Sunday, March 31, 2013

YESTERDAY'S ESSAYS



Why write a blog? Why indeed. Sometimes, when the mind is blank or the spirits are low, ideas seem hard to find. Most writers know that they are everywhere, teeming, insistent, bossy and in-your-face, but hunting for them is the surest way for them to scoot under the nearest stone, only to emerge in the middle of the night to thumb their noses at you.

Today's blogs are yesterday's essays. In the old days writers, when they weren't writing books, often wrote essays. These were published in magazines, which snapped them up for their eager, discerning readers. Essays were often many hundreds of words long, they explored a subject, or a thought, in a leisurely way, writers had space to move, and readers had time to read and think. Blogs have to be short, like sound-bites, to catch the attention of readers who have less time and are easily bored.

A blog, like an essay, is a means of experimenting with your "voice". It is a way to have your say about what interests you, and to say it in a controlled and considered way rather than in the hurried blurt of a tweet. It is a forum where you have control over everything: subject, style, content, length, frequency. That means that you can take risks now and again. And take the heat if it goes wrong. No one is waiting to correct or change what you write, or to reject it out of hand. No one is the boss of your blog but you.

A blog makes it possible to paddle in the tiny waves at the edge of the surf and learn how it feels, before launching into the ocean of the real literary world. A blog can be edited, changed or deleted at any time, and the commitment need not be terrifying. Or terrifyingly permanent.

Blog posts should be interesting. I'm aware that posts about, say, my great-grandfather's old immigrant sailing ship Euterpe aren't for everyone, and nor are posts about writing, or earthquakes, or painting or anything else that I might feel like writing about. But if there is variety, and the posts are not totally incompetent, readers gravitate to the site. It takes time to develop a regular readership, and word has to be spread somehow. I'm constantly amazed at how, now and then, there is a surge of interest and the stat-counter leaps for the stratosphere. Something, somewhere, triggers a gratifying spike.

That's why we write blogs – for those tingling moments of gratification.

2 comments:

  1. It's strange - I was fiddling about with another post altogether, and this one bustled forwards importantly and said me, me! Now then where was I...?

    ReplyDelete