Tuesday, September 4, 2012
Blog Craft –The Why and How of Doing It
Blogging @ 150- Blogging as a craft- a few thoughts expressed aloud.
(Attribution: I was reading a blog written by my friend and fellow blogger Susan Deborah (the link: http://www.susan-deborah.org/2012/09/meanderings.html) when the idea for this post came to me. Meanwhile I looked at my Blog’s stats, for the first time in many a, uh, I don’t even remember when I last looked at them, considering that I primarily write for myself first (yep, narcissist that I am)and then try to simplify it for readers. Anyway, Blogger.com says I am on the verge of completing a milestone. Yes. This post is my 150th post on my blog- a milestone which once looked as big as the Everest to me, but here I am today looking at scaling still higher peaks. If you have come with me all this way, please stick on- for as someone said, you aint seen nothing yet)
For someone who has done just around 150 blog posts till now it might seem high effrontery to write about the craft of blogging. But this is what I have been thinking about for quite some time and so I shall share my thoughts aloud. Why do we blog? Or to rephrase it why do I blog? The straightforward answer would be to get the monkey of my back, yeah, the one which sits on my shoulder whispering things in my ear. I am sure all of us have had “those” times when you had something in your mind, which won’t let you sleep till you had got it off your chest? Yes, the same kind of feeling, the urge to share my self online is what pushes me to write on my blog But I don’t suppose it is the same for everyone else, is it? The why do we blog is highly subjective, involving all kinds of psychoanalysis, something which I am least qualified to talk about, so I am not going to venture (much) there for once you are past the why's of writing, the motivations and the creative impulses and all (which reasons are pretty unique to each individual), comes the interesting part, the what and how part. And that’s what I am going to talk about in this post.
There are basically two kinds of blog writing – exploring the unexplored and exploring the self. The first covers the entire gamut from movie reviews, restaurant reviews food reviews and the fantasy driven writings of fiction – you can explore a wide variety of topics. One for each day in fact. In opening ourselves to new experiences and in sharing it with our readers. Nowadays Bloggers do the work ,which newspaper correspondents used to do in the past. Now we don’t have to read and depend on someone else's opinion , we can do our own review and offer it to the world at large, although our reviews have to be frequent enough and consistent enough in quality to influence the readers and make them give credence to our writing. Hence the movie blogger who rushes to the theatre every Friday, the foodie blogger who books a restaurant table without fail for every Sunday and the travelogue blogger always on the move every weekend, trying to write up every single place they visit, from multiple angles- heritage, leisure, historical- for every angle there's a new post. For them, their readers are known and their writing is limited but fulfilling, as they don’t have to write for everyone. They can get to the actual writing instead of worrying about topics and forms and connecting with readers. Praise or abuse, they are going to get the feedback immediately. That’s kind of liberating in a way.
But, beyond these literal writings comes the in-between category, the fiction writer (and the subcategory – the poet's). These people are the kings/queens of the blogging world and are the envy of all others. They can literally go where no one else can go. All they need is a big imagination and a little empathy, to get into their characters heads and state the case from their Point of view. Now don’t get me wrong, doing a POV is about the hardest of all things to write about. Anyone can say a story in a straightforward; these are the facts, kinda manner. It takes an artist, a writer to get into the heads of those characters, to live their lives, to see with their eyes and say what they would say. It’s about the toughest job on the planet, to inhabit the mind of a different person daily when you have enough things on your own mind to deal with. Some of the best writers I have read must also have been great actors for the way they could get into the skin of the characters and describe their thought process. Can you be a out and out villain who is universally reviled? Not very easy given the fact that we all crave universal approval.
That’s why I am in awe of some of these screen writers of sitcoms, who come up with these unique characters, you can never ever find in real life. Can you for instance point out anyone like Sheldon from the big bang theory in real life? We might have met loads of scientists with shades of his character but not the whole package. To get into that unique mindset, even for a script, requires genius level writing skills, something that lesser mortals can only hope for. But it also gives rise to a lot of conflict when the time comes for either the character to grow and get more complex, rather than stay the same for all seasons. And that’s where bloggers and writers of the written word have it easy. We know that there is a definite end to our characters lives, although no one else may know it. Classic example? JK Rowling, who confessed in an interview, that she knew right from the beginning which characters were going to die and which will survive in Harry Potter. That knowledge of the ending helps us explore better within the limits of possibility rather than have wild twists in character traits which leave everyone totally confused.
