On Monday's post about the 1000th Time Goes By blog entry, lilalia of Yum Yum Cafe asked what has changed in my writing and thinking since post No. 1. An interesting question to contemplate, so here goes:
Although I have believed for as long as I can remember that "The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair", it has never been proved more true for me than on this blog.
When I began Time Goes By, I had spent a lifetime writing in other peoples' voices for television. It doesn't take long to get the hang of the rhythm and cadence of program hosts and correspondents, but as a result of all those years, I had no idea what my own writing voice is.
As I slowly discovered it over the first few months, writing what I meant to say got easier and especially so as I adapted some television techniques to print. Among other challenges, almost always in television, one must shorten the copy to meet time limits which usually means dropping adjectives. Sometimes it was necessary to find synonyms with fewer syllables to shave a second or two off a voice-over to fit the video.
In applying those techniques - omitting unnecessary adjectives, figures of speech, excessive verbiage we use in speech - my writing got sharper, more focused and clearer.
And clarity, for psychological reasons I understand but are too boring to explain, is usually at the top of my list of reading and writing needs which has led me to write more slowly than in the past. I think for much longer now - sometimes days - about what I mean to say, about what I believe before I hit the keyboard.
Often I am inspired to write a blog post from a visceral reaction to newspaper story, a comment (as this one), another blogger's post, something I heard or saw on television. It is easy to say I liked it or hated it, but unless I can winnow out the reason and add some value, it is not fodder for the blog.
So although my writing is better than when I started Time Goes By, more important is that I think more deeply, thoroughly and clearly than I did before. E.M. Forster said about his writing, "How do I know what I think until I see what I say." Me too, and so I often start writing a blog post without knowing where it is going or what the conclusion will be. This leads to dumping some that turn out to have no focus, or setting them aside - sometimes for months on end - until "I know what I think."
There have been unexpected developments over three-plus years and 1000 posts. My original intention was to write about what I had learned researching aging for nearly a decade and to explore further what getting old is really like. What I didn't anticipate is that I would become such a fierce advocate for elders. And I didn't see it happening until it was long established on Time Goes By.
I also did not anticipate the community that develops around blogs and blogging for everyone but especially, I think, for elders. Before I began, I read or briefly dipped into hundreds of blogs over several years, first to suss out what this new phenomenon was (when only a few techies were doing it) and then to get a feel for what it was becoming. Either the strength of community was not yet evident then or I stupidly didn't notice it. But it cannot be missed nowadays.
We are friends, real friends, we bloggers who gather in the same online places. That we can come to know one another as well as in-person friends is proved with every blogger I meet. When Claude of Blogging in Paris visited here last fall, it was as though we were old friends who just had not seen one another in awhile. It was thus also with Frank Paynter of listics, Tamar of Mining Nuggets, Steve Garfield of Off on a Tangent, Tish Grier of The Constant Observer, others I have met and no doubt any I will meet in the future.
No one can blog for long on a regular schedule without revealing who they are - their values, beliefs, sense of humor, interests, likes, dislikes, passions, all the things that make us who we are. In a sense, we "meet" far more often blogging that we do with our in-person friends whom we might see once a week for lunch or the occasional celebration. And by "meeting" so frequently, becoming familiar with our personal voices, we become friends. In a profile published in the current New York magazine, editor Tina Brown says:
"Blogging isn't a particularly good training for writing. There's too much voice, in a way."
She is wrong and for the very reason she gives. No one can help but become a better writer by doing it every day, and in addition to our blogs being "little First Amendment machines", they are also little op-ed columns where our personal voices shine through the facts of what we are writing about. When we do that well, it is not hard to discern fact from opinion and there is great value in having so many more points of view to consider than only those of the anointed few who write columns in newspapers.
So that, lilalia, is some of what I have learned in 1000 blog posts - from the micro to the macro. What about the rest of you. What has changed in your writing and thinking while you have been blogging?
[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Darlene Costner explains how she, a newly-married city person, wound up herding heifers on a Colorado ranch in The Wild Ride.]