June 7, 2017

Writing to the Empty Dark: Some Thoughts About Blogging

I haven't been posting here regularly. Keeping a blog, for me, is a source of anxiety, and this is because of the distinct characteristics of "the blog post" as a genre. Let me explain.

The rhetorical function of a blog post is ambiguous. An academic essay educates. An opinion/editorial piece persuades and is a form of activism. A lyrical essay delights on the level of language and poetry.

But what does a blog post do best?

A blog shouldn't be too weighted with research, right? If a writer spends a lot of time researching deeply, then why not write up something like an academic essay and then publish it in a journal? Academic Journals are the perfect medium for communicating knowledge. For example, the peer review process makes rigorous quality-control demands, demands not meted out by a blog. I could be wrong.

Perhaps blog posts aren't so effective as persuasive, activist writing. Why? Because they are unapologetically subjective. A blog post, only slightly less so than a tweet or status update, tends to be unedited and unvetted. In a personal blog (like this one) the editorial apparatus consists of one's self. So, if I am going to try to persuade other people, a newspaper might be a better place. With a newspaper the editors of the op/ed section work establish a neutral, balanced space for discussion. Not so in the case of a blog post.

In terms of literary aesthetics, blog posts become suspect because their whole context is informality and ephemerality. Are there bloggers who are committed prose stylists? Lyricists? I don't know. I'd be interested to find one.

Also, there is the ambiguous and mysterious issue of who reads blog posts and how they are read. Am I writing to the empty dark? Are my posts read with rapt attention? Or, are they skimmed in a shallow, distracted way? I read online news and blog posts differently than I do books, which demand my attention more deeply for reasons I haven't fully thought through.

Anyway, I feel a nameless compulsion to start blogging more but I want to be transparent to myself and clear to my readers about what I'm doing, why I'm writing, what I'm hoping to accomplish with this specific literary activity.