Thursday, October 30, 2008

Writing Out Loud

'No columnist or reporter or novelist will have his minute shifts or constant small contradictions exposed as mercilessly as a blogger’s are. A columnist can ignore or duck a subject less noticeably than a blogger committing thoughts to pixels several times a day. A reporter can wait—must wait—until every source has confirmed. A novelist can spend months or years before committing words to the world. For bloggers, the deadline is always now. Blogging is therefore to writing what extreme sports are to athletics: more free-form, more accident-prone, less formal, more alive. It is, in many ways, writing out loud. You end up writing about yourself, since you are a relatively fixed point in this constant interaction with the ideas and facts of the exterior world. And in this sense, the historic form closest to blogs is the diary. But with this difference: a diary is almost always a private matter. Its raw honesty, its dedication to marking life as it happens and remembering life as it was, makes it a terrestrial log. A few diaries are meant to be read by others, of course, just as correspondence could be—but usually posthumously, or as a way to compile facts for a more considered autobiographical rendering. But a blog, unlike a diary, is instantly public. It transforms this most personal and retrospective of forms into a painfully public and immediate one. It combines the confessional genre with the log form and exposes the author in a manner no author has ever been exposed before.'
--from "Why I Blog," an absorbing essay in the current Atlantic magazine, by the writer Andrew Sullivan.


At 5:54 AM, Blogger Art Durkee said...

I read this essay a few days ago with great interest. I'm glad you discovered it, too. I enjoy reading Sullivan, although I disagree with him fairly regularly, and agree with him other times.

I disagree with him slightly on some smaller points in this essay, but I know that's because my approach is a creative one, rather than a reporter's one. I think that what he says is very true for the kind of blogging he does. But there are other kinds of blogging. I share his excitement about blogging, but I don't practice his style of blogging. The Dragoncave's whole purpose, structure, and timing has nothing to do with the news cycle, the political news cycle in particular. Not that I am not attuned—try to avoid it, good luck—but that my viewpoint is that ephemera are ephemeral, and that most blogging is ephemera, not enduring. This is almost as true for literary blogging as for reportage. The lit blogs I follow, and exchange with, mostly don't post even every third day, giving time for thoughtful responses, and some very good thinking.

The paradox of Sullivan's essay is that this longer essay, which is thoughtful and probably more enduring than any given post on Sullivan's blog on any given day, won't be read by many of his regular blogospheric readers. Unless of course he posts it there, too. The point is, I think he has the pulse of the media, and the times, pretty well done.

Thanks for linking to the essay.

At 6:06 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Art, I too find myself disagreeing with Sullivan (I mean generally) far more often than I agree with him, but I always find him at least interesting. And I agree that he's putting blogging into a narrow news box that obviously doesn't begin to describe the way that probably the majority of bloggers feel about their role. The whole point of the exercise is that it's whatever you want to make of it. Very perceptive of you to pick up on that central paradox. And that's where I think writers are best served by thinking of blogs as but one arrow in their writing quiver. This essay of his belongs in a long-form magazine, just as some other pieces belong on a blog. Anyway, thanks for the visit and the comment, fellow early bird.

At 9:25 PM, Blogger Geoff Schutt said...

As a writer who is using his blog (or "thog," as I like to call it -- a "blog for thinkers"), to chronicle the revision of a novel -- as the creative process takes place -- I do find this experience immediate and alive. (The diary made public.) For me, what I appreciate is the instant feedback, or the knowledge that people are reading even if not commenting, and are returning for more (or not; everyone's taste is different).

If my words resonate, I'm succeeding; I know they're speaking to somebody, even if just one person. If they don't, I need to work more on the revision, on the development of character.

It's like reading your work in front of a live audience. You don't know who's going to show up (outside of a few friends and maybe family), and because these others are complete strangers, you can say anything -- but so can they. It's a nice back-and-forth. For "This Side of Paradise," it's serving that purpose. It also allows for experimentation, which I love.

When I'm finished with this revision and ship the novel off to my agent, I'll have to decide what to do next about my blogging. Regardless, it's been wonderful to discover sites like yours, John, that help me "process the process" -- and to do so while I'm in the thick of things. Thank you for that.

At 12:14 AM, Blogger Art Durkee said...

"The whole point of the exercise is that it's whatever you want to make of it."

Yes, exactly.

I think Sullivan's use of his blog, in terms of style, does match his content, so it's a good fit for him on a daily basis. But that's only one kind of blog. One genre, or species, among a large number.

Since my blog is directed towards the creative cycle, rather than the (political) news cycle, a lot of what goes on there falls into the category of "processing the process," as Geoff puts it. That's a nice way of describing it. So i like to include "how to"s as well as finished pieces of my own. Different purposes, different styles, different genres, different timing.

P.S. Not at all an early bird, never have been. That was a bout of insomnia, with regard to the timing of my previous post. LOL

At 9:11 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Woops, sorry to hear about the insomnia, Art. But you're certainly not the first creative type to report that.

I too was quite struck by that resonant phrase of Geoff's about processing the process. I never thought of it that way, but now that you mention it, that fits rather nicely with what much of the conversation in this venue is about. So as always, thanks for being so perceptive and dead-on, G. It will indeed be interesting to watch what you decide to do about your blog once the novel is done.


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