1/04/2006

Writing And Blogging: Not Necessarily The Same Thing

I don't think I became aware of personal web-logs (blogs) until sometime in March of 2005. Oh I had heard of their existence before that time, but had lumped them into the same category as chat rooms and pointless discussion forums. Places people who had no lives or social skills went to make themselves feel self-important. Anytime I would read something about the power of the blogs, or the rise in their influence, I would just dismiss it as so much self-promotion by people who either ran blog-sites or were computer geeks. It was almost by accident that I discovered I had very nearly dismissed out of hand the exact facility I had been in search of for months. I had been visiting Ashok Banker's web site after reading the first three books of his retelling of The Ramayana when I discovered he had a blog. Curious, I decided to investigate and discovered the amazing potentials they offered. Ashok had published everything from short story excerpts, to reviews and interviews at his site. It was like having your own personal newspaper column where you could publish any article on any subject that you wished. My own snobbery had blinded me to the fact that a medium was only as limited a you allowed it to be; a blog could be anything you wanted, not just dear diary entries. At that time I had written a few short op-ed. pieces and had been resorting to try and sell them through an on line self-publishing house, with little or no luck (I had sold four copies of a review of a book by Viggo Mortensen, based more on his popularity than the quality of the review). The opportunity to actually have a facility that allowed me direct access to the whole web was just too wonderful to pass up. Of course this was followed by a crash course in trying to figure out how to actually get people to read what I was writing. After a couple of months of trying a variety of things which resulted in very little real readership, (someone opening a page and closing it a tenth of a second latter doesn't count as a reader), I found Blogcritics.org. I have previously written about the positive affect my association with this site has had upon my skills and confidence as a writer, so there is no need to detail that here. However there are other reasons for me to be grateful for falling in amongst this sinister cabal of writers, critics, and reviewers aside from the development of my skill set. The Internet is full of blog sites. Do a Google search on almost any subject and you're bound to turn up a blog reference to it no matter how obscure the topic. In fact the more obscure the more likely you are to find blogs that have written on it. There seems to be a delight in the arcane and esoteric amongst blogers. It's almost as if they are desperate to make themselves appear more interesting than anyone else. It's like a need to justify their existence. There's also the convenience of there being less risk of being challenged on your information if you write on a subject few no anything about. In my initial exposure to blogs, prior to my association with Blogcritics.org, so many of them lived down to my expectations. Pages and pages of shopping trips, parties, recipes, people complaining about boy/girl friends, whining about the boss, and all sorts of other personal issues. What boggled my mind was the numbers of people, judging by the comments on the pages, which would not only read this stuff, but be interested enough to leave commentary. I have had my struggles with writing. I have a form of dyslexia that causes me to either invert letters in a word's spelling (dworn instead of drown for instance), wreck havoc with my sentence structure, and just generally turn everything inside out and sideways. (Wixing my mords is one of the classics) Therefore I try not to be judgemental when it comes to things like spelling and grammar. Perhaps the reason I get so upset with people who write page after page of an article in the Internet's version of George Orwell's "Newspeak" from the novel Ninteen Eighty-Four is because of the amount of work it takes me to correctly form a sentence. Seeing u r used instead of you are, and all the other cute little solecisms that are in regular usage, comes across as unacceptable laziness. I can understand its usage, to a point, in places like instant messaging programs and chat rooms. But, to my eyes, when you're presenting an argument that you want people to take seriously it only ends up trivialising both the subject matter and the writer. Lazy writing gives the impression of lazy thinking, neither of which is conducive to inspiring respect or implying the writer possesses the authority necessary for an argument to have any strength. Another less than redeeming feature of so many blogers is their overblown sense of self-importance. Somehow or other they seem to have formed the impression that they are having an impact on society and that people care what they have to say. The number of guys who used to wear robes and stand on street corners with signs reading "The End Is Nigh" who now have blogs is astounding. From every direction on the political and religious compass they have come running like ants to a picnic. Flag wavers, flag burners, pro choice, pro life, anti this, and for that. It doesn't seem to matter what they stand for, all their blogs have used the same template: me good, you bad. The fact that pages and pages of these types of blogs exist is what leads to so-called legitimate journalists calling in to question all writing on the Internet. They claim that because of these examples none of the writing on line is of any worth. Arguments like that are just as spurious as the ones cited above. As more and more mainstream news services maintain an online presence they are encouraging their columnists to establish web-logs that run as part and parcel of the web site. They have recognised the need for a more populist and personal approach to the issues of the day. I'm sure there are those who would call it jumping on the bandwagon, but in reality it's an acceptance of a new means of expression. What it also means is that there will develop more and more of a distinction between writers and bloggers. Up until now everybody has been lumped into the same category. A well-researched article on a new act before parliament and a recounting of a shopping trip were of equal importance. What has begun to happen is a more discerning audience is being developed. With major media outlets utilizing blogs, and Internet players like Google and Yahoo demanding more and more refinement as a prerequisite for inclusion on their "News" sites, quality is beginning to rise to the top. As this happens readers are not going to accept the haphazard offerings of the past. The market will reward the skilled and the interesting with exposure to a wider audience. It will no longer be enough just to publish in order to garner attention; you will be expected to write coherently and with intelligence on your subject matter. Blogs along the lines of personal diaries and diatribes will still be written; there will always be an audience for the puerile. The difference is that soon their influence will wane to the point that they will only exist as curiosities and nothing more. It is a very exciting time to be a writer in the blogsphere as the move is being made to separate those who write with care and respect for their medium from those who see it as a chance for self-promotion of the worst kind. Being a blogger and being a writer is not necessarily the same thing, and it's nice to see that distinction finally being realized.

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