Beyond the Blog – Pap and Crap in Bogland
‘Blog-rolls?’ Is that a spelling mistake? No! Bloggers and writers! They’re worlds apart! The difference between a ‘blogger’ and a ‘writer’ spans the same gulf as the one separating Britney Spears from Andrea Bocelli. Britney and Bloggers have a purpose, I’m not dismissing them outright. I’m new to blogging but certainly an old hand at writing – which doesn’t imply I’m successful or that my writing is any good, but I don’t class it as ‘blogging’.’ Trawling through blogs you realise that most of them are dull, passionateness and pointless. In just the same way the Bontempi heralded the deskilling of music, rendering florid arpeggios at the touch of a finger, a feat on a regular piano requiring years of practice, the internet has deskilled writing. In just the same way you can be a ‘musician’ today without being able to play an instrument or even read music, you can be a ‘writer’ without actually writing!
There an assumption that if you record a recipe, catalogue the weather, or sequence how to get down town, that this bestows on you the title, ‘writer.’ Blog after blog churn out the same crap as if the authors are writing for a magazine with an established readership and in which someone else writes material of substance. And yes! I am aware that his makes me sound like a horrid snob. Blogging allows us to ‘publish’ material that at one time you wouldn’t have dared release to an agent or publisher without ensuring it was the best it could be. Further, it allows you to develop your ability from the very first post. Let me give you an example of two boring posts, two examples of ‘blogging’ and not ‘writing.’ Remember Saturday March 6th? It snowed quite heavily over the country and this resulted in numerous posts that all read something like this:
Just when you thought it was safe to ditch the duck down thermal anorak, and winter suddenly reappears. After several afternoons with spring in the air, Sunday morning saw Apsan Mountain, Daegu, dusted in snow. So, after an invigorating bowl of chicken and ginseng soup, we took the cable car to one of Apsan’s summits. It was freezing with icy patches underfoot and a wind that stung the ears. Icicles hung from the summit buildings and surrounding trees were covered in a powdery snow.
What a load of crap! And if you look up White Day, you’ll be treated to something like:
March 14th, White Day, is when men who were given Valentines gifts on February 14th (Red Day), reciprocate, usually with gifts of chocolate, white lingerie or other presents. Like many of the silly days we celebrate around the world, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day, for example, White Day is a fairly recent invention, not as usual an innovation by a card company, but by a confectioners based in Fukouka, Japan which launched the first White Day in 1978.
More twaddle! If someone wants to learn about ‘White Day,’ or ‘Childrens’ Day’ you can look it up in far more credible locations. And as for recipes, there are some amazing sites very professionally produced. Copying and pasting is no more writing than it is ‘research.’ Unfortunately, there are examples of blogs ripe with such shite and no one should get annoyed that a little weather report penned to mum or your mates back home isn’t hailed a literary masterpiece.
Writers write because they are compelled to do so or because it is their living and if fortunate, both. Forget dreams of becoming the next J.K Rowling, on average, an author’s first book will earn around £3000. While some writers are ‘forced’ to write by impulse or economic necessity, many blog for others reasons. For some, it’s about keeping a journal and recording experiences and while some do this in a school kiddy manner, others clearly think they’re Malinowski exploring some dark and distant continent. Personally, I prefer a Malinowski approach as pomposity is preferable to the boredom instilled by mundane cataloging. Others are concerned with ratings and posts are rife with boring trivia under the assumption that anything is better than nothing – hence the two examples quoted! Others are about self promotion even when it appears there is little to promote. Some are driven to blog by political and social passions, modern day pamphleteers, if you like. All this is fine, I’m not condemning blogging, but let’s not allow blogging to deskill ‘writing’ either as a broad art form or as a skill possessed by an individual.
One of the best methods of improving your writing is to know what not to write and this involves spotting weaknesses in the work of others so you can better spot it in your own. A crowning blog I recently extensively browsed, which shall remain anonymous, has had a profound impact on me. Spanning almost 11 years, which I think predates the blogging phenomena, the author provides an extensive history cataloging their literary achievements but within the blog and in all its hundreds of posts I could find nothing, absolutely nothing, of substance; nothing seized my attention or drew me towards it, nothing hit me between the eyes! To consistently publish rubbish for 11 years under the assumption you are talented is self deluded in the extreme and is an attitude adopted by a great many talentless celebrities. It has impacted on me because I don’t want my writing to be twaddle or pointless, I want it to spark a reaction. So, my resolution:
1. Never to catalogue topics such as the weather, or social events. Such topics should only be broached if approached from an interesting or different perspective
2. Never to publish a post for the sake of maintaining some statistical target
3. Never to use ‘search terms’ to influence the contents of my writing
4. To spend longer re-drafting and never to write and publish on the same day
5. To avoid constantly prettying-up my site
6. To turn the PC off and go out into the real world on a regular basis
Of course, much of what appeals to us as individuals is subjective, but it is possible to identify well written work without necessarily being enamored by the content. Even though we might not like a topic or might disagree with its content, we should still be able to spot something well written and creative!
‘Writers’ shouldn’t be writing for the sake of writing. It’s not about typing words onto a screen with little creative forethought and when the words are amassed, publishing them instantly. Before blogging, the only way to get work published was to make it stand out. Content preceded all else else and drafting and redrafting was the standard process. While the internet and modern technology provide the writer with some superb resources, it also encourages the cutting of corners and the array of ‘toys:’ themes, widgets, statistics, other paraphernalia, distract the writer from writing. I’ve spent ridiculous amounts of time prettying up my pages when I should have been up-grading the content.
And have you noticed how the blogs with the highest hits are often the most boring? This should come as no surprise as it is a general rule that the shittiest ‘things’ in our society, pop music, fast food, Hollywood, etc, are shite! Yes, I know there are some great pop musicians and excellent Hollywood movies, but by and large the governing maxim is, if it’s popular, it’s crap! Last week, a 16 year old student asked me how my blog was doing. He wanted to know how many hits I’d had. ‘About 1400,’ I told him, proudly. For a moment, I thought the revelation had excited him until I found out he’s had 77.000 hits over a period of approximately the same time. I looked at his site and it is very well presented but what lures an audience is the Jeremy Clarkson, boy’s toys appeal: guns, fast cars, fighter planes and You-Tube clips of people getting their brains blown out. Amidst all this typical ‘laddy’ content however, a bizarre twist which for me at least, gave the site a strange appeal, for amongst his categories of ‘Army,’ ‘Air-force,’ ‘Navy,’ and ‘Special Forces,’ were: ‘Recipes,’ ‘The Music of Erik Satie’ and ‘My School Trips.’
There are some fantastic posts lurking in Bogland, quite often with little or no readership. I occasionally discover posts or blogs which demand your attention and which you cannot ignore. Often their content is the same as the all the other crap except that it’s written from a unique perspective or is hinged on a wacky, off beat idea, or it might simply an mesmerizing choice of vocabulary. Whatever, such writing takes you on a journey which you unwittingly subscribe to. Often such blogs will make me wish I could had thought of their idea or that I had some of their skill. In the pages of such work you can sense the enthusiasm and passion of their authors. When a ‘blog’ or any artistic product engages you to the extent it keeps you from going to bed or makes you late for work , it probably has a quality which takes it beyond the blog . But then a shitty movie or porn video can have the same effect, and Wagner, who I know is highly talented, often sends me to sleep. Perhaps I’m talking shite!
You think I’m a snob? I am, but I know my limitations because I wrote and published those shitty extracts above! And besides, as a teacher it’s my job to both encourage better writing and spot the merits and flaws in work of students. My own scribblings get treated the same way!