Monday, February 27, 2006

Leah McLaren About Blogs - Boring and Tedious

It is not often that I open the Globe and Mail and find a column about blogging.
I don't usually read Leah McLaren's columns as she writes in the entertainment section, a section I rarely get to.

But this column caught my eye. In this column about blogging McLaren explains why she "decided to swear off the blogosphere." Apparently, what got to her was a search in Technorati. She searched her own name and the names of several other writers she claims to know and admire. What she found was -
... countless chat rooms full of bitter unpublished writers venomously slagging published ones -- their terrible spelling, poorly constructed sentences and outrageous amounts of displaced hatred and envy a testimony to why they became bloggers in the first place.

This hasn't been my experience. Not even close. In fact, quite the opposite. I find most bloggers to be encouraging and supporting toward other writers - published or not. And if someone doesn't like a book - what can be done?

I do agree with McLaren on one point - most blogs are boring and not well written:
The dominant quality is tedium: writers without editors, fact-checkers or paying subscribers to keep them in check. As Butterworth succinctly puts it: "If the pornography of opinion doesn't leave you longing for an eroticism of fact, the vast wasteland of verbiage produced by the relentless nature of blogging is the single greatest impediment to its seriousness as a medium."

But when McLaren asks why bloggers blog and reaches the conclusion that it's because what they write is unfit for publication, I disagree again. Not that what bloggers write is fit for publication, but that the reason doesn't have to be one or the other. I know many bloggers with no real aspirations in publication. But even the ones with such an aspiration don't necessarily blog what they would like to publish.

When McLaren asked a well established writer, David Eddie, why he blogs, here's what he had to say:
"It's a good way to limber up. You get up in the morning, fire up a blog, write the thing in 15 minutes and then you know what's on your mind. I think it was Nabokov who said, 'How do I know what's on my mind until I write it down?' "

McLaren ends with some point about blogs being fragmented, not sphered, not connected. I'm not sure where she was going with that one.

However, what I found most interesting is that the reason McLaren swore off blogging in the first place was the slagging of writers by bloggers only to turn around and seem to do the same in her column. And as for editing - did she mean slagging or slogging? I still wonder.

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redchurch said...

Sounds like an obvious hangup to me.

I've encountered a few people who were of the mind, "Ew, Blogs? Why would I bother with those? It's just people rambling."

To which I'd have to ask, would anyone say that about a conversation among friends, or their personal diary entry? "It's just people rambling their stupid opinions."

Maybe that's true. Does it make it any less valid?

Blogging is not a book. Blogging is not a professional article. Blogging is not a research paper.

To be honest, I'd find most blogs pretty boring if they were the same thing we get in books, news, articles, and papers.

No thanks!

'Pornography of opinion' -- Gotta love that though. Maybe some people like porn? :)

Georganna Hancock said...

Thanks for pointing out this article! I must agree with McLaren about the great unpublished bashing everything about publishing and other writers--but I find this in forums and chat rooms, not in blogs.

What I see in blogs by aspiring writers is just as she said: poor writing with inaccurate punctuation, capitalization, spelling, word choice (is it affect or effect?), and half-baked notions.

When I point out that an online article (blog post), message, even email is another opportunity to present yourself as a writer, to practice good writing habits, a tidal wave of defensiveness crashes over my comment/contribution.

Too many confuse online writing with text messaging.

Pat Kirby said...

Well, my blog is a warm-up exercise. It is also, admittedly, a form of verbal wanking off. [shrugs]. I don't have ads on my blog and I don't worry about hits.

I love it when people visit and comment, but if I worry too much about what I write [blog]--quality and entertainment--too much energy goes into the blog and not into my fiction.

I agree with her assessment. Most blogs are dreadful, primarily because the writers have no voice. With a strong voice--usually requires a sense of humor or recognition of the absurd in life--anything can be interesting.

In general, however, most bloggers are drier than the Saharra. The so-called "info" blogs are the worst, lifeless writing about duller topics.

