There are thousands of sites out there declaiming the benefits of blogging to the would-be writer. My favourite bête noire, Copyblogger, is only the most inevitable. See, for example, number 1 in “73 tips to become a better writer” (ah yes, No. 15: Never use a straightforward number when a kooky one will do).
And much as it galls me to say it, they’re right. But only up to a point. They’re right that blogging gets one in the habit of writing. But what they don’t mention is that blogging gets one out of the habit of — let’s call it — prospecting. And by prospecting I mean:
winnowing one’s ideas
testing and shaping one into a larger proposition
entertaining it, dwelling in it
thinking how it would work as an article, a paper, a book
speculating about potential publishers, potential publications
approaching the publishers
… and so on.
I used to do some of this and be successful with publishing articles. The next step would have been to write a book. Now, I do none of it! Instead, I get an idea (or, more often, manufacture or borrow one), entertain it for minutes — hours at most — and then dump it in a blog post, rarely to be thought of again. In this way I feel as if I’m squandering ideas.
Perhaps you’re thinking, “What does it matter? The end result is the same; the idea is published and one gets an audience one way or another.” Yet I suspect it does matter.
It’s not simply that the product has a different form, ie, blog post vs. article (and may use a different medium: online vs. print). It’s that the product is the outcome of a very different process and is thus a radically different kind of product. And what makes it most different is the telescoping of the “entertaining, the dwelling-in” stage.
I know the issue of the potential cannibalising effect of blogs is not an uncommon concern for bloggers. Just the other day, for example, on The Hannibal Blog, a commentor with his own excellent blog, the Man of Roma, touched on the issue. In his case, he appeared to resolve the question “should I care?” in the negative.
Me, I’m not so sure. I know one person who’d say I should care and that’s the so-called “creativity coach”, Eric Maisel. I’m reading his book, A Writer’s Paris, lent to me by a friend as inspiration for my trip to France.
The book is a strange, intriguing mix of lyricism about such things as the “pain of perfect little parks” and the most hard-headed prescriptions for, say, writing a first draft of a novel in six months:
Day 11. Take a day trip to Monet’s house in Giverny. Write on the metro to the commuter train. Write on the train to the bus. Write on the bus to Giverny. Write on a bench with a view to the Japanese footbridge …
I’m just guessing, but I reckon Mr Maisel would be very severe on blogging. As a distraction from the main game. And today at least I’m inclined to agree, and think that, yes, I should care.
Drop cap: courtesy of “Daily Drop Cap by Jessica Hische”