A writer friend of mine is thinking of beginning a blog for a journal she edits. She asked several of the advisory & editorial boards to be thinking of possible blog posts. The response astonished me. NOT because they were interested (I expected that — writers ❤ having their names in even online print!), but because they didn’t have a CLUE about blogs.
Yes, they (some of them…) read them. And all of them knew blogs are electronic media. But these pretty smart folks were talking about blog posts of 1,000-1,500+ words! Basically, essays (some even said ‘essays.’) I’d put it down to the advanced age(s) of the majority, but in point of fact? Most are younger than I am… Big sigh.
i’ve been blogging regularly, for national outlets, for more than 5 years — almost 6. Not forever, but it’s not that old a medium, right? And it is its own animal, shorter than the essay it echoes. More white space than a newspaper article, even. Shorter paragraphs (a suggestion which I often observe only in rejection!), and a more informal tone. I know these parameters well, even when I choose to reject them (which I do, as my various web tools will nicely inform me!). The conventional blog wisdom is that a blog post should be between 300-500 words (I’m already at 220 here), and feature a lot graphics. I accept the graphics — it’s the web, right? — but I often go over on the length. I justify my wordiness with the caveat that my audience is pretty much used to reading longer pieces than any blog I’m going to write!
But the purpose of a blog is different, as well. As a long-time teacher of writing, from academic writing to personal essay to poetry to blog, what colours my writing (& writing pedagogy) most is years of journalism. The cardinal rule (which fits in with my rhetoric background nicely!) is: know your audience. It’s one of the main reasons I started this blog, when I was already blogging for a national website. The national website is very nice folks, but 90% of their emphasis is Christian, with a strong lean to the evangelical. That couldn’t be less in line w/ my own leanings. I’m like…I must be the Buddhist Unitarian token…?
So here I am, reaching a fraction of the readers I did elsewhere, and still hopeful numbers will change. I’ll never be a viral commodity (too long! too wordy! too whatever!), but that’s never been why I write, to be ‘famous.’ I just want to offer a map on what is often — at least for me — a pretty dark journey. Especially in these days of polarised politics & hard-hearted demagogues. Writing is one of the few ‘talents’ (cultivated as a skill, let me tell you!) I can offer to ‘the cause’ of compassion, of lovingkindness. Of metta.
Non-Sanskrit speakers mostly translate metta as ‘lovingkindness.’ And that’s how I think of it, certainly. But the infinitely wise Sharon Salzberg, in one of her many disquisitions on metta, notes that it’s really much more than that. It’s connection, love, intimacy. But NOT simply with others. With ourselves, our own lives, as well. For if we can’t love & connect & be grateful for our own happiness, how can we offer that to others? It’s sooo much harder for me to forgive my own fallibility than it is to see the reasons behind the actions of someone I love.
But Salzberg reminds us: each life has the same merit. Hard for me to believe when I compare my own life to that of a leader like the Dalai Lama, or Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Or US Congressman John Lewis, whose angry passion offends some, while it awes me. I look at him as a force of the best of nature: the fire that brings life to the prairie, by destroying the waste that lies before it. I’m definitely not good at seeing us equal lives!
I’m sure this seems a looong way from blogging! But it isn’t. The Archbishop and the Dalai Lama have great gifts. I have only my small one — writing, and a determined voice. So putting it out there is what I do to contribute. Even when I know it’s only a small voice. And even when it means telling folks who are SURE they know…what they don’t know. About blogging. About the different kinds of writing. About media. But NOT about life. 😉