Multiple Enthusiasms

Infinite jest. Excellent fancy. Flashes of merriment.

Blogging is so passe

(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?


  1. Honestly, I haven’t been reading much for the last several months–except for blogs and twitter entries and long-ass research articles for my adult learning theory course.

    Thing is–I like reading. I’m a literate person. But I’m not one to breeze through a book or a magazine. When I read a magazine, I read the whole thing. It takes me hours. I go back and cut shit out. I find articles online and send them to people. I twitter the URLs. With books, I’ve never been one to sit and read until I’m finished. I think I’ve done that four times in my lifetime–when I was 12. When I read, I have a short attention span. I admit that I’m fairly slow when I read. I tumble through paragraphs, rereading ad nauseum. I take my time to experience things. Lately, I haven’t found much worth reading. Nothing grabs me. The stuff that’s out there isn’t really worth the paper it’s printed on. Blogs catch my attention and resonate with me more. Because they tend to be shorter, I can spend the time I want to with them without losing my place. I can interact with people when it moves me. It isn’t solitary.

    I’ve always liked plays and short stories and poetry better for that very reason. I can find more I like, faster. I don’t have to be patient or trudge through something that ultimately doesn’t work.

    I don’t know how much of that is due to the fact that I’m a product of my generation or due to the fact that my work as a recruiter–trudging through mountains of information every day–has made me less patient. I think it has more to do with the quality of what I’m digesting.

    I use Twitter, but not as a mode of writing. It’s a mode of communication. I can stay updated on someone’s life. I can find links to interesting articles (like the one you cited). It isn’t a place for conversation. For me, that’s what “real” writing is: a conversation. Sometimes, maybe, my tweets have some poetry. Sometimes, maybe, my tweets tell a story. But, rarely is it the story I want to tell.

  2. Okay, so I don’t really like to admit this here, because this is where I come to read and to write… to really think about things. (I mean, you are a professor.) I’m so much more math than I am anything, I have formulas coming out of orfuses you couldn’t imagine.

    But, what I like about a real in-depth blog is that it is in depth. When I read more than just a couple of sentences it gets me brewing on a whole other level – it’s not so much about the moment, but about the whole picture. I wouldn’t sell yourself short because the content in some of these other blogs or twitters or facebooks just isn’t real. It’s how to grab your attention and get a rise out of you in a few words. It’s not really thinking.

    It’s sad. I wish I had more time for blogging and writing, because I think I’d be good at it, but the truth is… I have to be a math geek and a quick thinker. I have to be a problem solver.

    It’s been a while since I read a book, for pleasure – it’s so easy to turn the t.v. on, or log into someone elses world – as a form of entertainment, and it’s free.

    But, then again, I read articles online – I’m into politics and news and what’s happening in the world. Are that many people really that interested?

    I have conversations about the world crisis on a daily basis, and most people are just oblivious. They think it’s all a bunch of mumbo jumbo, and that maybe I’m reading in to too much of it. Maybe I am, but, maybe I’m not.

    Sometimes I think a lot of people really don’t know how to understand, or how to read, or how to even freaking talk about things.

  3. And just so you know. I never click the links until I’m finished reading.

  4. If blogging is more magazine article than novel, clicking a link is more like reading the magazine straight through instead of following the continuation of the article to page 130 or wherever the rest of it ends up. does that make any sense? except, I contradict my own point in my own life. I normally read magazines straight through and finish the ends of all the articles I started as i find them. I click on links afterwards.
    I don’t normally multi-task when reading anything that interests me, online or on a page. But I feel like the house could burn down and I wouldn’t notice when I’m reading a book I love. Not so much with a blog.
    To me, blogs are the equivalent of loose downloads, snipets of a style or a subject that may or may not give you a sense of the author as a writer. Books are whole albums, and if you love it as a whole, you’ll forgive a weak chapter or two…
    I have caved to the ease of iPods, but it was with great hesitation. I miss the tangible experience of a new album. The art, the smell, the sound… I try to steer clear of shuffle until I’ve given a whole album a few full run-throughs in the order they were intended. I’m quite enjoying Indigenous’ “Chasing the Sun” at the moment. He does lovely things with Dylan’s “Born in Time.”

