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Writing And Blogging: Not Necessarily The Same Thing

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I don’t think I became aware of personal weblogs (blogs) until sometime in March of 2005. I had heard of their existence before that time, but had lumped them into the same category as chat rooms and pointless discussion forums: places people who had no lives or social skills went to make themselves feel self-important.

Anytime I would read something about the power of the blogs, or the rise in their influence, I would just dismiss it as so much self-promotion by people who either ran blog-sites or were computer geeks. It was almost by accident that I discovered I had very nearly dismissed out of hand the exact facility I had been in search of for months.

I had been visiting Ashok Banker’s web site after reading the first three books of his retelling of The Ramayana when I discovered he had a blog. Curious, I decided to investigate and discovered the amazing potentials they offered.

Ashok had published everything from short story excerpts to reviews and interviews at his site. It was like having your own personal newspaper column where you could publish any article on any subject that you wished. My own snobbery had blinded me to the fact that a medium was only as limited a you allowed it to be; a blog could be anything you wanted, not just “Dear Diary” entries.

At that time I had written a few short op-ed pieces and had been trying to sell them through an online self-publishing house, with little or no luck (I had sold four copies of a review of a book by Viggo Mortensen, based more on his popularity than the quality of the review). The opportunity to actually have a facility that allowed me direct access to the whole web was just too wonderful to pass up.

Of course this was followed by a crash course in trying to figure out how to actually get people to read what I was writing. After a couple of months of trying a variety of things which resulted in very little real readership, (someone opening a page and closing it a tenth of a second latter doesn’t count as a reader), I found Blogcritics.org.

I have previously written about the positive affect my association with this site has had upon my skills and confidence as a writer, so there is no need to detail that here. However there are other reasons for me to be grateful for falling in amongst this sinister cabal of writers, critics, and reviewers aside from the development of my skill set.

The Internet is full of blogs. Do a Google search on almost any subject and you’re bound to turn up a blog reference to it no matter how obscure the topic. In fact the more obscure the more likely you are to find blogs that have written on it.

There seems to be a delight in the arcane and esoteric amongst blogers. It’s almost as if they are desperate to make themselves appear more interesting than anyone else. It’s like a need to justify their existence. There’s also the convenience of there being less risk of being challenged on your information if you write on a subject few know anything about.

In my initial exposure to blogs, prior to my association with Blogcritics.org, so many of them lived down to my expectations. Pages and pages of shopping trips, parties, recipes, people complaining about boy/girl friends, whining about the boss, and all sorts of other personal issues. What boggled my mind was the numbers of people, judging by the comments on the pages, who would not only read this stuff, but be interested enough to leave commentary.

I have had my struggles with writing. I have a form of dyslexia that causes me to either invert letters in a word’s spelling (dworn instead of drown for instance), wreak havoc with my sentence structure, and just generally turn everything inside out and sideways. (Wixing my mords is one of the classics) Therefore I try not to be judgemental when it comes to things like spelling and grammar.

Perhaps the reason I get so upset with people who write page after page of an article in the Internet’s version of George Orwell’s “Newspeak” from the novel Ninteen Eighty-Four is because of the amount of work it takes me to correctly form a sentence. Seeing “u r” instead of “you are,” and all the other cute little solecisms that are in regular use, comes across as unacceptable laziness.

I can understand its usage, to a point, in places like instant messaging programs and chat rooms. But when you’re presenting an argument that you want people to take seriously, to my eyes it only ends up trivialising both the subject matter and the writer. Lazy writing gives the impression of lazy thinking, neither of which is conducive to inspiring respect or implying the writer possesses the authority necessary for an argument to have any strength.

Another less than redeeming feature of so many blogers is their overblown sense of self-importance. Somehow or other they seem to have formed the impression that they are having an impact on society and that people care what they have to say. The number of guys who used to wear robes and stand on street corners with signs reading “The End Is Nigh” who now have blogs is astounding.

From every direction on the political and religious compass they have come running like ants to a picnic. Flag-wavers, flag-burners, pro-choice, pro-life, anti-this, and for-that. It doesn’t seem to matter what they stand for, all their blogs have used the same template: me good, you bad.

