It’s advice we’ve all heard before, and for the most part ignore—after all, it leads to those pesky questions like, “Who am I?” that no one wants to answer—but to Andrew Blitman, 22 year old author of two books and a successful blog, it’s the most important thing of all.
A graduate school student less than a year out of college, Blitman started a blog during his senior year in University of Miami. In the ten months since it’s been running, “The Written Blit” has been viewed more than 11,000 times and led to the idea of his first book, From the Blogosphere: Philosophy from My College Years, which he self published this past January. A few weeks later, Blitman published his second book, Birthright 2012: A Voyage into the Heart and Soul of Israel, based on his December 2012 trip to Israel.
New Voices, full of writers who toy with the idea of writing their own books, was intrigued by this young man who has already written and published two books (in e-book and print) while simultaneously pursuing a Masters of Professional Sciences. So we decided to ask him a few questions that would maybe one day help us assemble our lives into something resembling similar accomplishment.
If you want to publish a book, says Blitman, “Be your own advocate.”
Here’s where that advice about being yourself comes in: “I cannot stress enough how important it is to promote yourself genuinely,” says Blitman. When it comes from someone who’s published two books about his own experiences, the advice is somewhat more warranted—and easier to take.
“Authenticity is something that is often lost in business, in science, in efficiency, in life in general,” he continues. “It’s easy to forget that when you’re an author, you’re selling your image as well as your product. That’s why it’s important to be genuine, to behave in ways consistent with that image. Anything else is phony. False fronts kill the soul and, ultimately, your business.”
In 2011, self-published print books accounted for 43% of all books published that year. That’s up 287% since 2006; it’s clearly a growing trend, and growing fast. Now with books like 50 Shades of Grey proving that self-publishing can be a successful enterprise, that number is sure to grow even more.
The benefit of self-publishing, says Blitman, is that it “reduces your reliance on others.” And though he says he enjoys doing everything himself, he’d be interested in working with a publisher if they’ll take him.
The ironic thing is that Blitman never even thought he would start a blog. Though he loves to write—“It gives me the power to communicate my thoughts clearly. Writing is also an emotional vehicle, a source of catharsis that helps me express my feelings in ways beyond the reach of speech”—it had never crossed his mind to blog. In fact, the idea came from a roommate who had read some of his articles in the school paper and suggested that Blitman start a blog.
“The next day I created “The Written Blit” and the rest is history,” says Blitman.
His first book is a compilation of these posts. But really, says Blitman, it’s about those internal questions that finally begged to be answered once he got to college.
“What is love? What is integrity? What do I believe in? What is a belief? What do I stand for? What is the value of a life? Why do people suffer?”
Using poetry and short essays, Blitman attempts to answer these philosophical and personal questions both in his blog and his book. (And what is love? Glad you asked. “The authentic, unconditional, unwavering, undying attraction to, appreciation for, and commitment to another’s existence and well-being,” says Blitman, remarkably sure of himself.)
Over 200 people have now downloaded his first book, though he believes the publication of his second book, which is receiving far more publicity (Birthright is helping promote the book), will increase those numbers. This book was inspired by Blitman’s first trip to Israel through Birthright.
“I had heard from classmates that the trip was fun, but I did not expect the 10-day journey to be as profound as it was,” says Blitman. “I took the notes for my Birthright group. As the days went by, my notes swelled past forty pages. Between hiking up Masada, floating in the Dead Sea, and spending a night in the Negev Desert, I realized I had enough for a book.” He finished the book in a couple weeks, and published it a couple weeks later.
Blitman considers this book his “thank-you gift” to Israel in return for what it has given him and what it does for the world. His books in general, though, he believes are important for much grander reasons.
“I think they add weight to the voice of the Millennial generation, which often gets marginalized, mocked, or silenced by the mainstream media,” says Blitman in a Dunhamish echo of her “I am a voice of my generation” speech.
“We’re so young; there’s so much literature about us but not enough from us. I would like to believe that my writing inspires others in my age group to speak up about right and wrong, to think critically about the way the world is and about the way it should be.”
Blitman is clearly following his own advice.