On blogging

October 3, 2016
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I’ve over- written this ‘I’m back blogging’ piece, which (ironically!) perfectly encapsulates why I’ve decided to resurrect my blogging habit. From 2009-2013, I blogged pretty consistently before taking what I thought would be a short break. That break was a lot longer and a lot more necessary than I realised. Though I’ve been writing and reading consistently (obsessively?), I’ve missed having a regular publishing practice or outlet. It meant that I got stuck. My writing would benefit from having a nice digital home to live in. I need to flex my ‘sharing work that isn’t perfect but is still good’ muscle.

I love blogging as a medium. (It has changed so much since I left!) I love writing about the everyday, the little things that end up being the big things. I like the embedded links that let you tug at the threads on the internet, wander into different conversations. I like blog rolls, creating concentric circles of nice internet homes to visit, minds to get acquainted with. I don’t like comments and have complicated feelings about social media, but the best blogging (which weaves together some links, research, first person stories and random internet ephemera) is wonderful to read. Books written in diary format have always been popular. Blogs capture that spirit.

Esme defines blogging as a genre of its own- a space for imperfect, half developed thoughts and ideas. Nora Ephron said: “The thing is, you don’t really have to believe what you write in a blog for more than the moment when you’re writing it. You don’t bring the same solemnity that you would bring to an actual essay.” I’m not sure I agree, but it’s a nice sentiment. Though of course it’s complicated by the fact that the internet is written in pen, it lives forever (hey there wayback machine) and of course that chastens writers.

There are many writers who do it well. I’ve included a blogroll to celebrate them. Roxane Gay is a particular light. She has stopped blogging so frequently which is very understandable given her work load (7 books!) but still sad. How much great writing will we miss because creators were traumatised by the act of sharing their work?

My return to blogging is informed by my own media consumption habits too. I rarely buy a print newspaper or magazine now. Usually, I get through them in 30 minutes and find only one good thing to read. Much of what I read online is just better than what I get in print at the hairdressers or in airports. I’d far rather spend an hour with Man Repeller than I would with Marie Claire – though the later has had a few great pieces lately.

Instead, I sift for Internet gold and curate a reading list guided precisely by my interests. (And try to  read some things I’ll disagree with.) This process (together with a hefty reading list of books) has guided my intellectual development more than any other. It’s made me a better thinker, critic and (I hope) writer. And it’s individual writer’s voices (more than brands or publications) that have most shaped me. Mostly women who came of age on the internet, growing into their voices through regular publication, strong editing and pure animal grit. And that’s not easy. The internet is a fundamentally unsafe place for women.

The internet has allowed nichey-ness to flourish. You can build a tiny digital home filled with the things that you like, consuming the content that makes you think, feel and laugh, digging deeper and deeper into some obscure hole about your favourite episode of a TV show or fashion inspired by a 90s children’s book star or something that only you care about.

Of course, blogs are home are huge swatches of nonsense too. What Paulette calls ‘internet voice’ – shouty, self help how tos and surface-y criticism camouflaged as advice.  The internet’s performative culture creates distance between us, the glossy escapism of lifestyle blogs can make us feel less than. But I like pretty things and thoughtful design and rigorous debate and deeply reported, academically referenced thoughtful work by smart people. And that’s what I consume.

Recently, there’s been some dismay at the apparent lack of blogs of yore. The TNR piece was rightly criticised for focusing only on the narrow subset of young white male political bloggers, while discounting the thriving female-dominated industries of lifestyle, fashion and design blogs. I do miss the everyday chit-chat blogs, though most of that writing has migrated to Tinyletter now or as extended Instagram captions, or maybe on Facebook (I’m not on Facebook so I miss it).

It’s a very strange thing, unique to writers of the blogger generation, to proactively share your work, often your unedited, imperfect, first draft work.  It’s a very different thing to be your own publisher, than to have someone else be the gatekeeper. There are pluses and minuses to both scenarios but undoubtedly, this generation of writers face a different set of challenges and opportunities than the ones who’ve gone before.

Like it or not, the internet is where most of our writing is gonna live from now on. It is the locus of the modern craft, where both readers and advertisers converge. We have to find a way to make it work for us.

Writing, for me, has always been about momentum. When something difficult happens, I write about it. When something difficult happens, I write about it. In writing, I put shape on the trauma, I being to disentangle the pain, I start to see a way forward. When I got my heart broken a few years ago, I wrote about it. I wrote fiction as a kind of psychic exorcism – I just needed to get the ick out of my system and it worked, I moved beyond it. Writing is the surest way I know of moving something from the present into your rearview mirror. Writing propels you away from the past. Writing creates a new future.

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