The fact that pages and pages of these types of blogs exist is what leads to so-called legitimate journalists calling in to question all writing on the Internet. They claim that because of these examples none of the writing online is of any worth. Arguments like that are just as spurious as the ones found in the blogs they cite!

As more and more mainstream news services maintain an online presence they are encouraging their columnists to establish web-logs that run as part and parcel of the web site. They have recognised the need for a more populist and personal approach to the issues of the day. I’m sure there are those who would call it jumping on the bandwagon, but in reality it’s an acceptance of a new means of expression.

What it also means is that there will develop more and more of a distinction between writers and bloggers. Up until now everybody has been lumped into the same category. A well-researched article on a new act before parliament and a recounting of a shopping trip were of equal importance.

What has begun to happen is a more discerning audience is being developed. With major media outlets utilizing blogs, and Internet players like Google and Yahoo demanding more and more refinement as a prerequisite for inclusion on their “News” sites, quality is beginning to rise to the top.

As this happens, readers are not going to accept the haphazard offerings of the past. The market will reward the skilled and the interesting with exposure to a wider audience. It will no longer be enough just to publish in order to garner attention; you will be expected to write coherently and with intelligence on your subject matter.

Blogs along the lines of personal diaries and diatribes will still be written; there will always be an audience for the puerile. The difference is that soon their influence will wane to the point that they will only exist as curiosities and nothing more.

It is a very exciting time to be a writer in the blogsphere as the move is being made to separate those who write with care and respect for their medium from those who see it as a chance for self-promotion of the worst kind. Being a blogger and being a writer is not necessarily the same thing, and it’s nice to see that distinction finally being realized.

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About Richard Marcus

Richard Marcus is the author of two books commissioned by Ulysses Press, "What Will Happen In Eragon IV?" (2009) and "The Unofficial Heroes Of Olympus Companion". Aside from Blogcritics his work has appeared around the world in publications like the German edition of Rolling Stone Magazine and the multilingual web site Qantara.de. He has been writing for Blogcritics.org since 2005 and has published around 1900 articles at the site.
  • A few points where I need to differ with a generally good article–

    “What has begun to happen is a more discerning audience is being developed…” Actually, this has been going on for some time. I’ve been reading and writing blogs for several years, so my perspective is a bit longer than yours.

    “Blogs along the lines of personal diaries and diatribes will still be written; there will always be an audience for the puerile. The difference is that soon their influence will wane to the point that they will only exist as curiosities and nothing more.” I’d seriously question whether they have any real influence now or have ever. I’ve seen blogs that have gone on for years with no feedback, which is a pretty good indication that people write for their own reasons, which may have nothing to do with influencing others or even with being read.

    “There seems to be a delight in the arcane and esoteric amongst blogers. It’s almost as if they are desperate to make themselves appear more interesting than anyone else. It’s like a need to justify their existence. There’s also the convenience of there being less risk of being challenged on your information if you write on a subject few know anything about.” How about considering, just for a wee moment, that some of these bloggers do actually know what they’re talking about and are writing to share something that they’re passionate about? The more esoteric a subject, the less likely is it that you can get it published in the usual media. The web allows us to write about, and to learn about, subjects that may have a narrow audience, but one which might conceivably grow larger with the proper exposure.

    I enjoy your articles, but do wish you would be more careful about making sweeping generalizations, particularly in areas in which, by your own admission, you’re a comparative newcomer.

  • Gypsy,

    Another enjoyable post! I think you’re right, and the cream of the crop (as far as I’m concerned) can be found on Blogcritcs. I consistently read fine pieces here on a variety of topics. I am honored to be a part of Blogcritics.

  • Another beautifully written piece gman, loving reading your work lately. Oh, minus five points for your one spelling mistake. lol

  • I think that in the writing community the litblogs are generally quite professional.
    We all (or most of us) are trying to get attention for a book or our writing but we share info about the industry, the market and fellow writers and publications. I for one have found it to be a very informative and rewarding experience. I listed Blogcritics as one of my favorite blogs for 2005 and it is posts like yours that keep me coming back. Regards Steve

  • Lillian

    I am not a “superior blogger”. I do write stories and poetry. I do take photographs and create art. I do keep an online journal. I have made friends and have found supportive communities in which to develop my writing skills and share my creative works. Something I could never do as a regular person on a site like this.

