(pretend there’s a little accent thingy over that ‘e’, please, because I think there should be one there. I could be wrong)
Wired‘s Paul Boutin notes that “blogging is so 2004.” Basically, Boutin seems to think that Twitter, Flickr, and Facebook have not so much rendered blogs obsolete as taken their thunder. Why blog when we can micro-Twitter and Flickr to our hearts’ content? His first paragraph indicates I need to quit blogging, because it just ain’t worth it, and I’ll never reach a level of, say, Gizmodo, the popular gadgets blog with a team of writers producing dozens of posts per day.
He’s probably correct. I think I hope he’s correct, in fact. I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with blogging, I’ll admit, for personal reasons; while I do love to do it, and I love the instantaneous and often-collaborative nature of it, I feel like . . . well, I feel a lot like it takes away from my real writing. And I hate to say this isn’t my ‘real writing,’ but I’ve never thought of it that way, probably because I use different writing ‘muscles’ to blog than to write . . . well, pretty much everything else. I’ve been discussing with my students the idea of frameworks in writing, and I’ve always thought blogs have a different framework than anything else, probably because everything has its own framework.
Then again, that may be just me.
All I know is that I write blogs differently than I write fiction, whether a short story or a novel, and even mostly differently than I write longer essays, even though there probably should be some overlap between blogging and essays.
It never feels that way, though, does it? I don’t think it does. I’ve been using the “more” WordPress function more often lately, and I’ve been using 500 words as the mark for its use; any longer posts get their own ‘page,’ because otherwise I think everything tends to run together. Visit a blog and posts merge and blur and the posts become part of the overall blog itself.
But sometimes it’s more than a post, isn’t it? One of the reasons I’m not sure serialization of novels in blogs or podcasts really works is because it’s simply not what novels are. I forget who defined novels as long stories with flaws, but it’s a similar concept to iTunes versus albums. iTunes parses CDs into buck-long chunks and makes it easy for someone to buy ten tracks out of the White Stripes’ overall discography, ignoring the actual CDs themselves, but there’s a form to an album, isn’t there? It’s probably most apparent in something like the Beatles’ Sgnt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band or Led Zeppelin’s IV, but can you imagine either broken down? I’m sure people enjoyed the individual songs (especially “A Little Help from My Friends” and “Stairway to Heaven”), but both ultimately are more than the sum of their parts.
And aren’t novels? I’ve often considered blogging the first act of The Prodigal Hour, maybe posting a chapter every Friday, but that’s not how I thought of the book. When I wrote the book, I meant it to be one big story readers could choose how they read, and serializing it seems like it would defeat that purpose. That’s not to say that no story should be serialized, but serialized writing is a form and framework unto itself, isn’t it?
I think serializing a story that wasn’t conceived for serialization fragments it, in a way, which is one of the hesitations I have with blogging and digitization; the brain is a sensitive organ with extraordinarily adaptive reflexes, and reading online can quite literally change not on the way we consume information but even the way we think. A little scary; sure, everyone’s reading blogs and online news stories and etc., but those use different muscles than even just books and magazines. Can you read any blog post/online article without clicking all its hyperlinks (did you click on the ones above?)? Because you can’t do that in a magazine, can you? It’s more active thinking, perhaps, but also more fragmented reading, no?
Which might be why there may never be a substitute for a book. Sure, digital downloads are great; my collection’s been downloaded hundreds of times. But the download is not the book, and even the people who’ve read it on their iPhones experience it differently because there’s something in the background. A call might come in. Or you . . . is this particular tab one of many you have open? You’ve given this post half attention while you’re downloading a song and maybe even writing an e-mail in other tabs and windows, perhaps.
Which is sad for me. I want all your attention. Not constantly, of course, but at least when I’m talking to you.
I bring all that up because I’m thinking about it all in terms of Twitter and Facebook, neither of which I’ve been much impressed with. I’ve signed up for both, and I’m on both, in fact (and back on MySpace, too, with a placeholder page), and maybe we’ve gone from the blog age to the Twitter age, but then again I look at Twitter and I just don’t get it. I know that we all have different ways of thinking and reading and writing, and I wonder if I simply don’t read and think and write in a way that really ‘gets’ Twitter. I mean, I understand it, and I even, to some degree, see why it works for some people, but in a way it’s kind of like when I attempt math or business; sure, I can do it, but there’s a reason my bachelor’s degree is in literature and my master’s is in writing. I like science, but moreso in theory than in practice.
Thing is, I’m a writer. I like to write, and most of all, I like to be read. Which means I have to pay careful attention to the ways people are reading and why they’re reading in those ways. Which is why I ask: what about you? Those are my thoughts so far, but I’d like to hear yours. Do you read books differently than blogs? Do you multitask? What are your preferences?