Wednesday, April 07, 2010

On Writing, Blogging

In Journalism school: I got three sources, wrote my piece, and then turned it over to the copy editor for review. After a wait, the stuff came back to me, marked up and messy.

Some of the copy people were good, but the best were brutal. At the end of their cruelties, I published clean stories that were better than what I submitted. I could see that they were better – it was obvious.

I miss that when blogging; I miss the outraged editor berating me for making fun of kids with attention deficit disorder. I miss both the stupid and the wise of feedback -- feedback not only of content but also of grammar and style.

I also miss the research and the sources of information. In blogging, I take some random thing I see and run with it. If I see a strange web article in a random search, say, kamikaze Brazilian rodents that threaten to gnaw loose the fabric of life as we know it, I can make it a story about lost love in an age of unreasoned fear. The nice part -- I don’t have to start with a verifiable truth or make sense of any follow up reports that show the original article was written by a Moonie on crack who was only blogging until the squirrels woke up so he could feed them pickles, (for gods sake – Kamikaze rats?)

But then, who needs truth if it’s dull?

What’s missing is both knowledge and context. Sources give context and research pads it with knowledge. To tell a thing in other peoples words, using complete and deep understanding of details that only comes from research, gives the reader something authentic and bonafide -- it makes the use of footnotes seem just flashy schoolwork.

In a blog it’s fun to trowel thick gobs of words around into strange shapes and approximate meanings. It’s like the first try at a blank canvas, the fun is in the expressing, not the finishing. This is both good and bad.

The good is in making something real. Once writing is out of my head it’s real. Reality can be dealt with – grammar can me corrected, words can be cut and the ideas can be evaluated for correctness. Nothing in my head can be pinned down – it’s my nature to be vague and mysterious. For me, speech requires a special fluidity that writing doesn’t allow for – or maybe I like to tell the same truth in different ways to different people. (OK, from my mouth comes many lies.)

But, I don’t want other people to see less than my best work – and in my blog, the first draft is never the best. If you come back to one of my stories a few days after I write it, it will be different, and for the most part better. I review what I write and post, usually for several days, and correct errors that time make appear obvious. Commas will appear, transitions will be newly in place and cuts will be made, (but they won’t show up, unless you are looking for their absence.)

In ways, blogging is like the writing of a poem. The comparison between the first draft and the last of what I write is almost comical – the lines never match, and the central themes seem to come from two different minds. And usually, the best part of the poem I start with is lost in the cutting before the finished part, and, based on history, if it isn’t cut, it should be.

But who will bell the cat, or edit the blogger? The marketplace?

To blog is to make words real, but not permanent, or even true. For me, it’s a starting point for ideas and directions. I think it’s best if you read it as a way of getting into my head on the ground floor before the crowds, and before the reconstruction kicks up dust and blocks all the fire exits.

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