The question posed in this Vitae post is one that I think about a lot, especially now that so much of my time is (happily) given over to writing. My immediate response is YES, in my experience my blogging has helped my writing, but on second thought: it may be that blogging helps my demeanor which helps my writing.
I suppose for some folks, blogging is a way to test drive ideas that eventually form the core of real scholarship. And for other folks, blogging is scholarship. For me it is a kind of serious recreation: a way to record ideas that don’t have a place in my scholarship (or teaching, or personal diary, for that matter). It’s a place to do intentional, focused, topical daydreaming. (Fuzzy, freewheeling, unfocused legitimate daydreaming stays in my head.)
Most importantly, blogging has been a way to keep writing when I am sick and tired of writing what I’m supposed to be writing. Doing something thinky during scholarly dry spells, or getting unstuck on bad scholarship days, has done me a world of good since I started doing this kind of thing several years ago.
The serious-writing part of my brain is like some kind of machine that you can’t let sit or it gets gunked up. I take it out for a spin, and sometimes actually get some place. But if I just drive around in circles, that’s OK, too.