    It is my hope that those of us with humble dreams may share the Internet without being summarily dismissed as somehow lacking character or creative integrity, that we do nothing but complain about relationships and talk about shopping trips. I find it interesting that some of my best story ideas have come out of those everyday experiences and talking it out with my blogmates. I suppose that never happens to “superior” bloggers.

    It is equally interesting that Blogcritics will admonish those responding to posts against making personal attacks, but find it quite acceptable to allow publication of a post condemning entire communities of people with a prejudice I personally find insulting.

    It is unsettling, too, that all of your fellow superior bloggers thus far have no misgivings about sending this mixed message and, indeed, applaud you for your efforts.

    Perhaps this is why people flee to blogs where they can be themselves rather than “superiors”.

  • Lillian, I’n not sure I’ve got your point. The BlogCritics (it’s staggeringly easy to become one you know, they even let me in) were described as a “superior cabal”, not set themselves up that way. I think most of us view it as funny more than anything.

    My understanding is that people quite naturally write about whatever they want on their personal blogs. Here on BC the writing standards are just a tiny bit different, mostly in terms of basic stuff like formatting and, of course, a stricter line on the correct use of language.

    Your opening remarks, about not finding a “supportive community” here, seem totally at odds with my experience. If you read gypsyman’s excellent article, and his earlier work, I think you’ll find that through his own hard work and determination, he has become a far better writer and can express himself with greater precision and clarity. I suspect you may have misunderstood what he was trying to say.

    I can only tell you that the people behind the scenes at BC are as varied a bunch of folk you’ll ever meet and have been incredibly tolerant of and welcoming to me. As an example, when first stumbling onto the site one of my first ever comments here was an explicit threat to cross the Atlantic Ocean and physically fight one of the editors, which very nearly got me banned on my first visit. And they gave me a “job”!

    We maintain this site in our “spare” time, which seems to involve all of us, who have mostly never met, working insane hours. I myself am in Europe and haven’t been to bed before 5 am for days. And I have a day job…

    BC also has a member of the all volunteer team who specifically helps writers to improve their work, a writer’s school if you like.

    My “job” here is Comments Editor, which means I have to try to keep the comment space just this side of drunk and disorderly. We have the “no personal attacks” guideline in an attempt to keep the comment space loosely coherent and avoid childish name-calling and “ad hominem” attacks, which do nothing to move the debate along.

    That is quite clearly a different task to the writing of the posts themselves. The posts, reviews, news stories, interviews or opinion pieces, such as gypsyman’s above, are just what they are, uncensored (except for illegal stuff like libel or whatever, obviously) and freely written to reflect the hugely diverse range of views held by over 1,200 bloggers.

    I think you’ve possibly misunderstood gypsyman’s post here and can only suggest that you read it, and the rest of his writing, a little more carefully.

    Finally, I don’t quite see what you mean about people fleeing “to blogs where they can be themselves”. I would have thought it far easier to maintain delusions of superiority in a personal blog than in a broad community like this. Everyone here, from the bosses on down, is under constant scrutiny and review, in public, all the time and we are all on the site a lot to respond to people like yourself directly.

    You’re welcome to join in the fun if you want. Just follow the link “Become A BlogCritic” at the top of any page to see how easy that is, then you can make informed comments about the setup here, rather than leaping to false conclusions…

  • Lillian

    Thank you for providing me with a general understanding of the makeup of this site and its members. I certainly have been put in my proper place now, haven’t I?

    Then I completely misinterpreted “A sinister cabal of superior bloggers on music, books, film, popular culture, technology, and politics.”? At the risk of appearing ad hominem I apologize for this misunderstanding. As a point of clarification then, is Blogcritic a superior sinister cabal of bloggers or a sinister superior cabal of bloggers? Or is it just funny more than anything?

    Hey, I’m just kidding. See, I’m already reaching out to the community here.

    It appears my opinions clearly have no merit here. Oops, I’m being ad hominem again, aren’t I? Darn it! I’ll work on eliminating that bothersome habit.

