Link Round Up

Want to pay $10 for a guide to making money selling romance paperback on eBay? Sorry – pay $10 for an 11-page guide on making the bucks selling romance on eBay?

And, thanks to SonomaLass for this link, and the cold medicine I’m on for the following rambling reaction: Robin Hobb rants about blogs. Specifically, why blogs on LJ are the writer’s worst friend evah.

The nights and the days, the hours in which you used to write, edit and rewrite your deathless prose will slowly, drip by drip, character by character, key press by key press, be drained into Live Journal. The blogs there will grow fat and swollen, round bellied with the creativity they have siphoned off from your fingertips. The other trapped writers there will clutch at you with bloodless fingers, offering you feedback, praise for your advice, tales of their new kittens and recipes for turnovers. And you will read them all, every word, filling your mind with the daily doings of those other poor damned souls. And you will write responses. And when night falls, you will think that you have been a writer today.

But you have merely blogged….

Blog. Blog. Blog. Blog. Say it aloud. Doesn’t it sound like the slow drip of creative blood onto the uncaring Internet?

My dear friend, writer of writers, esteemed teller of tales that no one else can tell, beware! Blogging is not writing. It masquerades as such, t’is true. You sit at the desk, your fingers dance their blind and clever dance across the keyboard, words appear upon the screen, and oh, it feels like writing, like the easiest sort of writing, the writing that needs not to be justified on the morrow. It is the writing that makes the idle stupidity of the day something of worth, for has it not been written down, have not readers shared it and responded to it? Have you not been recognized, flattered and preened for today’s bon mot? Is not that what the writer lives for?

I see Hobb’s point, and it’s something that a few of us bloggers would have spoken at length about at RWA National if our proposal had been accepted. Blogging is not the best tool for every writer, promotional or otherwise, and anyone who tells you that you Must Have a Blog is dead wrong. Only you can make that call based on what Jane wisely called an evaluation of your return on investment.

Blogging is not for everyone. It can get in the way of a lot of writers.

That said, “blogging is not writing?” Oh, come on, now. It is too. It may not be the writing you want to accomplish, and Lordy lordy it is easy to get sucked into blog valley high and read this and that and click click click and dude where did the hours go? But I disagree that blogging is not writing at all. Instant gratification and fluid text do not make it less of a written enterprise, or mean that I take less than a proper amount of time thinking about what I am going to say.

However, her opinion reminded me of my never-written master’s thesis, which was going to be about technology as teaching tools for reaching remedial students with learning disabilities how to write. Tangent ahoy!

 

Back in the day, when I taught remedial composition, I had a class that was part kids who didn’t pass the entrance exam into College Writing I, and part kids who had varying levels of learning disability that affected their writing. One girl in particular could orally recite an incredibly erudite argument that synthesized multiple texts and maintained a balanced comparison and contrast of points with a really groovy conclusion. Could she write one word of that recitation down? Nope. Horrible horrible block between her mind and her fingers that was easily overcome when she talked.

Or, to my surprise, when she used instant messenger. The same girl who froze into a complete inability to write could write for damn pages over IM, or in email. I noticed the same was true of many other students, those with learning disabilities that they disclosed to me, and those who didn’t have anything to say about it. I started having office hours half on IM and half actually in my craptastic cubicle. I had a much higher level of interaction making myself available over IM and over email.  IM and email were a lot easier methods for writing and typing, and I received some outstanding writing samples through email or through IM than from the venue that is Microsoft Word.

My thesis for my nonaquired MA was that IM and email are more like speech for the current population of college students and are thought of as “speech typed out” or “Speech through fingers” rather than as writing, and as such could be great tools for composition instructors who struggle with students who say they “cannot write.” My research was going to explore varying methods of communication, and there would have been some very liberal sprinkling of Ong and Derrida in there (side note: I had a graphic novel of Derrida’s Of Grammatology that was so freaking awesome and hilariously weird. I loved it.) and discussions of logocentrism and deconstruction and the inversion of speech over writing and writing over speech. Of course, I was looking at ways to redefine what is speech and what is writing in the context of writing instruction through speech (lecture) and writing practice, to an audience that values one over the other for an entirely different, non-philosophical set of reasons.