  5. Actually, I wait until I open the links as new tabs and then read them after unless they are necessary to be read before continuing. I do not multi task when it comes to reading your blog nor my friend Bryan’s mostly because neither of you require me to multitask in order to stay interested in what you have to say. I’ve been writing 9,000 words a day trying to finish Pantheon how I want it but I’m finding the more I write the less I like to read what people are saying about the real world via blog or Facebook status update. If it were truly that important they would call, email, or send a letter.

    I write differently for my books than I do for a blog let alone a reply which is normally stream of consciousness.

    I will admit to downloading books. I honestly don’t see it any different than going to the library and borrowing one. If the book truly earns my respect as something I want to read again, I will go out and purchase it. Otherwise I read and delete without wasting paper. This is the reason I have the Twilight Saga on my laptop; it was good enough to read but not something I’d want to waste time on again except as a basis for a fanfiction entry.

    I multitask all day, I always have. When I was a child the doctors diagnosed me with ADD to which my mother laughed and said something along the lines of she just keeps my mind busy and we are fine. I can have the tv on as background noise, sing to Tori’s Little Earthquake cd, all while reading my latest find. Currently I’m immersing myself in the latest Terry Brook’s Shannara book- my guilty pleasure. When I’m really reading, not just scanning for what I need to know as I do most blogs, I stop the noise and focus. Same with when I’m writing, I get up at five each morning to give myself two guaranteed hours of writing time, and then sneaking in what I can elsewhere throughout the day.

    Currently I find myself in a stage of life where people do not hold the interest they once did. I’m not content for superficial conversations. I want to know what makes people tick, to hear their dreams, and what really matters to them. My generation has lost that in our need for instant gratification and the trivialization of our information. It seems as if every aspect of daily life has an answer space on a survey or questionnaire, our random personal history is now up for grabs at the whim of our friends “tagging” us on a blog asking us to list five random facts.

    Lately I’ve been ignoring my blogs, the people who are involved with what is going on are aware of the event and I do not feel the need to pick apart my day for those that have fallen into the gray area between friend and acquaintance. Now Myspace and Facebook are used for photo updates- a way to keep my former close circle of friends feel as if they are still that important to my daily life, while I’ve learned that at the end of a day the only person I really want to share my day with is my husband. Of course he’s the only one who truly cares what my three girls have been up to that day. πŸ™‚

  6. I haven’t been reading many books lately, but when I do read books I love to be curled up on the couch with a cup of tea in one hand and a book in the other. Maybe some music in the background, depending on my mood.

    I don’t like to be interrupted when I read. It’s like escaping into my own little world, and no one can intrude on my thoughts.

    When I read articles / blogs etc, I’m nearly always interrupted by a phone call, an urgent email or my boss asking me to do something or other. Or I’ll be chatting to some long lost friend on Facebook, checking out the new photos.

    Reading online isn’t as peaceful as reading a book. When last did you curl up on the couch with your PC to read a book online?

    A book is more personal. πŸ˜‰

  7. Actually, I curl up on the couch with my laptop daily. πŸ™‚

  8. The thing with blogging is this…It helps me see beyond the author’s imagination to see how his mind works and their thoughts as it relates to everyday life. I like blogging and bloggers but I now like blogging away from social networks such as Myspace and Facebook. I don’t use them very often because now I’m discovering a world of bloggers away who are more aware of having a reader but who also blog because they love to write.

    Blogging isn’t passe…As long as people have something to say, there will be someone there to read.

  9. PS: You should get the WP-Thread Comment plugin…

    And yes, there should be an accent over the e πŸ™‚

  10. I miss your uber long blogs and the uber long comment parties.

    I have done little blogging since my account got hacked and everything kinda went to hell. I don’t know. The fun was sucked out of it when I read my url as “Imstupidcuntthatlies” but I’m sensitive like that I guess.

    The thing is, that didn’t happend to everyone. I think that those larger socital problems you hear about just touched home with more people then in 2004 so that the numbers of people who read and wrote blogs went down. I dunno. I’m jabbering so I’ll stop now.

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