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.
Personally, I’ve done a lot more in the way of deliberate blogging lately. If I don’t have anything to say… I don’t say anything… I may fill in the blog space with some interesting quotes from folks that I respect (like Bonhoeffer, Menno Simons, etc) or with a video that I saw recently that spoke to me… but my blog writing… yeah, a LOT more deliberation going into it these days…
Good for you, Robert. Lead the way! 🙂
You probably saw this piece, but I found Beck offered a helpful perspective. http://www.mennoworld.org/blog/2014/2/14/social-media-sacrament/
I did see this, but I’m glad you directed my attention to it again, Dora. To be a small sign of light and grace is not a bad thing for a blog (or anything or anyone else) to aspire to.
For me, Blog commenting has the powerful capacity to intensely and narrowly focus my mind into directed/intentional contemplation of a topic or subject..which allows for the further development and evolution of my personal “Theology” by forcing me to examine and scrutinize exactly what it is I believe in the light of what others believe.
I’ve come to appreciate the diversity of writing styles of Bloggers, I am especially aware when a Blogger continually exhibits an exceptionally sharp intellect and clarity of thinking in their writings above and beyond the norm. When this attribute is mingled with genuine compassion and human understanding then you have an Outstanding Writer and the makings of a Leader among men.You are one of these such people Ryan Dueck. The World needs you.
Thank you, Mike. This is very kind indeed.
I appreciate your contributions to conversations around here.
I get frustrated with “serious” writers who call down blogging as an inferior activity. Sure there is lots of less than stellar writing in blogs, but I don’t have to spend time on those blogs. For me, blogging has been my way back into writing on a regular basis. I treat my blog as writing, and don’t just blog for the sake of saying something.
Your blog was one of the first ones I started following, because I know that here I will find well considered writing — not just a daily brain dump!
Yes, I suppose it’s as it is with most things—so much depends on what we put in. There are, after all—and have always been—plenty of terrible books and articles that somehow made their way past a “real” editor’s desk 🙂 .
It’s good to hear a bit about your blogging journey! And thank you for your kind affirmation.
I have never, ever, read one of your blogs and thought it was a waste of time. Never. Ever.
Thank you, Joyce. I really appreciate it.
Great post, Ryan – I find it helpful to think about both Why Writers Should Stop Blogging and Why Writers Should Blog, since for me there have been some definite benefits and cautions. It seems to me that writers who feel they are blogging too much might need to stop blogging quite so much, and writers who don’t have an online presence at all might want to start. It sounds like you’ve found a good rhythm for yourself.
I don’t know if I’ve found the right rhythm yet or not, April, but I definitely think that regularly examining motives is a good and necessary thing. I will be returning to your post and the ones you linked to often, I think.
Thanks for your kind words (and, again, for your original post).
I’m guessing when you started writing this post you weren’t fishing for votes of confidence to keep up the good work. Just wanted to pass along that I’ve sincerely appreciated your writing here. Though writing can be deeply rewarding for an author, it also involves some significant costs. The cost of time. The cost of scrutiny (which in an online forum can sometimes be ruthless and insensitive). The cost of transparency. To name a few of the big ones. I appreciate that you are willing to pay these costs for the sake of writing. You readers do truly benefit.
A bit of a longer way of simply saying thank-you, and we appreciate you work.
Thank you, Kevin. This means a great deal to hear this, and I do appreciate you taking the time to write.