Hobb’s assertions that blogging isn’t writing, that it’s written socializing that bleeds away your creativity? Maybe for her, but for every writer? I think I’m a better writer because I blog, because I read the daily writing of other writers, and because I work at it every day. And I think blogging is writing because I don’t talk this much in real life. Not to people I don’t know, anyway. But I also don’t write fiction for public consumption (I do write it occasionally, mostly to remind myself as a reviewer that that shit is hard work) and I don’t blog as a tool to steal time from other writing. But I am a blogger, so blogging is my medium. And while I’m ruminating, can I state again how much I hate the word “blog?”

Those assertions that blogging is a cheap counterpart to writing made me wonder about all the papers I read nitpicking at the value of speech vs. writing. Derrida theorized that speech is valued over writing, just as presence is valued over absence, and then tore up those arguments against writing … so I’m just fascinated by the ways in which deconstructive analysis could be applied to Hobb’s argument, that blogging isn’t writing. Speech is historically valued over writing, but in this case, it’s writing over blogging: in Hobb’s argument, immediacy of response and feedback coupled with subject matter that is intensely in the present is of lesser value and a distraction from, if not derivative of, fiction that exists apart from and separates the writer and the reader.

Now that I’m kicking the ass of long-sleeping brain cells that used to do deconstructive criticism on anything that wasn’t nailed down, I ask myself, what would Derrida think of blogging? That’d be a hell of a good time right there: return Derrida to life and give him an LJ account. The hilarity ensues. I wonder if he had a blog somewhere. He died in 2004; it’s possible. (Now I’m going to ponder for shits and giggles what his LJ name would have been.)

While I get what Hobb is saying, the assigning of value to writing for novel publication over writing for blogs is irritating. If you blog or bake cookies or just chew your thumbnail instead of respecting a deadline you have professionally, then it’s not the blog’s or the cookie’s or your nail’s fault that you didn’t get your work done. But saying that blogging isn’t writing, to say that…

[c]ompared to the studied seduction of the novel, blogging is literary pole dancing. Anyone can stand naked in the window of the public’s eye, anyone can twitch and writhe and emote over the package that was not delivered, the dinner that burned, the friend who forgot your birthday. That is not fiction. That is life, and we all have one. Blogging condemns us to live everyone else’s tedious day as well as our own.

…positions blogging a running memoir as of lesser value than fiction writing and implies that it’s easy because of it’s sexiness and quick familiarity of use, that life doesn’t matter but fiction does. Obviously, Robb is not marketing memoirs.

The affronted blogger from her take-me-seriously (ha!) hot pink website says, “Say WHAT now?” What say you?

 

Categorized:

Ranty McRant

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Robinjn says:

    I’m not an aspiring book author. I have never taken a writing class, and will probably never write a novel (though I’ve dreamed of it).

    I started writing on the old usenet groups (as a dog hobbyist and trainer, I still read and post to rec.pets.dogs.*) At this time I post frequently to two different blogs, one on local restaurants and one on dog training. I follow other blogs, like this one. I own/moderate seven different yahoogroups and subscribe to something like 15 more. I recieve anywhere from 200-400 emails a day and probably write at least 50 a day.

    Just doing this, day in and day out, has made me a much stronger writer. My ability to communicate using the written word has grown tremendously. I don’t pretend to be a professional. I don’t even pretend to be good. Yet I do think I’m a very clear communicator. I’ve been published in dog training magazines and have my work used by other clubs. I get a lot of compliments on what I write and I like doing it.

    Has writing on the internet made me able to construct plot and bring characters to life? No. Would my skills help me if I decided I wanted to learn how to do those things and write a good novel? I believe they would.