I give honest reviews of the books I read. While I do my utmost not to attack the author, I'm not going to sugarcoat my opinions. Beyond reviews, however, I've never run into any of the slagging/slogging of writers that she mentions. Not on blogs anyway.

As you said, most are quite supportive.

Deborah said...

I agree with Pat's assessment. As a reader, I enjoy blogs that have a personality. That's an absolute must for me.

As for my blog, I use it to connect with readers and fellow writers. I judge how it's doing by the responses I get to posts. I understand what Georganna said about quality.

Sometimes I'll go back to some of my old posts and realize that I could have written them a lot better had I not been in such a hurry.

Patry Francis said...

Apparently, McLaren hasn't read a lot of the terrific blogs I visit daily. At this point, there's so many blogs out there that any generalization you make after reading some of them is going to be contradicted and contradicted mightily by
others. Are they poorly written, ungrammatical, meanspirited, boring--eegads, yes! SOME of them are. But others are equally original, elegant, meaningful and powerful of voice.

Anonymous said...

I don't think that anything that I'm blogging is worthy of publication but that's not why I'm blogging. I really just do it to connect with other writers. The stuff that I am working on for publication will never make it to my blog, because it just doesn't belong there.

I think the writers that I've met so far are very supportive. It's great to share opinions and find out that others suffer the same writing hurdles that I face.

Melly said...

Eric, I loved that sentence too :)
I guess blogging is different to different people, and while some take a more "professional" outlook on it, many don't. To each his own and who cares?!

Georganna, there's nothing that makes me grit my teeth more than the misuse of 'than' and 'then', your and you're, their and they're. Argggghhhhh.
I absolutely agree with you. Even for people who write more as a diary, for writers it is yet another front. But most writers blogs I read are decent. Without the teeth gritting stuff, and that's good enough for me :)

Pat, glad to see we agree :)
Indeed, while many (perhaps most) are dry, boring and lack personality, others are sooo wonderful.

Deborah, of course. That's why we all love Pat's blog. She's got some personality :)
Sure we can improve on old posts, but this is the nature of blog. Quick. I mean, while I do think bloggers (at least writers) should maintain a minimum of quality, it is still what it is for most of us. A quickie...

Patry, I absolutely agree. It would be hard to generalize. I wonder if our perception though isn't somewhat skewed given that we visit many writers' or aspiring writers' blogs, because I too think that there are many great blogs out there with a unique voice.

Yes, exactly Fred. What I blog and what I write for publication are two different things and one definitely gets much more editing than the other.

Ryan Oakley said...

I bet Leah McLaren is googling her name right now to see what blogs she's been mentioned on.

Melly said...

Oh, I bet she does. And I played right into her hands.

rdl said...

good one Melly! she should definitely read this!

Jonathan M. Dobson said...

Too many confuse online writing with text messaging.

Gr8, i agree w dat.

Also: interconnectivity, accessibility, and ease-of-use are some of the great accelerators of the blogosphere. She cannot deny the benefit. Well, that's presumptuous - I hope she can't deny the benefit.

Paul Darcy said...

A few million bad apples don't spoil the whole bunch.

Or is that bananas . . .

To each his own opinion I guess.

I like this blog and many others. There are a lot I've looked at and don't care for. And bad grammer?


Oh, and bad spelling too . . .

Jennifer said...

unfit for publication, I disagree again I have issues with most of what she wrote.

1) Most every blog I go to has good grammar and well thought out, put together points.

2) They're entertaining

3) It's a way that keeps me writing, even if 99% of my writing on the blog isn't actually about my novel writing.

4) It seems like a bit of a 'conceded' view on her if she feels she's better than the rest of the 'unpublished' writers out there...

Jennifer said...

2) They're entertaining

Okay to clarify, the ones I read are entertaining :D Yes there are some boring, bad, and other 'not worth my time' blogs out there. But the ones I've found and visit are worth my time :D

Melly said...

Thanks rdl :)

LOL Jonathan. Good one.
Yes, many benefits indeed, but quite frankly, who cares if she denies them.

Paul, I believe it is bananas you mean :)

Jennifer, I agree. Especially with 4. Actually, especially with all :)