Friday, November 04, 2005

blogging vs writing

When blogging began to grow as a phenomenon, my initial thought was, "So everyone is going to think that by sharing their personal lives with the world, they're a writer." My sarcastic prediction has proved to be both more true and less true than I thought.

Most personal blogs are crap. Possibly my own included, though I try to give a useful education and mild amusement in the process. But such sadness I see: people who wrote three or four entries in one month last year, and haven't touched it since. Others who blather out five thousand words in a single post, but they are so lacking in style and focus that it's no wonder they are a blogger and not a published writer. I recently read (or tried) some stream-of-consciousness gabble with wildly broad, gratuitous name-dropping, and only the most nominal connection to the subject line. I made it about halfway through one post before giving up. (I've never been able to read William Faulkner, but I have no problems with James Joyce; go figure.)

On the other end of the spectrum, I have seen the most incredible concentrations of good information and intelligent thought in blogs. Recently I've been into the stock market and finances, and some blogs have great advice, well-written and researched, and it's all freely available. Furthermore, the bloggers usually link to other blogs who have similar approaches to investment. It's like you're stepping into an entire circle of people who are experienced in the industry and whose advice sounds right to you. Each has his individual perspective and predictions, which only enhances your comprehension of a business that can be as complicated as you let it be.

Blogging is not a substitute for decent writing, but it should be a good excuse for it. There is publishable writing out there, but actually getting published is very hard! I've tried (and should keep trying, because the book is good and objectively better than at least half the published fiction I've read, and I've read about five novels per month for the past fifteen years). And frankly, publishing is a business. It has a bottom line which is closer to the edge than that of most industries. Publishers judge whether a book will sell, not whether it has literary merit. That was the hardest leap for me to overcome. A self-publishing friend recently said, "It would work better if you had a popular book first." He's absolutely right. And I can write a simple, clear story with obvious messages – as long as it's less than five thousand words. I just can't sustain simple, obvious and clear for a hundred thousand.

But I'm digressing to the personal, which is another little peeve of mine in blogs. I am conscious that I'm writing statements public to the world. I don't really care if it gets read by anyone, though it's always interesting to make new acquaintances. I will never write about things like what I ate for dinner (even if it's some high-end place), dreams, personal things about my friends, disputes I may have with friends or family, or tremendously personal things like my health or my sex life. I do not understand those who make public these things about themselves. It's a dirty laundry thing that only Jerry Springer fans could get into.

I generally consider the other dead end to be people trying to exercise personalities they don't have, be the people they want to be. People who want to be badasses, or want to galvanize their adolescent frustrations (this can apply to any physical age) into satan-worship or other shock-the-parents things are boring. But there's a creative aspect to this, too. One of the interesting aspects of ARGs (alternative reality games) are game characters who interact with the players through a blog. There's a few here on Blogspot (cf. I Love Bees and Help Me Find Jon.) While I'm unsure whether these characters' personalities differ from those of their creators, I think ARGs are a serious and innovative developing aspect of blogs.

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