  2. 2
    RfP says:

    Justine Larbalestier had a different reaction to Robin Hobb’s comments, including:

    1. I’m a little astonished that so few people are noticing that Hobb’s screed is meant to be funny. Writ ironical and all that.

    2. Blogging is a disaster for some people. And not for others. Knitting is a disaster for some people.

  3. 3
    kambriel says:

    Blog…blog…blog…

    It even sounds like something zombies say when they’re attacking.  Just say it really slow and stress on the ‘lo’.

  4. 4
    SB Sarah says:

    Man I haaaaaaate the word “Blog.” HATE it. HAAAATE. Icky word. Ugly. Yuck. Blaaaaaargh!

    Anyway, yeah I get that she was over-the-top kidding but there’s a nugget in there that I’ve seen before: that writing online isn’t writing, that writing for publication isn’t as valid as writing online, etc. And while I don’t much give a toot what she or anyone else says about it, I’m fascinated by the ways in which speech and writing cross paths when one is blogging, emailing, writing, and into what program they are doing that expression.

    For example: I cannot for the life of me write a blog entry in Microsoft Word. It’s weird but I have to use notepad.

  5. 5
    Ciar Cullen says:

    Sorry, I adored Robin’s piece. I love this overly pink place, but it’s one of only three blogs I visit regularly, and I do so on wee work breaks, because any more is time spent away from writing (after the day job). That includes my own blog. Every day I get an hour with which I can read a blog, write a blog, or write a book. Oh, and shop.

  6. 6
    Fiamme says:

    I believe I get where she’s coming from and I also get why people for whom blogging /is/ productive, and an art form find it condescending and annoying.

    I know at least one writer who stopped producing much in the way of anything because she got addicted to message board communities. Not the communities’ fault—she’s a deeply distractable person.  She writes short stories.  I could see that, for her, if she became a novellist and was not only able to but REQUIRED to keep a blog, as a “marketing tool” she could fritter away most of her day on it.

    I agree with what others have said—whatever you do that’s not your main job in your main job’s time is bad news.  The danger, pointed out by Hobb, is that blogging feels so very much like writing you can end up hitting much the same reward centres, and fooling yourself that you’ve done your bit for the day.

    I’ve only tried to write for fun. NaNoWriMo does not a writer make (sadly, sniff).  I think blogging REQUIRED of authors is a big mistake.

    That said, for those who can do their blog and also continue to meet their writing targets daily … nothing but <3 for them. Mind you, I’m more likely to hit a review/comment/insanity site daily (like, say, Smart Bitches as a random example!) than one of my favourite authors.  They need to be putting their heads down and cranking out my next dose of fictional crack, please.

  7. 7
    Fiamme says:

    feels so much like writing

    And I fell into the same trap of not distinguishing “writing—the stuff I’m going to get paid for” versus “writing—the stuff that takes every bit of the same crafting and talent but ultimately won’t pay any bills”.

    Please don’t kill me now!  There needs to be another verb in there, like, say “authoring”.

  8. 8
    Flo says:

    Whether it was meant as a “funny” or not she’s pretty much spot on the money.  Kind of like you open your browser to “do research” and wind up browsing websites and forums that really have nothing to do with what you were going for.  Hours later you STILL haven’t gotten the factoid you were looking for originally.

    Blogging, to a person who has to sit down and PUSH out the writing, is an escape.  It’s a cheat.  It’s a way to FEEL like they are being creative and doing their job.  But the reality is that they really are not.  Instead they are indulging in a little mental masturbation (or in the case of Laurel K. Hamilton putting out her private life for people to masturbate too… *pukes*).

    Nothing is wrong with blogging in and of itself.  What IS wrong is using blogging as your excuse.

  9. 9
    Amy says:

    I love you ladies. I love the idea of a Derrida graphic novel and now I must find it! I must!

    Please, don’t stop blogging. Or reviewing.

