From Blogs to Blockbusters

On Wednesday, MaryBeth, Angel, Nayanny, Michelle and I went up to the JCC for the “From Blogs to Blockbusters” event, which consisted of a conversation between Julie Powell and Gretchen Rubin, moderated by Abigail Pobgrebin.  Julie’s first blog, The Julie/Julia Project, got her a book deal and then a movie spin-off (Julie and Julia); she has a new blog and a new book, Cleaving, which she was promoting at the event.  Gretchen started a blog while she was working on her latest book, The Happiness Project – unlike Julie, she first started a book and then (because she was testing the idea that doing something that scares and challenges you will make you happier) she started a blog.

I’m not sure how interested the Jbloggers were in the digressions on marriage and discussions toward the end of the night, but the responses to the early questions about blogging were interesting to me, especially because (as you all know) I’ve been thinking A LOT about blogging lately – who reads them, what are they for, why do people write them, why do people read them, etc?  So here’s a breakdown of some of what I was able to take away from the talk:

(1) Blogs work well when they are inspirational, and have a framework that other people can follow.  Gretchen talked a lot about this regarding her project, which has inspired people to try their own happiness projects.

(2) Both insisted that blogging is easier if you build it into your routine, and try to write everyday (obviously I haven’t mastered this, as I am responding to the event two days after it happened!).  They both seemed to enjoy the self-discipline that blogging forced them to achieve.

(3) I was surprised that they both said they spent a lot of time making sure that they “wrote well” (or maybe I was just surprised that they admitted to self-editing and keeping posts for days trying to get them right).  I think this says a lot about the purpose of their blogs, as well as the audience — Gretchen makes a living writing and realizes that wherever she writes she better think about how she does it, since her product is part of her livelihood.  Likewise, although Julie kept insisting that she had no idea that she would ever get a book deal from blogging (and it’s true that in 2002 this was much rarer than it is today), she was also trying to make it as a writer somehow and must have realized in some way that the style was an important as the content.  Likewise, for people to want to follow a blog, I think it does have to be written well, although this designation is, of course, somewhat subjective.

(4) Both bloggers emphasized that the subject of the blog is THE most important reason that people come back and read it, and I don’t think they were just being modest.  They both said that the subject has to be “bloggable” – which kind of goes back to what they were saying about it being inspirational.  Gretchen also discussed the informative content of her blog – people seem to want information about happiness.  I was interested in this notion of “bloggability” because that’s really what we have been discussing with the various Jblogger sites and their themes.

(5) They spoke about the issue of Too Much Information (TMI) and the fact that blogs are feeding the appetite for candor, honesty, and personal details.  I was fascinated by the fact that Gretchen did not use proper names (for example, of her family) when she blogged about them, but she does use their names in the book version.  She admitted that this was illogical and she didn’t really know why she did it, but I think it might have to do with “google-ability” and the access that googling provides to almost anyone.  To see your name in a book, someone has to buy it and read it (or at least flip through it pretty carefully) – to see your name on the web they just have to google you, and not only will they see that you are on a blog, they will see exactly what it says about you, in approximately .0345 seconds.  What’s worse: being slammed on the web or in a tell-all book? (Gretchen wasn’t slamming anyone, by the way, her observation just got me thinking.)

Overall, I’m glad we went – it answered some of my questions about blogging and brought up some more (and the free food spread at the end was pretty fantastic!).  What do you all think about some of the questions and issues that came up, whether you were there or not?  (Also, I’d love to hear you weigh in on which would be worse – being written about online or in a book.)


One Response

  1. I thought the event was really helpful, and I’m glad I went. When Gretchen and Julie were discussing the framework of their blogs, it really got me thinking of how to schedule my own. Should I post certain types of blogs on certain days and then a different type on others? should i write longer on some days than others? should i alternate the subjects of my blogs? should i just let them flow freely? Also, I thought it was great that they talked about editting. I’m typically obsessive with my writing, so the idea of writing a blog was a bit innerving at first. Should I outline my posts? Should I pre-edit, edit, and post-edit? How long should I keep the post before I actually post it? I thought Gretchen was particularly helpful in that respect. Maybe it is because she is a writer, but when she said she keeps posts for days to edit it helped me cope a bit with the whole blogging process.
    I also thought that Julie’s discussion of what is and what is not “bloggable” was really interesting. For instance, the fact that she felt she couldn’t blog about her affair and the aftermath showed that she had boundaries, that she was willing to share almost everything through blogging but still kept things private. Overall, I thought the event was very helpful in starting my blog and developing a system in which to structure it, not just what I write but when and how, as well. Actually Jessica, if you hear of any more events like this please pass them along. I’d love to learn more about successful bloggers and what works for them.

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