    In all earnestness though, I will take you up on your invitation to explore the website. As for joining you, I don’t think so, not yet. First, I need to see for myself if Blogcritic is, in fact, a superior sinister cabal or a sinister superior cabal or just funny more than anything. I’ve visited sites that claimed to be superior (Blogcritic’s word to describe their membership, not mine) and offered a supportive community and failed to offer much of anything.

    And I’m taking up precious bandwidth prattling on about an off-topic subject. My apologies. I realize that’s not a complete sentence. I hope you won’t hold that against me.

    This has been a wholly intriguing experience. And I thank you.

  • No worries Lillian. As I said, we don’t think we’re superior, I don’t know where it came from originally but I guess it’s just a slick soundbite than a presumption that we’re better than anyone else. You know what they say about opinions and arseholes, right?

    As far as I can tell, the BlogCritics folk seem to be your typical cross-section of the gifted and deranged, drunk or drugged up, religious or secular, sane or senseless, angry or happy, cynical or romantic, dogmatic or clueless of society as most anywhere else in the world. Except more tired. We’re just doing it all in public!

    You use up all the bandwidth you want on here, Lillian, it’s just as much your space as ours. I’m already looking forward to seeing your blog, when/if you feel comfortable to put it in that little URL window…

  • Shark

    Lillian, perhaps this can help; it’s a test given to all potential Blogcritics members.

    Take it and let us know how you did.

    Shark (resident superior asshole)

    Are You a Blogcritic? Take the Test

  • Lillian

    All I talk about is the everyday stuff like work, family, movies I’ve seen, music that I like, my art, my writing. The highlight of my entry yesterday was what I had for dinner. Which I described as “YUM!”. Looking over the list of recent posts on the homepage here I don’t think that “YUM!” qualifies as newsworthy.

    Thank you, Shark, for the invitation to take your test. It is quite humorous, but I’m afraid I fall into the none-of-the-above category on this one.

    I have to wonder now if I’m really a blogger at all. I keep an online diary, nothing more. And I actually do fall under the category of those blogs that Gypsyman found tiresome during his initiation into the world of blogs, and in his search for an online home as a writer.

    This is not ad hominem. It’s the simple truth.

    So, while Oz may be a wonderous place to visit it’s time for this Dorothy to click her heels together and go home.

  • Don’t forget Toto!

  • Lillian

    Paich, Lukather, Kimball, Hungate, Steve and Jeff Porcaro! C’mon, boys! In the car! Let’s go! And the little dog, too.

  • Shark

    Lillian: “…The highlight of my entry yesterday was what I had for dinner. Which I described as…”

    [Family Feud buzzer goes off — amplified to 10,000 ear-shattering decibels… followed by the sound of half a dozen BC editors tapping away at keyboards trying to ban her IP…]

  • Lillian

    Yeah, like a bad penny.

    I visited Gypsyman’s blog and read three or four of his posts and found them quite thoughtful and enlightening.

    So, Gypsyman, I apogize for my knee-jerk reaction to this article. And I am sorry for taking up the community’s space and time so frivolously.

    It may interest you to know, Gypsyman, that I had bookmarked your page some months ago. It was related to a post about Viggo Mortensen. And I thought enough about what you had to say to bookmark it. I had planned to return to your blog to read more. Unfortunately time and circumstances did not allow it, and the bookmark was lost when I bought and set up a new computer.

    I didn’t make the connection until I was redirected to your site.

    So, ban me, if you must. I just wanted to say I’m sorry. And this time I won’t lose the bookmark.

  • Please do not go away – there is much fine reading here – and no one gets banned – well, almost no one – only obstreperous obnoxious types – one in a million

    If you click on most people’s names (mine included) you will find a link to their home pages – a blog is any form of personal page which may be a journal, an essay scrip, or a palimpsest.

  • uao


    Just to drop a few ideas your way…

    If you’re interested in blogging, but aren’t a “news” type, there are plenty of other good niches.

    The trick is, think what you feel passionate about (a hobby, a pastime, what you see on television or hear on the radio, history, rocket science, gerbil breeding, whatever turns you on)

    Then think: what have I noticed about this that might be both interesting to someone who shares the interest, and something they might not have otherwise known.

    “News” blogs hog all the attention in the blogosphere, even though 90% of them are junk.

    When I first got into blogging, I didn’t know what to write about, so I started 10 blogs, until I found the one that kept my interest and seemed interesting to the vast unknown out there.

