On With the Words
It was one of those articles where I started to get a little queasy about a millisecond after reading the headline: “Why Writers Should Stop Blogging.” That the piece was written by a respected fellow pilgrim and writer only made things worse, as did the links she provided to other content echoing the same themes. I have long suspected that blogging is inherently inferior to more traditional modes of communication—kind of like the minor leagues of writing—and have reflected often on the deleterious tendencies that it tends to inculcate among it’s practitioners. Each and every one of these suspicions (and others) was confirmed in reading this post and the attendant articles. Jeff Goins’ piece called “Why You Need to Stop Blogging & Regain Your Writing Soul,” in particular, summed it up with painful precision.
- Blogging is instant: blogging is the writing equivalent of the little lab rat in a cage feverishly pressing on a lever to get more food or some other stimulant. You press “publish” and—voila!—the responses come flooding (or, more likely, trickling) in! It becomes very easy to publish simply for the sake of the (instant) affirmation that you think (hope) will follow.
- Blogging is expedient: in the past, writers actually had to convince real editors that their work deserved a broader audience. No more. Now anyone and everyone has immediate access to their (often meager) audience. As with #1, this can quite easily lead to rushing through the process of writing and producing, well, crap.
- Blogging is easy: To quote Goins, “Beware anything that allows you immediate pleasure and reward with little work required…. Anyone can blog. In fact, many do. But not everyone has something to say.”
As I surveyed Goins’ “three reasons to stop blogging,” I thought to myself, “um, guilty, guilty, and guilty!” I have pressed “publish” for each of these three reasons. I have blogged when I should have been doing more pressing work, when I should have been spending time with my family, when I had nothing important (or even interesting) to say, when I was bored, when I should have closed the computer and gone outside, when I should have been reading something that was the fruit of a longer and deeper creative process than simply scrambling a few ideas together and pressing “publish,” when I should have just, for God’s sake, been silent. Indeed, I am probably doing any number of these things right now.
After a day or so of these uncomfortable ruminations, I began to feel that blogging was a very grimy business indeed. Selfish, lazy, marked at every step by naked desperation for the stroking of one’s ego. Sigh. How to possibly justify continuing to participate in such a corrupted medium?
Well, the short answer would be that human selfishness can be quite resourceful, and I can talk myself into many things that go against my better and more reasoned judgment. But perhaps there is a longer answer, too.
A few weeks ago, a friend contacted me looking for advice about blogging. He was about to launch his own blog and wanted my perspective on which platform to choose, on how frequently one ought to blog, about any strategies I might have for building readership, about who I was “targeting” with my writing, about how long the ideal post should be, about if/how I promoted my blog on other forms of social media, about what my long-term goals for this endeavour were, etc. At each juncture I was embarrassed by how little I had to say. There are only so many ways one can say, “Um, well, I don’t really know” or, “Well, I’ve never really thought about it in those terms before.” I fear that it was a profoundly unhelpful conversation for my friend. In the end, “I guess I just like to write… I write about what I want when I want for as long as I want and I don’t really think too much about who is reading” doesn’t exactly fall into the category of “useful blogging advice.”
But all of this unhelpful advice did make something very clear to me. Whatever else might be going on in this forum, however mixed my motives might be, whatever selfishness and laziness might be whirring along as the background noise to any and all of what makes it’s way on to this site, behind all of this toxic stew, there exists a simple hunger for writing that does not seem to go away. I have few illusions of what writing here might “lead to.” I have little desire or ability to flog this site in all of the spaces and places necessary to “expand my brand.” I’m happy if some people find this space and like to read, just as, in my better moments, I am happy for people to say, “yeah, not exactly my thing.” Whenever it all starts to seem a bit ridiculous, whenever I just about convince myself that blogging is a force for great evil in the world, I come back to a few simple realities: I like to write words. Some people seem to like to read some of the words that I write. On with the words.
And so, even though I know that it’s all a bit of a mess, and even though blogging can (and no doubt does, at times) bring out the worst in me, and even though I fully intend to reflect further on the wisdom in the posts linked to above and, you know, maybe shut up a bit more or pause a bit longer before pressing “publish,” I think that I will continue to pursue my deliberate and carefully chosen strategy of writing here about what I want, when I want, for as long as I want.