    And I found you from a link from a LJ blog about teh surprise!buttsecks, so it seems fitting to respond in a column about blogging.

  10. 10
    Ros says:

    Blogging is not writing?

    Hmm.  Wanna tell that to Samuel Pepys?

  11. 11

    Heh.  You young whippersnappers.  Back in the day we had apazines.  Still do, and I’m still active in them.  It’s like veryslow blogging.  You write something every two months, make 30 copies, send it to an editor, he collates it, mails a copy of everyone else’s zine back to you, you write LoCs (Letters of Comment), new natter, and do it all again.

    My work in apazines allowed me to build up samples of my writing between jobs, make friends, explore other writers’ lives and thoughts on politics, movies, fashion, books and family and just have fun.  Much like blogging. 

    Sure, it can be a huge timesink, but I think Facebook’s worse—at least for me.

    I think Hobbs’ article was meant to be tongue in cheek.  Regardless, writers who want to write will write.  You can always find 100 excuses not to. Like commenting on the latest bit at SBTB.

  12. 12
    R. says:

    SB Sarah spake:

    For example: I cannot for the life of me write a blog entry in Microsoft Word. It’s weird but I have to use notepad.

    Microsoft Word—I’ve come to hate it.

    If you’re on a Mac [OS X], try Scrivener—it is utterly delectable.  There’s a free trial version you can download.

    Regarding blogging [agreed, a totally yucky word]:  The blog template is a frame that visually takes up a good chunk of the screen, thereby eliminating the ‘dreaded blank page’ that intimidates so many established and would-be writers,… just a theory.

    couldnt46 – wanna bet?

  13. 13
    Tae says:

    Actually I agree with Hobb.  I read this piece a few weeks ago when GRR Martin posted it on his Livejournal.  Ever since I joined Livejournal, I’ve found that I don’t write anymore in a paper journal – which was the only way I wrote anything creative.  It’s been at least three years and I have no desire to pen anything onto paper since I have LJ.

  14. 14
    Wry Hag says:

    I doubt any serious writer is dipshitty enough to see blogging as a substitute for fiction composition.  I visit this site and Dear Author and a few others because they provide industry news and occasional entertainment. 

    But personal blogging?  For most writers, it’s generally a promotional tool.  That’s why we dick with MySpace and Livejournal and Blogger and Facebook and all those other sites many of us wouldn’t normally go near with any regularity.  Posting and interacting at these places, like all promotional activities, takes time away from what we truly love to do.

    But, hey, at least blogging is free.  In addition, it may very well be more effective (and it’s certainly more sociable) than shoveling buckets of money into expensive ads, contest entry fees, personalized bookmarks, t-shirts, toilet seats, etc.  The list for that stuff goes on as the dollars drain away…and are likely never recouped.

    So what the hell.

  15. 15
    Silver James says:

    *blinks* Whoah. Back in my day, an entry on a “blog” (who knew what a blog was as the word hadn’t been coined yet) was called an essay. It was as much an art form as short stories, poetry, novels… English Essayists is a list of just English folks who wrote essays. Let’s see… Arthur C. Clarke, George Eliot, Francis Bacon, George Orwell, Virgina Woolf to name just a few. I dare someone not to call them “writers”.

    *looks sheepish* Okay. Rant over. Darlene, I hope the article was meant to be tongue in cheek. I’ll pretend it was and let it go at that.

    That said, I can see why blogging might create one more way to procrastinate, but if a writer is going to procrastinate, s/he will find something to waste their time. Don’t blame the form, blame the writer. I have an LJ – two in fact. One is used to keep up with far-flung friends, the other to post works in progress for ease of sharing with readers who like my work. I also have a blog/site/whatever you want to call it. A computer literate friend offered to design and host it. I post there irregularly – musings and rambling about books I’ve read, the process of writing, the state of the current project, along with some info about me and blurbs from the novels I’ve completed to date. I’m terrible at marketing and networking and Penumbra (my “blog”) is one tool I can use. Blah, blah, blah… I’m rambling… Shutting up now.

