I’ve decided I’m not going to write anything today. That isn’t to say that I’m not going to post today. I’m posting this now, aren’t I. If I find something someone else has written that I can blockquote and wrap a few paragraphs of my own around, then I’ll post it. If I can think of one idea someone else hasn’t already covered, then I may post about it.
But I’m not going to write anything today. I’m coming to the conclusion that being a writer and a blogger are two different things. I want to be a writer, but the reality is that I’m a blogger. Most of the time blogging is the wrong medium for what I really want to do.
It came up at work, actually. My pattern for the past few weeks has been that I have a longer piece that I’m researching or planning to write, but instead of writing it I get sidetracked into one-off posts that are basically taking one thing someone else has said or written, and putting enough of my own content around it to make it more than a blockquote — so that there’s some value added beyond the echo effect — because I can toss it up online quickly. Guess which one of the two is what I really want to do.
Problem is, blogging is the wrong medium for what I want to do. If the average reader visit is about 96 seconds long, then there’s no hope that the stuff I really want to write is ever going to get read. That was in 2005, before the advent of Facebook, Twitter, and of the other social networking sites further shortened attention span, marking the demise of blogging, because nothing that can’t be said in 140 characters or less is worth saying anyway.
In fact, I’ve had at least one person tell me they’re not going to read my stuff until I learn to “express yourself in 700 words or less,” because they can’t stand to watch me shooting myself in the foot.
(To that end, I intend to stop writing this post and publish it once it reaches 700 words, even if that means I stop writing in mid-sentence. Just a warning, in case you get to the end and wonder “Why did he publish an unfinished post?” Right now, I’m at 348. I’m even copying and pasting this into another application so I can strip out the HTML tags and make sure they don’t get counted. Now I’m at 412. Before stripping out the tags I was at 508. In any case, according to one analysis, the average post length for the top 5 political blogs is 465 words, so I’m already pushing the limit.)
The problem, as always and as I wrote in 2007 is how my brain works in a perpetual kind of associative mode. So I read various stories, think about how they all link up, and try to tell that story in my writing. The process involves stitching several ideas together instead of just one or two.
While I’ve received praise in the past for that kind of blogging — and some experts it’s the way to go — the audience is much smaller for that kind of writing, because it’s not what the majority of blog readers want.
As Chris Clarke wrote in a post I can’t quote here because I’ll lose wordcount, but that was spawned the controversy my long 4,164-word post about Blogroll Amnesty Day started, if you’re a thoughtful writer who tends to write longer essays then you’re at a disadvantage. Short statements only work when they contribute to and are supported by the status quo.
It doesn’t take much to re-run ideas most people have already read or already understand. Question the status quo, and you’re going to have do to some explaining. And it’s the explaining that makes for longer posts. I’d say more — actually, I’d love to say more — but I’m now at 699 words. So, I guess that I’ve explained just about enough.
Besides, I said I’m not going to write anything today.