Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Lessons from NMX: Keep it Emotional, Take Risks, and Other Uncomfortable Strategies

New Media Expo / Blogworld
I'm in the process of finishing up three days at the New Media Expo/Blogworld conference.  It has been enlightening for a host of reasons of the kind that can make you feel both elated and uncomfortable.  I didn't really know what to expect of the conference before I arrived here.  I was simply hoping to get some information and inspiration to get me out of my blogging rut and into something new.

I've always been a straightforward blogger.  Controversy is not something I generally explore on my blog, nor am I usually interested in taking part in discussions where people have their minds irrevocably made up.  Yet much of the advice about writing interesting and useful content for readers centers around taking risks, thinking in black and white, and evoking emotion.  This is a new way of thinking for me.

For the most part, the advice is good.  I know that from switching myself from the writer to the reader, and imagining the kind of posts I like to read.  The suggestions are to open up, put yourself out on the web, take a stance, have an opinion, and be sure to surprise or even shock the reader.  I don't particularly like anything too emotional or shocking, but I do like the unexpected, surprises, something new, and something that makes me think in ways I haven't before.

So this is my first and most important lesson to take away from the conference.  To take risks with the blog content and voice, and not to shy away from expressing and eliciting emotion.  It's a new spin for me, but I'm going to start moving my posts in that direction.  One might ask why I'd do something like that if it makes me uncomfortable.  My response is that - as I look back on many of my previous posts - they seem distant, watered down, and even overly clinical.  My voice on the page is dry, and I see that I'm not doing a good job of sharing why I think something is important.  After all, the reader's time (mine and yours) is limited.  What I offer has to be something worth reading more than doing pretty much anything else, at least for the amount of time it takes to read.  I can see good content and solid information in my posts, but for someone who writes a lot of fiction, I do not represent my storytelling style in the blog itself.

It's time to tell the stories here.  Not the fiction, but the part of our world and culture that intersects with it.  What is the emotion behind the movies and books we all love?  What are the really compelling messages in our genres, and why do they hook us for hours on end?  What is so entertaining or Earth-shaking?  What makes us as a community feel strongly, and what are we willing to stand up for and promote/protect?  What is unique about our culture, and how do we fit into it?

And before I do any of that, I need to step back myself and answer those questions from my own personal perspective.  I love to write about all aspects of speculative culture.  But why?  What really grips me and keeps me focused?  What is just so darned important that I feel I have to write about it in a post or I'll feel I missed out?  What makes me feel like I will simply bust if I don't share it?  Time to really dig, and come up with content that makes both reader and writer feel like there is nothing else in the world they would rather be doing than be right here on the blog.

For your typical overly-analytical geek, sci-fi writer, this sounds like a daunting challenge.  But I know there is a lot of great stuff to be had by trying.  So, this post is in the style of my 'old' voice, let's see how I can do with shifting into the storyteller ...

Image Credit:  New Media Expo 2013, Las Vegas


Amy said...

I think this is an excellent decision! The more emotionally invested we are in our writing, the more we clearly care about it, the more engaging and compelling it is. Kudos!

I'm not sure about the black and white thinking, though. My take is that we're advised to take stands about the things we truly believe in. That doesn't mean we don't have room for gray area, or that we aren't going to listen to other points of view. It's just a starting point to get people to care and to start talking.

J.A. Grier said...

I've never been a fan of black and white thinking, either. I prefer conversations in which everyone has an open mind, and can make compromises. Ideas are just another construct we create for ourselves, and are as mutable as any other thought process. I think that is part of the challenge of writing blog posts that matter.
Fictional Planet