  16. 16
    firefly says:

    Hot damn. Discussions like these are the reason I keep on coming back.

    If I may be allowed to introduce another tangent, I stopped signing up for e-mail discussion lists for pretty much the same reason: every day there would be 30, 40, 50 messages to go through, and replies, and replies to replies, and after a while it dawned on me that all my time was going into e-mailing people who were talking about writing and not actually doing any of it. The attraction of communication with other wannabe writers was huge, but what actually got accomplished? Not much more than socializing.

    I have a blog now that just discusses certain types of gardening, and I only publish once or twice a week, and it is a time-sink. I always do photos with my posts, so there’s the time involved in shooting, transferring, exporting, possible tweaking, and then uploading, not to mention conceiving, writing, and editing the post. I try to document a process, not just give a garden tour—hopefully someone, somewhere, someday, will be helped by it—and it’s a lot of work.

    It’s also good practice at making yourself execute something short. I have 2 novels that have floundered under a mountain of research and if anything is going to get them back on their feet again it’s the practice I’ve had producing something for my blog (and enduring public reaction to it).

    I think it’s your own discipline that distinguishes whether your blogging is writing or just a conversation with your navel. Hell, fiction writing can turn into a conversation with your navel, if you aren’t careful.

  17. 17
    R. says:

    @Firefly:

    I have 2 novels that have floundered under a mountain of research

    OMG, a kindred spirit!  I have a chronic addiction to tangential research that leads me down into fractally diverging bunny warrens, every time without fail.

    Is there a 12-step program for this?

  18. 18
    SB Sarah says:

    Firefly: I am in love with your gardening blog. I have no kitchen, nor backyard, nor garden that I can do anything with because my former kitchen is in the basement in front of the gardening tools, but OMG I read your page and I wanna go play in the dirt.

    Your blog rocks my socks. And your photos are excellent.

  19. 19
    Sherry Thomas says:

    I think I’m a better writer… because I read the daily writing of other writers,

    I think reading blogs was crucial to the formation of my voice.  I used to read a lot of political blog, with passionate, grab-you-by-the-throat voices.  Those writers made words sing and burn. Their imagery made me laugh uproariously while groaning at the same time. 

    Really, some of the best contemporary writing happen on blogs.

  20. 20
    Alyc says:

    I read Robin Hobb’s rant a few years ago when she first put it up on her site.  I think it was replaced for a while with another rant, but now seems to be making the rounds again.  I thought she was doing a little too much projection onto others of what what worked/didn’t work for her back then.  Still think it now.  Plus, it edges into elitism, with it’s flavoring of “this new medium is destroying everything that’s good and creative and authentic in the world, like flowers and puppies and guys that pay for their dates”.

    But really, I’m so over that.  What has me drooling is the synopsis of your never-written thesis.  That was seven kinds of sexy.  Who needs romance or man-titty when I can read about the intersection between technology and communication. I’d explode into a gooey pile of guh to hear that you were going to do some post-humanist/cyborg stuff, but really, you had me at logocentrism.

    /academic fangirl gushing

  21. 21
    SusannaG says:

    Ros – being dead several centuries hasn’t stopped Samuel Pepys from blogging!

    Because now his diary is online, as a blog.  (Snort.)

    Actually it’s very cool.  I check it out most days.

  22. 22
    Teddypig says:

    I don’t know. I mean I used to think I knew what was of value and what was a waste of time. Then I got put in this class for NAVCOMPARS and aced it and the next thing I know I was put in charge of this huge ass mainframe for the Navy and everything I thought I knew of value went to hell in a hand basket.

    Suddenly people thought all this esoteric knowledge I take such joy in and this knack I have for networking computers and diagnosing applications was of great value.

    I guess it is, when I see thousands of people transacting millions of dollars in seconds every day, but you got me what it’s actual value is. What is the physical value of a byte or a packet and does it have a value in and of it self?

