As a Person

April 24, 2013 § 25 Comments


I must confess that I’m not a big blog reader, but one I check with some frequency (although not nearly enough frequency to keep up with his rapid-fire posts – how the heck does he manage that?) is Jon Katz’s. I’ve never read a single one of Jon’s books, but I sure do appreciate his online work. His writes with tremendous eloquence about issues that resonate with me, and I admire his honesty.

One of the subjects Jon tackles regularly is the practice of writing (another reason I like his blog). A couple weeks back, he wrote this post, about the evolution of his career and the business of writing in general. His intent for the piece, I think, is to point out – rightly, I believe – that the business is changing, not dying. That writing will continue and so too will writing as a career. It just won’t look exactly like it has in years and decades past.

Jon had me feeling pretty darn good about my future as a writer right up until he got to the fifth paragraph, which is where he reveals rather crushing details regarding his online reach. 30,000 blog hits a day!?! 10,000 + followers on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and so on!?! Crikey. If I get 500 hits a day on this humble little site, a couple hundred of which are probably my mother, I think I’m doing pretty good. I’m absent from Facebook, and although I tried Twitter for about a month, I found it abhorrent.

Jon’s post got me thinking again about Penny’s views regarding online connectivity, and to what extent I should embrace these mediums. If it’s not abundantly clear by now, I am somewhat conflicted in this regard. I have gently, almost reluctantly, embraced this space, and I have come to understand that it has great value to me. Not because it’s selling me a bunch of books, or somehow securing my spot in the uncertain future of authorship, but because it has come to serve as something of a vetting process for ideas that may (or more likely may not) deserve further development. And because it has introduced a degree of discipline to my work that has long been lacking. But then friggin’ Katz comes along, talking about his 30k daily hits and his Facebook “likes” or whatever you call them, and how even he can’t say for sure if he will survive as a writer, and I think… well, I think “shit.”

I try to not dwell on either the past or the future. The former is known and unchangeable; the latter is unknown and unknowable. But just because it is unknown does not mean it cannot be influenced, and I do wonder to what extent I should be working to influence my future success as a writer. Or, if not success, than at least survival. Should I be on Facebook, liking and friending and so on? Should I go back to Twitter, and try to make sense of all the stilted conversations happening there? Should I be posting on this site every day, even if I really have nothing to say? And even if I did all of these things, would it make a difference?

The truth is, much as Jon seems fairly confident that he will find his way as a writer and human being, I feel the same, and I suspect my path will and should be as unique to me, as his is to him. And while I consider it one of my great privileges that I am able to support my family with my writing, I consider it an even greater privilege that I do not feel as if I am defined by this career choice. I like it. At times, I might love it. But as I have mentioned before, it is not the primary source point of my contentment. It is not impossible for me to imagine something different, although I suspect that the older I get, the more challenging such a transition might be.

In recent years, I have become keenly aware of serendipity’s role in my life, and I have become more comfortable placing a certain amount of trust in this role. I’m becoming aware of something else, too: That serendipity only works when you are honest with yourself and others. I think that’s why Jon’s path works so well for him. It is rooted in his particular truth. It is a truth that happens to include 10k blog hits a day, a NY Times bestseller or two, and an embrace of social media platforms that make me a little uncomfortable.

So, yeah, I’ll admit that Jon’s post made me feel a little uneasy. Can I really survive as a writer the way I’m doing it? But the more I think about it, the more I realize that perhaps I don’t need to survive as a writer. I just need to survive as a person.










§ 25 Responses to As a Person

  • Here is a “hit” on your blog that will hopefully motivate you to continue marching along to your beat. I appreciate and find your blog writings and books brilliant (only because I share your heartfelt opinions). I share your blogs entries with those of my friends that I think need to consider I different perspective or be informed. How you and your family are living inspires and motivates me to evolve with how I’m living. Here is a big thanks for writing as you do – internet and all.