We now come to the second type of blogs- the personal blogs or exploring the self kinda blogs. A lot of infrequent bloggers belong to this category. People who start writing a blog for catharsis, to tell their stories to the world at large because no one nearby is listening, to rant and rave and foam at the mouth, all of it done safely online, with nary a clue given to the immediate circle who know them personally. These kinds of blogs have a genuineness about them which is quite refreshing. You can see the agonized workings of anxious minds, overflowing with emotions and trying to be as frank as possible. To read these kinds of blogs is to really get into the minds of the writer at that particular point of emotion. But emotions are roller coasters. You can’t always exist in a hyper emotional state and hence these bloggers become less and less frequent posters as they find that their lives are now turning stable, the drama is disappearing and they can get by pretty well without pouring their hearts out into the open on the Internet. Interestingly most bloggers, including yours truly, start off blogging in this category. Some survive to make the leap into other categories, many don’t and their blogs lie in suspended animation for many years, till a new drama resurfaces.
An interesting offshoot of the personal analysis blogs or as I prefer to call them exploring the self blogs- is the advice giving blogs. People, who analyze the self too deeply, find that they have discovered some hidden truths in their life and which they want to share with the whole world. And hence they start pontificating on their blogs. Some of these blogs (which are the online version of cult gurus) have attained great notoriety- because they purport to show the “true” path. Forgetting that the path is not one and neither is there “one” truth. There are many paths in life and each one of us has to choose his own, we cannot follow in others footsteps and hope to have satisfying life. And if you are scratching your head and wondering why? about the previous two sentences, they are just a sample of the kind of writing i am talking about. Taking an universal truth and giving it a personal coating. Well, it takes all kinds.
Finally me and this blog. When I first started my blog, it was with the very same selfish motive of pouring my heart out on line – to give a cry which can be heard. Sometime during my first year of blogging I realized that I was wasting what seemed a perfect tool to connect with people, in saying things which are better said in a bar on a drunken binge. I resolved to get myself a unique identity, a USP, a trademark so to say. Hence I resolved about this idea of speaking the truth online with no holds barred. And speaking the truth always from the contrary viewpoint, something which everyone else fails to consider, because as I have found over the years, people are willing to act the fawning hypocrites, even with the anonymity of an online avatar. Everyone wants to swim with the current, scratch each other’s back, praise each other's blogs, like and favorite each one's inane statements. Well, not me. I say it as I see it, even if I end up offending someone (even a pretty girl). And that’s how “Think Different” became my blog credo.
It’s like acting in theater. When you get there for auditions and you find every other role taken, what do you do? Do you go back home admitting defeat? Or do you take the role which no one wants? Everyone else is afraid to take? And make a success of playing it? That’s my way. If the hero, comedian and all the other parts are gone, then I would rather play the villain than go home empty handed. For as we know, the best villains stay in mind for a far longer period than all those run of the mill, goody goody heroes. So I take the role, whichever is open and then play it as magnificently as I can. And am still playing it. For all the worlds a stage and all the men and women merely...said the bard- the worlds first blogger.
As a final word, I would like to leave you with the thought that blogging is not about getting it right, pitch perfect grammatically. In that case only retired (and maybe current) English professors and literature graduates would be eligible to write blogs. For all of us normal mortals it is enough to get the words out, as long as they are coherent and make sense, grammar be dashed. Shakespeare was a failed tradesman and he produced something beyond grammatically correct works, works which have stood the test of time. This is not an apology for sloppy writing but the excuse that once the monkey is sitting on your shoulders urging you to write, write, write something, its best not to worry about grammatical conventions but just to let rip. And if you have the time you can edit a spell check. But that’s not an essential. Having fun is. So Do.