind, I'm trying to publish a book... which is new (and exciting) territory but requires A LOT of re-writing/editing on top of my "day job." For me, it takes time to write something that I feel is worthy. Sometimes the words flow easily but usually it requires a lot of concentration and organization of thoughts for me to write something that I believe in (vs. fluff).
The problem is that I'm off-kilter with how society works -- we're in a fast-paced, speed-of-light world and I need TIME to SLOW DOWN and focus. I'm finding that when I do power back up my phone, I'm fielding internal guilt of alienating my friends/family/boyfriend with delayed responses and my lack of reaching out. I'm trying not to feel this way but it's hard when we're so reliant upon phones to keep in touch.
Sometimes I think back to early high school years (B.C. - Before I had a Cell) and how easy it was to concentrate on homework and hobbies after school or on weekends. When no one was on their phones (and group chats didn't even exist), everyone had endless time to focus on whatever they were doing in the moment. I wish we could go back to that time, maybe just once or twice a week - a UNIVERSAL PHONE BLACKOUT - where everyone lives without FOMO or worrying about what's going on inside these addicting devices.
I also really wish there was an "Out of Office" for text messaging (someone invent this pls!) that let people know I'm not IGNORING, I'm just in HIBERNATION mode ... without having to sound like a broken record after the fact explaining why I've been such a crappy friend lately.
My hope with this little tech tangent is just to inspire anyone who's feeling OVERWHELMED by it all and is looking for a way to be more PRODUCTIVE about getting sh*t done. A 24-36 hour phone blackout (min not max) and treating texts like emails are just a few of the best ways that I have found to FOCUS and move forward in accomplishing big goals.
Let me know if there's anything else you do in the comments below!!