  • Uh huh! With a constellation of ways to survive as a writer, of which Jon’s is only one, and given the fact that you are selling your work, I would say don’t give another thought to all the social media stuff. (aka: enormous time suckers…) As an only occasional blogger myself, and after about 4 years of it, I have seen the numbers begin to grow. The internet is crammed with too much of everything, but some really wonderful intellectual discourse flourishes amidst all the chaff. So I have chosen only a small handful of writers whose blogs I read. I really appreciate and learn from glimpses of other’s lives around the common theme of sustainably. As more people wake up to the mess that our world has become these are the voices of sanity that give me hope that there’s a better way. So please, blog on!

  • Heather Main says:

    There’s some quote cited in a magazine I read over 20 years ago… “when navigating at night, be sure to use the stars and not the lights of passing ships” (or something like that.) Your observations of comparable hits reminds me of themes in prior blogs about relative wealth… who feels “wealthy” or not. So I think you’re in the perfect spot, no matter what percentage of hits are family. PS- I’m also a fan of Katz having read “A Dog Year” about 10 years ago. Couldn’t put it down, even as I burned dinner.

  • Lindsay Koehler says:

    Ben, I very much enjoy reading your posts, and if Facebook isn’t for you, that’s your call. Here’s my two cents as a former PR person, for your consideration — even if you never “like” or “friend” anybody, Facebook is a huge publicity machine, with not much input needed by you. If you post your writings on Facebook, it makes it extremely easy for readers to share your posts with friends…and their friends then see them, and so on, and so on…. In any case, keep on sharing — your thoughtful posts add a peaceful stillness to my day — thank you!

  • Ann says:

    I truly appreciate your blog and your story. It helps motivate me to keep going with homeschooling our wildly active son and to keep saving for our future homestead when all others around us think we’re crazy. More and more I find blogs as a way to find my “true” community when the community that literally surrounds me disagrees so greatly with my values. Please keep blogging!

    • Ben Hewitt says:

      Thanks, Ann. I have no intention of giving up on this space. This post was more about my ongoing internal (and sometimes external, with Penny) debate over the proper role of these mediums in my life and career.

  • Melanie J. says:

    I’ve only this year found success as a writer, and I say success because I’ve had exactly one article published in a local magazine (and 2 more coming in May). I joke that my blog has 6½ readers, because I treat it more as a journal and end up having uninteresting things to say apparently. But I’m managing to support my family on my editing and writing ability, so anything beyond that is gravy. Social media has its place, and I think it’s proving that place is different for everyone.

  • Dawn says:

    I would imagine one of the reasons your readers appreciate your work is your authenticity. I, for one, find the fact that you try out ideas and share your struggles and inner thoughts very inspiring. It is the kind of writing I enjoy – more of a conversation with the reader than just a dissertation. I use no other social media other than FB and only that after being hounded by distant friends and relatives for pictures of my boys when they were born. I think it is a tool, like any other, and can be used to enhance your life or to take away from it or, especially among my friends during the last election, to stand on your soap box and complain about everything under the sun. It is possible to look at it every once in a great while and not have it take over your life as it seems to do to so many. I agree with the writer above that I share your posts with anyone I think would be interested or could benefit from your message and FB does make that easy to do. Your call, though. I would make the effort to read your work even if it came on papyrus delivered by Pony Express! Thanks, Ben!

  • Elizabeth L. says:

    Hi Ben,

    Jon posted just this morning about how he is looking to reinvent his book tours to include media to reach a wider audience. There are two sides to social media, one is that it will attract some people with nasty things to say. Jon and many others monitor their media every day to set a positive tone- a full-time job in itself some days. The other side helps to reach a wider audience then ever thought possible. I recently put together a social media plan for my local farmer’s market to help advance their marketing tools. The main point was for the social media to be consistent, clear, and credible. I treat my personal social media a lot like a cafeteria, take what I need when I need it and then get busy living my life.

  • AEP says:

    Keep writing. We’re reading your stuff. We’re not reading Jon’s stuff.

