Saturday, September 26, 2009

Thinking About The Situation

My friend Judy and I discuss on a regular basis life, our students, and how our peers interact with the internet, which is (quite frankly) rarely. As a result, she and I are about the only commenters on each other's blogs outside of family members. I told her my daughter's peers have a different mindset (as does her daughter's) and that this younger generation regularly reads and comments on each other's blogs. Or Facebook pages.

I read a lot of blogs. Some dismiss them as narcissistic, lightweight and completely self-referential. Are they? I'd say no more so than personal essays that are published in the newspapers. (Or poems in various collections.)

But the difference between the published accounts and these "free web" accounts is that critical word: "free." I've thought for some time that the web could be a vehicle for publication of some kind, whether it be this blog-self-publishing version, or whether like Pioneer Woman, a blogger is picked up by the major publishing houses for a book, thereby legitimizing what is written by the act of putting ink to page, money into bank account.

In all cases, the goal is to build an audience. When I was at my writer-friend's home the other night, she had several books that she talked about. One was her friend Holly's book, a softcover book that didn't have enough sales so it didn't merit a contract for a second book. So, Holly's done. In a way. Much the way I felt after hitting 400 posts and the only comment was a "encouraged" comment from my husband, as well as a comment from my friend Judy, mentioned above.

Hitting 400 posts is not the same as batting .400, or hitting 400 balls out of the ballpark, or publishing 400 novels, or 400 personal essays, or raising 400 children, or baking 400 cupcakes. It's viewed as someone just sitting down at their computer and larking around with words, text, photos, illustrations, in other words, not serious writing.

But it is seductive for just that reason: a blogger/writer can mix, match, cull, steal, borrow, video, write, doodle, in short, lark around with all the various types of media that are out there. And it's immediate. And given the writing compulsion of the writer to write, it's easier than wading through publishers, agents, convincing the world out there that supposedly doesn't read, to Please! Notice Me! It's Web 2.o at its finest, and all free.

And if the blogger/writer picks up ads on the side, potentially lucrative. I noticed that Nienie has now opened up her cooking blog and the cynic in me noted that the ads were front and center. Given the proclivities of my generation I don't ever anticipate getting paid for my internet writing. But it's not only ads. Do prizes attract viewers? Do free giveaways bring in the blog numbers? In many cases (mostly those of the under-thirties generation) blogging has become about getting paid for the copy that is put forth into the world. We have come full circle. Does getting paid for maintaining a blog legitimize this endeavor?

Or is ink to paper still the only way for a writer to earn their credentials?


barbara said...

You know that we copy off many of your blogs because we think they're priceless. Not just because you are a daughter of ours, but because they are treasures. They are also applicable to many people if they had access to them. They are well written and well crafted. As you know I don't usually comment on blogs because I have trouble reading the word and getting it right. I hope this one makes it.
Love. Mom.

Juliann said...

I am happy to hear that you might be writing more often. The whole comment thing is a puzzle to me. I don't think I write for the comments but it is nice when they come. I have not really aspired to be a writer until the last few years when I began to feel the tug of the next season of life. I have tried to be more "writerly" in my posts than I was in the beginning, thinking in terms of what I might want someone to read instead of using my blog as a life update. I am not sure where I am going with this long comment except to say that you often give me something to think about and that is good writing. Thanks

Artax said...

Thought-provoking post. I was going to write more, but found I was writing an essay in the comments. So I'll save that for elsewhere. Just want to add: I'm waiting to post a big excited *Congratulations* comment after number 500.

-C said...

It might not be serious writing, but what I see in your posts is some seriously good writing. And most of the time, I would rather read the thoughtful words on my favorite blogs than the thoughtful words (that have been carefully edited and re-edited) of my favorite "real" authors.

When I did the Iowa Writing Project this summer, the dilemma I faced was that of the writer vs. The Writer. We might not be capital-w writers with all that pomp and stuff, but we write. And in that writing, we learn (both writer and reader).

Hip hip hooray for 400!


Kristen A said...

If ink to paper is the only way to get credentials (or practice) then we may all be in trouble.

Blogs are a great way to practice, communicate, teach, and learn.

Judy said...

Ha! I love that you've inspired some of your readers to comment! I agree with the idea that blogging is good practice. We are more careful about what we say and how we say it when we blog than we are when we write privately, although often the same thoughts are expressed. Another plus is that (unless I delete it) a blog is a permanent and permanently accessible record. As I have aged (and aged and aged), I have come to appreciate the writings of my parents and grandparents much more than I did when I was young. Their writings give me a new way to discover who they were as I learn more about who I am. Maybe our blogs will serve that purpose some day.

CSL said...

To me blogging is a way to keep my kids in touch with me, hone my photo skills and keep the cobwebs out of my brain. Someday I hope "Blogger" figures out a way so I can publish all of this in book form. That way I can have my history to pass out to all the grandchildren.

Thanks E; great post!

Anonymous said...

I started blogging b/c I thought it would be a good way for me to force myself to write. I thought it would be good for my teaching to make myself write, even when I don't think I have anything to write about. I started particpating in things like the Slice of Life challenge b/c I knew it would get me some feedback. It has! And I appreciate it b/c it makes me more aware of my audience and encourages me to keep going. I continue to blog because it is the most consistent tool I have ever found. And I really like it! I am coming up on two years, so I plan to get the blog printed and keep it in an "ink and paper" format as well. It has definitely improved my writing-teaching as well.