    Then, I stuck to that niche. I used to try to post daily, but realized that wasn’t necessary if I put care into the writing. I try to keep a relaxed, two posts a week pace.

    Very seldom does the real world news creep into the articles, which I keep on-topic.

    I think there are a whole lot of talented writers, and interesting people, and bloggers who would get more recognition if they devoted their blogs to a niche topic.

    I’ve seen some great blogs on: Civil War photography; Jazz records; regional fiction writing, cooking, the bar scene, beer, architecture, yoga, firearms, antiques, 60’s sitcoms, rumor debunking, goofy internet sites, comic books, gardening, eating at humburger joints, etc…

    I think a blogger who puts care into a blog devoted to a single theme will quickly find there are thousands of potential niches currently vacant in the blogosphere and hundreds that are underpopulated.

    A blogger who puts care and effort into a favorite topic is probably more likely to be noticed and find repeat visitors.

    Which is exactly the kind of articles that Blogcritics benefit from.

    So blogging needn’t be about the news; however, just so Shark doesn’t think I’m a softy, the “what I ate” blogs really are useless, unless the writer is a genius.

    Find your niche; the Blogcritics gang are really great people. And when you work from a niche, it enables you to keep learning and improving on your subject, which makes it more fun.

    Anyway, some ideas…

    PS the Toto joke was funny. 😉

  • Currently I have a terrifying total of six active blogs in a total of three languages, one of which I don’t even speak! One of them was done to help me lose weight and consists of nothing more than all I eat each day. It’s called All I Ate Today and is slightly less interesting than the title. I have lost over 10 kilos in weight so far though!

  • uao

    If it works it works, congrats on the results, Christopher.

    I’m glad you mentioned that because I also wanted to add that there’s nothing wrong with an online diary, a rant page, or a weightloss chronicle.

    You don’t have to write for other people. It’s also a good way to organize thoughts, let off steam, and other useful personal things.

    But I’d keep that on one blog, my niche on the other, and never would the twain meet.

  • Gypsyman, Wonderful and wonderfully written article. You are almost completely correct with possible one small miss. I would suggest that the distinction is not between “bloggers” and “writers.” Every “blogger” does “write.” But not all “bloggers” “write well.”

    Good writers who blog are still bloggers.

    Bad writers who blog are still bloggers, too. It’s just that they don’t know how to write good. lol

    In any case, you are right in saying that the cream does rise to the top. Not every good writer who blogs is going to get the readership of a Michelle Malkin or a Captain Ed. Sometimes the personal satisfaction in articulating information, or an idea, or a creative inspiration or a simple observation well is its own reward . . . Whether anyone else reads it or not!

    In any case, keep writing and keep blogging whether you “rise to the top” or not. Sometimes cream is, by homogenization, mixed in and indistinguishible from the rest of the milk. Yet it remains cream nonetheless and keeps the rest of the world from tasting like skim milk.

  • Great piece and excellent discussion. Bookmarking this one to come back and read again later.

  • OK, I try to be sweet and nice on this site as much as possible (lol), but I’m in a bitchy mood so let me put this as delicately as I can.

    I think if someone is a good writer and is on a site that welcomes comments, and particularly if they get a lot of compliments, it would not be a bad idea to acknowlege them unless they truly revel in the idea of being a true elitist. For those who wish to find an audience, I think that audience deserves some recognition and regard. That’s one of the great things about blogging to me–the chance for reader and writer to interact. If one won’t acknowlege one’s own readership, why would one expect others to make the effort to buy and read one’s books?

  • Lillian,
    I wasn’t insulted by anything you said all those months ago,I’m just sorry that I never got back to you after reading this disscussion. January was a busy time for me as I was a) trying to finish a first draft of a novel and b) trying to convince myself that I was capable of finishing said first draft.

    So all I would do was post and ignore, post and ignore. That’s still basicly what I do, because I’ve tried to say what I mean to say as clearly as possible, and I don’t like confrontations which decend into name calling. When I get a glimpse of something negative in my in box I’ll just usually say, right I’m staying away from that for now.

    Elvira, was that last comment to me? If it was does that help. Some of my posts seem to rile up people who just want to slag, and I just feel it’s better to let them say there piece and ignore them. Otherwise they keep going on and on, and never shut up.

