Comments to an Author About Blogging

I have this friend who is a published author. He started a blog but practically never puts anything on it. I get these great emails from him. So, I responded ” Might as well use that dang blog. These clever insights might as well see the light of day someplace. You should every day or two cannibalize your email into blog posts. I do that ALL the time. He wrote back about how he over-analyzes and fusses too much, then by the time he’s ready to post something it is no longer timely.

To paraphrase Truman Capote’s famous jibe against Jack Kerouac, blogging is not writing, it is typing. A writer who is blogging is not writing, he is blogging. A concert pianist who is sitting down at the concert grand piano in Carnegie Hall in front of a packed house is the equivalent to an author publishing a finished book. The same person sitting down at the piano in his neighborhood bar on a Saturday night and knocking out a few old standards, doing a little improvisation, and even doing some singing — that is blogging. Same instrument — words, piano — different medium. We forgive the mistakes and wrong-guesses because we value the immediacy and spontaneity. Plus, publish a book, it is fixed in stone. Write a blog post you later decide is completely wrong, it is actually good, since it gives you a good hook for a later post explaining your thoughts that led to the changed conclusion. The essence of a blog is to air things informally, to throw things out, to say “this interests me because …” From time to time a more considered and article-like post is good. But most people read blogs by skimming. If a post is too long, in my observation, it does not get much response and may not be read at all.

He wrote back ” Thing is, I wonder how many spontaneous jam sessions big artists would do if every one of them were recorded and posted as MP3s on the web?”

I responded:

Actually, we are getting to the point where that is exactly what is going to happen more and more. Artists are putting jam sessions, live recordings, demos, everything on the web. They know that their hardcore fans are products of the Web Age and need constant stimulation. So they keep giving us a recurring barrage of STUFF, in between the big projects. So the answer to your question is “all of the smart ones.”

If you are going to have a blog, it should be a blog as that is understood. There are at least three good models I can think of. Barnett’s blog is great. He just dumps that day’s thoughts on there. But it is engaging. Virginia Postrel is the opposite. She only puts stuff up that either supports her positions or pretty directly amounts to promotion of her money-making ventures. Rather cold-blooded, though sometimes interesting. The Long Tail guy is terrific, He is thinking out loud about his next book, tossing out ideas, as he goes.

The main thing though, is a blog has to be frequently updated with enough (short) posts that blog readers will read the posts.

That’s how it looks to me.

(Of course, saying “a blog” is a little bit like saying “a piece of paper”. There are people who use the technology to put up all kinds of erudite stuff, or use it to gather professional or technical information. I am speaking of the blog as an online journal of opinion and commentary, like this one.)

3 thoughts on “Comments to an Author About Blogging”

  1. The main thing though, is a blog has to be frequently updated with enough (short) posts that blog readers will read the posts.

    I would argue against this with Steve Den Beste, Nelson Ascher and Bill Whittle. Steve could be prolific but there were other days when there was little or nothing. But it was always a good idea to check him (and the others I mention) out. On my browser, I have organized my favorites into the daily and frequent check groups for that reason.

    The alternative is the group blog. Nobody has to be brilliant daily, but there is something brilliant every day, like Chicago Boyz. But some will always choose to stand alone and that is very bloggish.

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