I ask this very specifically, for and about people like me who want to be â€˜writersâ€™. I apologise in advance for the earnestness of what is to follow, but I’m preparing a couple of workshops that Iâ€™m giving over the next couple of months and as Iâ€™ve been trying to articulate how I see blogging as a form of writing, and its potential (or otherwise) for ‘new’ writers, I couldnâ€™t think of any other way to think it through than to write myself a blog post (so I guess the simple answer is ‘yes’).
In asking this question Iâ€™m not saying that my blog and my blogging habit all stem from â€˜wanting to be a writerâ€™. My blog and my blogging habit are aboutâ€¦well, youâ€™ve got a blog, youâ€™ve read my blogâ€¦you know all the things that itâ€™s about. And this question can be easily applied to the wider set of questions, â€˜should I blog instead ofâ€¦â€™, and Iâ€™m sure you have your own range of neglected options to insert here â€“ knitting, playing with children, getting together with friends and so on.
Iâ€™m not going to define exactly who I mean by â€˜writersâ€™ or â€˜want to beâ€™. You can decide for yourself whether or not it applies to you, but I do think that the discussion is slightly different for ‘new’ and ‘established’ writers (as discussed in posts such as this and this at Sarsaparilla).
So, having apologised for this post, my blog, my writing and myself; having determined that we are simply addressing one very small part of blogging; having broken a most important blogging rule (get to the bloody point) I shall ask the question again (because by now youâ€™ve probably forgotten what it even was).
Should people who want to be â€˜writersâ€™ blog?
First up, the most obvious argument against blogging: blogging is a distraction from other writing. You already know what Iâ€™m going to say, donâ€™t you? So is vacuuming the dust from the corners of the cutlery drawer. As is teaching myself to say the alphabet backwards (actually, I did that the night before my matric biology exam, but I offer it here in case you havenâ€™t thought of it for yourself and need a new procastinatory activity). And reading The Advertiser, weeding the grevilleas, watching Greyâ€™s Anatomy. The list goes on. Itâ€™s a spurious argument that one about distraction (do you know, I think thatâ€™s the first time Iâ€™ve ever used the word â€˜spuriousâ€™ in a written sentence), presupposing too many things: that every moment I have spent blogging might have been directly applied to some other project; that I havenâ€™t also been writing other things; that other writing projects are all more worthy than this; and that blogging is only about writing.
Perhaps now is a useful time to recall the wise words of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union: abstinence from all things bad, moderation in all things good.
There is a danger that blogging will swallow your best ideas. That once blogged, they can not be used in some other form. The scrape of the spoon on the bottom of the saucepan that led to this post isnâ€™t available to me any more, for example. But that doesnâ€™t mean Iâ€™ve necessarily lost anything. I love that piece of writing. It works perfectly as a blog post and wouldnâ€™t work so well anywhere else.
Iâ€™ve become less worried about it too since I began performing standup. In standup â€“ though Iâ€™m a beginner there too, so speak only from a beginnerâ€™s perspective â€“ it seems okay to repeat yourself on your way to getting it right. You should polish your pieces until you think they will work, but very often you (I) donâ€™t know whether they will work until theyâ€™ve been said outside the safety of your empty kitchen.
Blogging has sharpened my writing. I know, when I blog, that someone will read what I have written, and quite possibly that someone will read it only a few minutes after Iâ€™ve finished writing it (if I got hit by a bus, would I be happy for that to stand as my Last Post). Iâ€™ve been able to experiment with voice and with point of view and blogging has heightened my awareness of the every day. I might think, for example, of the colour lipstick I wear and the sentence I could use to describe that on a blog.
I could have learnt that from my other paper journal, perhaps, but a blog does not work in the same way that a private journal does. Because a blog is not private. Different bloggers deal with this differently, but deal with it they must. Anger, for example. I would never directly blog about my anger with important people in my life. Too hard to mop up. But I do blog about it every now and then. Like here. I canâ€™t tell you how pissed off I was that day. And I didnâ€™t need to once Iâ€™d written it down that way. And it gave me an idea, and thereâ€™s a larger piece of writing thatâ€™s grown from that, and Iâ€™ll be able to use it one day (well, I hope so, you know, maybe).
Not only does a blog bring you readers, it brings readers you get to know a bit about. Because blogging canâ€™t be only about the writing. Itâ€™s about reading too. Reading a lot. And somehow, I think that canâ€™t help but give you an insight into your own writing that isnâ€™t available in any other form. You get told endlessly at workshops â€˜write for yourself firstâ€™, but blogging teaches you â€“ quickly â€“ what that means. Not just how to do it, but the implications too.
On the relationship between your blog and your readers, there’s something to be said about learning how to ‘write what you know’ – direct experience – and transposing it to mean more than what just happened or what you immediately felt. But at the same time, you must be honest, because your blog readers (generally) expect that what you write in this form is true. I haven’t quite worked out how to articulate this point yet, but I know it is an important one. Do let me know if you think you know what I’m trying to say.
There’s a lot that blogging can teach you about other forms of writing. I imagine you could learn a lot about writing an open-ended narrative like a soap for example. And there are endless types of online writing which would blogging could introduce you to. I’m not sure about a novel though (and there’s an excellent discussion about that here). Though possibly if you were very good at forward planning and had a very particular kind of structural control. Maybe then.
That’s enough for now, isn’t it? Iâ€™ve spent far too long on this, havenâ€™t I? Thanks for reading this far if indeed you have. Back to the shoes and coffee cups tomorrow. Promise.