Tuesday, April 20, 2010

the art of blogging: part three

This was originally going to be a three part series about blogging, but the ideas and questions just keep coming! Therefore, I'm going to keep writing parts of this for as long as it stays interesting. And if it's not interesting to you, fear not! Delicious vegan recipes and more videos of Seamus coming soon! (Parts one and two are here and here.)

My good friend finn (who has been with me since the blogging beginning - we met in Diaryland!) asked some great questions in my last two posts. Rather than answer in the comments, I will try to answer them here, as part three in my Art of Blogging series. 

The Personal is Public

From finn:
i'm curious about your feelings towards [public blogs vs private blogs], since this has always been a public blog. also, does the difference between "real" writing & blogs have anything to do with time/freshness & how people tend to not go back & read everything on a blog, but just start where they find it? that seems to be another way that online writing is less tangible than off-line. not only is not handled the same, but it seems like old entries just disappear.
It's true that my blog is about as public as you can get. I use my real name, I name my location, and I am fully aware that many people (friends, family, co-workers) read these words. While that influences what I write to a degree, it's usually not a problem. For me, writing is theraputic. It's how I relate to and understand the world around me, how I work through my problems. The difference is that I don't do that on my blog - I do it in my fiction. When I write short stories, I am 100 times more honest  and willing to bare my soul than when I write non-fiction, blog or tweet. I need the distance of fiction to get closer to myself. For me, blogging and writing are two entirely different animals, and I don't feel compromised by the confines of either.

I love the observation that finn makes, about how when someone starts reading a blog they rarely go back to the beginning. I'm not sure this makes blogging less tangible. Blogging is, by its very nature, writing in the moment, for the moment. Entries don't disappear, but the writing that comes today and tomorrow builds on past entries and are informed by them. I don't reintroduce Seamus and Nathan every time I mention them, but over time my readers come to know them anyway. Blogging builds a familiarity, and this is where that sense of community comes in. I don't blog for strangers - I blog for an audience that knows who I am, how I live and what I'm like. And if they begin as strangers, they won't be strangers for long.

Writing Evolves, and So Do We

From finn:
sometimes it feels like [my writing] has changed for the better (less need to share EVERYTHING i do with some mysterious audience), but often i miss writing all the time, & writing more poetically. it's like as the number of journals & blogs increased somehow the focus of them shifted - like maybe just the act of "posting something on the internet" wasn't as artistic in itself anymore? i'm not sure.
I definitely think blogging has changed over the years. When I first started, I posted daily, and I wrote "poetically" - metaphors, descriptive sentences, the whole shebang. My posts were more prose poems than a recording of what I did, felt, or ate. And then blogs blew up, everyone had one, and suddenly describing the sunrise while coming off a wine hangover wasn't enough. I feel like the trend now is to offer something to your readers - something more than your poetic thoughts. So many blogs have themes and bullet points, tips on how to be happier, more fashionable, better organized. I read some of these blogs, but I can't help but feel they are written in a way that encourages skimming - surface level writing that requires cursory reading, crafted more for Google rankings than a desire to connect with others. One of the golden rules of blogging is to avoid large blocks of text. "Break it up with some photos," the Powers that Be advise. "Use bullet points to separate your thoughts." "No one reads long posts anymore." That's true, but it's also a shame. If the writing is good, if I'm pulled in to it, I will read a longer post (though I do like photos too, as you can see!). It feels real to me - more real than a "how to throw a Lost themed party" or "100 ways to be happy."

I suppose this is what I'm trying to figure out. How do I expand my reader base and balance their needs and desires with my own needs and my own desire to express myself in an honest and authentic way? Can I still do that through my blog, or has blogging evolved past the point where that is possible?

Life is not a series of bullet points, and neither is my blog. Maybe that makes me antiquated and maybe it means my blog will never have thousands of readers. That's okay. I've got a nice little community right here, and that's enough for me. For now, anyway. ;)