(with deep respect and affection for Derek Shanahan)
A recurring conversation in the blogosphere is the difference between a writer and a blogger. To me, it has always been more about mindset than talent, skill or notoriety. Writers seek themes, they seek truth, they seek to further their craft. Bloggers seek other things, great and incredible things that develop from writing in real time and the spirit of community. One can be both a blogger and a writer, and most of us that keep at it will switch our focus back and forth a few times. Lately, though, I’ve put a great deal more thought into the concept (and consequences) of blogging as a writing medium.
Before I became a blogger, I often remarked that I probably had a book waiting within, but that I didn’t dare write a line until my friends and family all died. A common joke among writers reviled for turning people and situations into characters and plot lines, it tugs at the conflict of what to reveal, and when. So perhaps the difference is that a blogger deals with that conflict in a much more immediate and powerful way than a novelist or a poet.
Derek nails an inalienable truth: we are not what the reader sees. That has everything to do with the one dimensional nature of the page, the perspective of the author, and the reader’s agenda. The reader doesn’t see the space between the writer and the work; readers don’t expect that from novelists or poets or screenwriters. Perhaps the immediacy and accessibility of blogging prevents our immunity.
It can be problematic from either side; strangers assume a familiarity or an intimacy because they’ve read you, familiars and intimates are prone to misinterpretation, assumptions and offense or at the very least, defensiveness. When writing becomes your outlet for emotional processing and you’re in the throes of something heavy, remaining silent or trying to elevate the personal entirely into the universal can feel like a slow strangling. Bleeding on the page can come with a direct cost. Hemingway never had these problems.
Bloggers are absolutely very real. We are real human beings with all the thoughts and feelings and secrets and struggles and problems. The idea that we can be completely and utterly authentic, transparent, objective and representative through a collection of personal essays is a little like expecting one to move cross country in a little red wagon. There just isn’t enough time and space.
We write to understand, we share to be understood. The community that germinated to support this mutuality is rich and rewarding; a seedling bed for fruitful relationships and experiences beyond the screen.
The balance between marketing and authenticity, storytelling and weapon-wielding, revealing truth and exposing others: this is a delicate dance that every blogger must choreograph in their own time and rhythm. When expectations or tensions swell, we are much better served as writers and readers when we remember that the blogger is made real by what lays beyond the page.