    Your fan base is far and wide… We are from Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay

  • Doug W. says:

    The test of what you are doing is if it works for you, not what others are doing. It is all too easy to get hooked by the latter. What Mr. Katz is doing works for him. Your writing is part of a larger whole; farm, family, etc.Taken together they speak to an emerging trend in our world of eroding economy and institutions.–the micro-enterprise.- a lifestyle and livelihood built around one’s strengths, skills, relationships, and particular circumstances. The variations are numerous and the possibilities probably infinite. Your friend the mechanic may be an example. One example locally is someone who is has combination grain/building supply business on his farm in a very rural area. He makes no deliveries, and many of his customers are members of the local Amish community.who pull in with a horse and wagon.No one is going to draw these up as jobs and opportunities for the future, but these microenterprises show a great deal of promise in providing individuals a livelihood and measure independence.

  • Miriam says:

    I’ve made my peace with Facebook, and now I even like it a little bit. It’s good to get over our assumptions about things, sometimes. If you want to be known, you have to put yourself out there, no other way. I also abhor “selling myself” but I still do it a little bit- and I only write for fun, no dreams of being a real writer. But I still want people to read it.
    I also found that I really got blogging when I started to read other people’s blogs, to take them seriously. That was a big eye-opener for me, and I think the community of bloggers is way more valuable than my real-life friends.

  • Christina Holland says:

    I’m a new to your blog but you hooked me with this post. I couldn’t agree more with your thoughts on serendipity. Thanks for sharing.

  • Tonya says:

    I am so appreciative of your sharing here – it is nice to not feel quite so alone on our consuming-less path we are trying to follow. We make our living through online sales (our handwork) – and I have not done facebook or twitter yet, just some blogging that began 5 years ago to share our family’s vision and to help me keep a bit of a journal. We have been told that we really HAVE to do facebook, but so far I continue to resist it… not sure if it simply because I resist the way of the masses but it may be.

    • Ben Hewitt says:

      Thanks, Tanya. I sometimes wonder if I too am resisting only out of my attachment to not following the well-trod cultural path. Which is really just stubbornness, and frankly doesn’t seem like a particularly good reason for me to resist.

  • I have read jon’s site a few times and just stopped, however i get yours coming in by email and it pust a smile on my face when it comes in, might not get to read then an there, but it always does..

    Love your musings, much more truth in your voice then most.. far to many writers blogs are now trying to sell “themselves” instead of being themselves..

  • Love it! I read that on Jon’s site, too, and was a little in awe. But I love your posts just like they are–they give me some deep thinking to mull over while I’m feeding chickens or working in the garden. Can’t wait for your new book to be released.

  • cindy says:

    I’ve been reading your words here a couple of months. I rarely comment on blogs, but this post inspired me. I think I found your blog through taproot or possibly soulemama’s blog. Just wanted to say I really enjoy reading your posts. If you’ve got something good to say and know how to say it, people will read it tweeted or not.

  • Vonnie says:

    Keep doing what you do, Ben. I too read Jon Katz’s work and sometimes I enjoy it immensely and sometimes I find he takes himself a bit too seriously for my taste. Gotta be able to laugh at the absurdity of life sometimes, I say. Your writing brings me happiness in the way you do not always profess to know what is right or wrong for you, you question yourself all the time. I relate to that, and your sense of humor. I get something different from your work then I do Jon’s, but the both have wonderful merit to me.

    As far as writing in different venues…well, I have a love/hate relationship with all the social media. I use it mostly because it’s the way I can most easily communicate with others, but there’s not much I enjoy less then sitting in front of a screen hours after hours (too many jobs forced to do that to support the kids will do that). So, I limit my time to a few minutes a day checking in on facebook and writing on my blog (and of course reading my favorites!). But, I am very selective with how I spend that time.

    Bottom line, Ben, rock on! If how you do it works for you, then just do that. If you find that it starts to not work for you, then it might be time to add something to your mix. Either way, we’re all out here enjoying your work. ~Vonnie

  • sue says:

    Hi Ben , Just found your blog via another blog ,I would just love to keep you to my self ,very enjoyable and very Interesting read. Sue , Australia

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