    Arguing with them doesn’t help, because they’re not going to change their minds, and it will just end up wasting a lot of energy that I could have put to better use, like answereing legitimate questions from you or Lillian, or writing a post, or working on my book.


  • Oh yeah, there are still 2 spelling mistakes in this piece, gypsyman. One is when you used the word “judg[e]mental” and you also wrote the classic “bloger”.

    It is an unwritten law that whenever somebody points out someone else’s spelling or grammatical mistakes they too make on.


  • I don’t know if you’re judging blogers or trying to figure out what a writer is.
    I see you have put a considerable amount of thought into this, to the point where you sound arrogant.
    I’m not trying to insult you, but it seems to me that’s what you are doing to millions of blogers.
    Insulting their lives because they choose to put it down on a medium.
    BTW these are the same people you will be begging to buy your book.
    A writer is someone who puts thoughts down on paper or what ever he could find, for a multitude of purposes.
    A blog is a diary put together by a person to either remember something or to share events with people who wish to read it.
    One of the best selling blogs in the world was the Diary of Anne Frank.
    Or do you not conceder Anne Frank a writer.
    She wrote in a book, blogers write online but it’s the same principal with a larger potential audience.
    You sound very narrow minded, which makes me wonder if you actually read peoples blogs or just form opinions on what you believe.
    I have read thousands of blogs and many of these people have amazing writing skills.
    Some are brilliant.
    Many of these people write about the real thing, as it was or is.
    They don’t have to sit down and research material; they are the material they just feel the emotions of their experiences and put it down.
    Some of the greatest writers in history did just that.
    Mark Twain used pieces of his life to create classics.
    Do you believe these people pose a threat to your being a writer or stopping you from publishing a book, because I could tell you now, they don’t care about your book.
    They write for themselves and are not looking to gain anything from no one.
    If they do get people reading them, bonus.
    I am a Bloger and I never considered myself a writer until I read this, but now you have changed my opinion.
    I write in word and post on Blogger.
    The second I hit publish, I am a published writer.
    If you read what I wrote as you are now.
    I am a successful writer and thank you for reading me.
    I have 8000 comments from many people from all over the world in the last 11 months and for me, that’s all the payment I need.
    I have a journal right now as I write this traveling throughout this earth to ordinary people where the only purpose is to write a post on paper for others to hold and read.
    Those people are writers, every single one of them, and they are being read right now.
    These people pour their souls on their blogs for people to judge.
    They are true writers in my book, they take the real chances.

    Good Luck on you book.
    But if it flops, you could always blog about it.

  • G-man, you (accidentally on purpose?) totally missed my point.

    I and others who enjoy your pieces have consistently written positive comments which you seem to routinely ignore. It is ironic that the only one of mine you responded to, as far as I know, was a “critical” one. So it seems that negative comments (at least on this and one of your other more recent posts) are getting “rewarded” while positive commenters are getting “punished.”

    Well, in any case, the latest flurry of comments has put this piece back on the hot topics board–another reason I think it’s sensible not to “post and ignore”–particularly since aspiring novelists seem to wonder why a busy agent or publisher would “ignore” the innumerable tomes on their slushpile. No one likes to be ignored, and as a writer, I think readers are to be treasured as a writer’s bread and butter. A book may get published one way or the other, but if it has no readers it will die. You have readers right here and right now, g-man. Why ignore them all?

  • Well, I must confess that I was rather enjoying Lillian’s stance, but then she seemed to opt for some kind of (at least partial) retraction. That’s sad, as I beieve what she was saying had a great deal of merit, and the points were being made with passion. The world’s a better place for passion.

    I unashamedly post the URL to my blog here. Am I a writer? Of course I am – by virtue of the fact that I write. Am I a good writer? Some may think so, other’s no doubt won’t. Frankly, as I don’t write for commercial gain, I don’t give a flying you-know-what, but even as a hobbyist I know that the proper thing to do is to show respect for others who choose to expose themselves to scrutiny in such a public domain.

    I also think that to ignore those who invest their time and emotions in commenting is undoubtedly rude, and/or arrogant. It’s also a pretty poor piece of PR for an aspiring author.