    I can see what Hobb is going for about Blogs but I think he missed the mark there. It is not a window in my opinion but a picture. Pictures all documenting a time or a place with absolutely no point except whatever things we discuss that we read or did that day, so yes it is more of a memoir. A memoir that is shared and can be read by anyone, anywhere, at any time.

    I don’t know, I have never read Ron Hobb but it sure seems your blog has more potential of being read than his books do. I also see an awful lot of book ideas being generated by this thing called Blogging. Maybe he needs to stop and think about potential more.

  23. 23
    SusanA says:

    “She” Teddypig, Robin Hobb is a “she”.

  24. 24
  25. 25
    asrai says:

    Real vs not real writing? I started out writing a long tangent about how it depends what type of writing you do and blogging etc. But, I think if you are a blogger who works on being a better, more concise, writer, then blogging will help you’re writing no matter what you do.

    Also if you keep your blog updated frequently at least a few times a week, you get into the habit writing often. Daily is best, but I’m not so good at self-motivation. I need someone to kick my ass there.

  26. 26
    robinb says:

    Didn’t we have this conversation when Fiction wasn’t considered real writing?

  27. 27
    R. says:

    I couldn’t resist:

    To blog, or not to blog,—that is the question:—
    Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer
    The flames and snarks of outraged readers
    Or to take arms against an Internet of troubles,
    And by opposing end them?—To edit,—to log off,—
    No more; and by a sleep-mode to say we end
    The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks
    That the Internet is heir to,—‘tis a consummation
    Devoutly to be wish’d. To edit,—to log off;—
    To sleep! perchance to dream:—ay, there’s the rub;
    For in that blue screen of death what dreams may come,
    When we have unplugged this power cord,
    Must give us pause: there’s the respect
    That makes calamity of so short a battery life;
    For who would bear the whips of on-line porn,
    The oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,
    The pangs of despis’d love, the law’s interference,
    The insolence of critics, and the spurns
    That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
    When he himself might his quietus make
    With a sharpen’d red pencil? who would these anthologies bear,
    To grunt and sweat under a weary deadline,
    But that the dread of promotion after publication,—
    The undiscover’d typos, from whose bourn
    No credibility returns,—puzzles the will,
    And makes us rather bear those bad reviews we have
    Than fly to others that we know not of?
    Thus criticism does make cowards of us all;
    And thus the native hue of rejection
    Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought;
    And responses of great pith and moment,
    With this regard, their comments turn awry,
    And lose the name of action.—Soft you now!
    The fair Blogosphere!—archiving, in thy url’s
    Be all my postings remember’d.

    [with apologies to Master Shakespeare]

  28. 28
    Tina C. says:

    [with apologies to Master Shakespeare]

    I can’t imagine why apologies would be necessary, R.  That was damned impressive!

  29. 29
    Tina C. says:

    The affronted blogger from her take-me-seriously (ha!) hot pink website says, “Say WHAT now?” What say you?

    Thing is, tongue-in-cheek or not, I can relate to what she was ranting about.  Not the “blog writing isn’t real writing” part of it, because, puh-lease—there is some incredible writing going on in blogs.  The “it sucks you in and sucks up your time like a great black hole” part of it, though, I resemble/relate to rather strongly.  It’s not a problem these days, but in earlier, much-less-happier times, I allowed myself to be completely sucked in by it all—fanfic (writing and reading), blogs (writing, reading, responding to), emails, chat.  Whew, could I while away a week or two. 

    In the midst of all that, though, I got a life I actually enjoy living and all of that fell away.  So, yeah, it can be a great sucking black hole—but only if you let it and, usually, only if you don’t want to face what’s going on in the rest of your life, be it deadlines or a dead relationship.

  30. 30
    R. says:

    Aw, shucks—

    [kicks bashfully at invisible dust bunny]

    Thanks, Tina. C.

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