It’s Day #7 of the Digital Sisterhood Book 11 Day Countdown Campaign. Today’s blog post features an excerpt from Chapter 9 of Ananda Leeke’s new book, Digital Sisterhood: A Memoir of Fierce Living Online. The title of Chapter 9 is Blogging Sets My Writer Spirit Free. It discusses how Ananda started blogging in 2005 and the lessons she learned.
Chapter Nine: Blogging Sets My Writer Spirit Free (Copyright 2013 by Madelyn C. Leeke)
“I love blogs, and I also love the concept behind blogs: the juicy meta of this idea that you can represent yourself, your ideas, your work, your thoughts, your art – a random or wild or skillful or free or calculated version of the nexus of artist – person – marketer – public private self in html for the world to jump into like a birdbath, squawking back about what they see.” Deb Rox, author of Five Ways to Blank Your Blog
My debut novel, Love’s Troubadours – Karma: Book One brought me to blogging. Wayne P. Henry, my book editor, suggested I try blogging as a way to overcome my writer’s block and to establish a regular writing practice. Wayne thought blogging on a regular basis would help me relax and surrender to the natural flow of my creative process. Desperate, I pushed past my own skepticism.
On February 1, 2005, I posted a poem on my author blog hosted by Blogger.com. In that moment, I knew exactly what Yoani Sanchez, author of Havana Real: One Woman Fights to Tell the Truth about Cuba Today, felt when she wrote, “I’ve only written a few lines, but now I am a blogger.” For the first two years, my blog served as a safe haven. I blogged about my writing journey, archived my research for my novel, and shared excerpts from my draft manuscript. Most of my research included articles, quotes, photos, YouTube videos, and links to blogs and web sites related to Love’s Troubadours’ characters and subject matters. They included Afro-Latinos, art, Black men and women, Buddhism, chess, fashion, feminism, historically Black colleges and universities, Haitian art and culture, home décor, Indian culture and history, London, music, museums, online dating, popular culture, spoken word poetry, travel, women’s issues, and yoga.
The more I blogged, the freer I felt in my writing practice. After a few weeks of blogging, my goal of developing a consistent writing practice began to manifest. I was able to use parts of my blog posts as dialogue or background in my novel. In addition, I developed a weekly ritual of reading other blogs such as Cathy Delaleu’s Lyrically I am Yours, a Haitian-influenced art and poetry blog; and Natalie Lue’s Baggage Reclaim, a London-based dating and relationship blog. Each time I visited these blogs, I learned how other bloggers shared their life experiences and interests. They used stories, diary entries, essays, prayers, poetry, photos, podcasts and videos to communicate their authentic voices. I also learned how they interacted with their blog readers through the discussions held in their comment sections.
My blogging life expanded in 2006 when I joined Myspace, a popular social networking site used by a lot of musicians and creative professionals at the time. I used my Myspace blog to cross-post my author blog posts. I also started following people who shared the same interests in art, books, films, music, popular culture, self-care, and spoken word. I read their status updates and blogs, watched their videos, and left comments on their pages. Several people like author and filmmaker Abiola Abrams and Yasmin Coleman, founder of A Place of Our Own Books and Book Club, started following me back and commenting on my page. We developed a social networking relationship that caused them to visit my author blog and leave comments on a regular basis. They also shared my blog links with their network.
After I published Love’s Troubadours in August 2007, I was able to tap into my author blog and Myspace audience for author interviews and support with my online book party and virtual book tour. Joining Black Author Showcase, a social networking site for African American authors, literary professionals, book clubs, and readers that was established by Diane Williams, Stanford Battle, and Rey O. Harris, gave me valuable information on how to use social media as an author. It broadened my book’s audience, exposed me to writing and publishing resources, and introduced me to new social networking sites. I also cross-posted my author blogs, became friends with many members and left comments on their pages, participated in the discussion forums, and shared helpful information and lessons learned from my author journey. As a result of my active participation, I was selected as Member of the Month and was interviewed on Black Author Showcase’s Talkshoe.com radio show in February 2008.
Later that year, I began using my author blog as an online journal for my second book, That Which Awakens Me: A Creative Woman’s Poetic Memoir of Self-Discovery. Many of my blog posts that featured artwork, poetry, reflections, and stories were included in the book. I also started attending blogging conferences like Blogging While Brown, the first international conference for bloggers of color. This experience deepened my understanding of social media, strengthened my online relationships with fellow bloggers, inspired me to explore podcasting and video blogging, and created a network of support for my book launch.
By the time I published That Which Awakens Me in 2009, my blogging life had helped me to:
- Identify and sustain my passion for writing books.
- Maintain a regular writing practice.
- Overcome writer’s block.
- Communicate and stay connected to my audience which included readers, workshop participants, and creativity coaching clients.
- Create and experiment with content for my books.
- Give back to others by sharing helpful information.
- Promote and market my books and services as a writer, speaker, coach, and workshop facilitator.
- Generate content that could be used in author talks and interviews.
- Obtain interviews and positive media coverage in print and new media.
- Learn about and stay updated on social media and the ways authors use the tools to promote their work and services.
My podcasting and video blogging became the centerpiece of my digital life after That Which Awakens Me was published. Although I maintained my author and yoga blogs on a weekly basis, I increased the time I spent communicating with my audience on Facebook, LinkedIn, Ning.com social networking sites, and Twitter. I also began experimenting with several podcasts, live streaming shows on Stickham.com and UStream.tv, and videos about my author journey, creativity coaching, yoga practice, and passion for entrepreneurism, green living, women in social media, and spirituality.
It’s been nine years since I entered the blogosphere. My author and yoga blogs have been incorporated into one blog that captures my adventures as a creative professional, yoga teacher, and Internet geek. With the support of an editorial calendar, I write about yoga-inspired topics on Yoga Mondays; social media and technology on Internet Tuesdays; and the arts and creativity on Creativity Thursdays. My passion for fashion, food, fun, and my D.C. lifestyle is expressed on my Tumblr blog, Ananda@16thandU: Lifestylista in Love with DC. With this blog, I don’t adhere to a blogging schedule. I do it when I have something to say which means there are times when it goes weeks without an update.
Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Twitter are essential to my blogging life. They serve as my go-to source for audience engagement, content distribution, information sharing, and networking. I also my email lists, niche communities like BlogHer and SheWrites.com, and StumbleUpon, a web search engine that identifies and recommends content to its users, to share my blogs’ content.
I’m still a diehard fan of podcasting, live streaming, and video. Digital photography and photo-sharing sites like Flickr, Instagram, and Pinterest have become my new favorites. I enjoy sharing photos from these sites in my blog posts, tweets, and Facebook status updates.
You can purchase Digital Sisterhood on Amazon.com.
If you are in Washington, D.C. on October 19, please plan to attend Ananda’s author talk and book reading from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery, 1632 U Street, NW (three blocks from the U Street/Cardozo Green Line Metro Station). Click here to register for the event. See you on October 19th!