21 February 2015

On Writing, or Dottie Hairston's Sagacious Blogging Tips for the Blogging Blogger

Many readers write in, attempting to capture their emotions after perusing a particularly stunning post, and their effusive sincerity often boils down to a single question: How do they do it?  Not how do they do it but us, how do we do it, the proverbial me that's talking to you right now.

We never claim to have any reasonable answers to this question, but if one simple bit of advice might be offered it is this: Set out to write something that you would be delighted to read; and then keep writing until you find yourself delighted by what you have written.

First (and yes, foremost), recognize that the main importance of writing - and here perhaps I should add that most of the following is aimed not at the practicing professional writer (god rest his soul) but at the suffering amateurs, filled with artistic longing and such; people like you and me - is to entertain yourself (and perhaps a few chums).  If you were marooned on a desert isle with a sheaf of foolscape and a box of quills, even knowing that no one would ever read it, you would write something.  Question is, what.

If you write so that you can call yourself a writer – if you are 'suffering for your art' – then for god's sake, cut it out.  Get a hobby that you won't suffer for.  Life is short, or your life is short anyway, and the world doesn't need you or anyone else suffering on its behalf.  No one really cares whether you write or not, have no doubt.  There are already more than enough good books.  And most of their authors no longer exist, they are just as dead and gone as their contemporaries who spent their energies at carnival.  But the revelers had a good deal more fun, and so should you.  You can write before or after the party, or the next day, if you feel like it.  Or don't.  Your writing is not important to anyone but you, or in extremely rare cases it may become so, but you must recognize this as a form of mania and do your best not to assign it undue importance.

Summary Point 1.
The main reason to write is if, and only if, doing so makes you feel better than not doing so.

Reasons to publish/share include popular demand, offers of money, impress a cute boy or girl, or feels good.  There, does that cover it?

Appendix I.  Principles of Blogging
The following Blogging Principles were sent in by Ms. D. Hairston of Kokomo, Indiana.  Please take note, she's only gonna go over this once. 

Blog on current events, real or imagined.  Mine the many widely available news sources in today's blah blah blah society for ideas and topics.  If you're not writing about what everyone else is writing about, no one will read you, will they?

Don't follow the trends.  If you're not completely original, if you're just on about the same things that other blogs cover just as well if not much, much betterer, why would anyone bother reading you?

Get meta.  Don't write about a particular trend, but about the way people talk about talking about it.  Attempt to capture the feel of a certain type of post / article – without borrowing or even approximating any of the content.  Distill things to their essence, then blog the essence.

Seek the novel formulation: originality is everything.  But too many novel formulations can quickly become tiresome / unreadable.  Regular old clich├ęs are OK too; some phrases are popular for a reason.  Bend some of them, roughly a third.  Let your ear and your funnybone be your guide. 

It is unseemly to apologize for not posting more.  This presumes that readers 'missed' you.  If they did they're pathetic; if they didn't, you are.

Constantly doubt yourself.  Take all criticism personally.  Wonder out loud why you bother trying.  Worry about how many great writers past and present are out there and how all the important/interesting ideas have already been expressed flawlessly many times over.

Do everything.  Be all-consuming.  Contain multi(ple d)(t)udes.

Don't allow anyone to follow your blog.  Who wants followers?  Didn't you see Life of Brian?

If you break up with your boyfriend or girlfriend, cousin or husband, for heaven's to betsy's sake don't tell your blog about it.

Many say you have to constantly put up new content in order to attract a steady readership.  Disregard.  Post when you have something original/interesting to say and/or an original/interesting way to say something, no more no less.

Related point: Don't write so damn much.  There's enough average writing out there and no need for anyone to hurry to produce more.  Letting a little force build up behind the dam increases the impact when it finally bursts.  In many cases quantity of output is inversely proportional to quality.  There is certainly truth to the idea that you have to write a bit to exercise your chops or whatever, but it does not follow that you must publish it all.

When I hear someone say 'You have to get your art out into the world' I'm shocked/offended/amused/driven to vehement disagreement… You absolutely do not have to get your art out into the world.

You may be urged to blog your passion.  More nonsense.  Passion is the opposite of reason and therefore only through dispassion can reasonable bloggers blog reasonable blogposts.  Passion is good if it drives you to learn about something in detail, then you may have something – but I love kittens is no reason to blog about kittens.  Wait maybe it is.  Let's move on.

Write to amuse yourself.  Play around a bit.  Write stuff that is specifically not for publication.  Write the dumbest thing you can think of, or the anything-est.

Try to write things that don't make any sense and at the same time are perfectly true.

You should write what you know, true enough; but do not fear to write when you have no idea what you are talking about.  Let stuff spill out and see where it goes. Occasionally it forms cool patterns.  Publish what still amuses after ten or more readings; keep the rest close to the (proverbial) vest, or toss it on the ( ) slagheap.

Your name should be Brian, or Chachi.  If it's not, you can make up a fake name that starts with Brian, like I did.

Bonus Tip 2015: If it's not too late, start your blog in 2006 or 2007, when people still read blogs.