The blogosphere as it currently exists is that infinite warehouse of proverbial monkeys tapping on typewriters until Shakespeare randomly coalesces on page like a chaos fractal. In this scenario, art happens by accident, not design.

Blogging proper is to dash off thoughts quickly, the fingers matching thought-speed and perhaps exceeding critical faculty. Instinct supersedes careful thinking, with mixed results.
One of those results is the willful confusion of public-versus-private registers. In places like Iran or China, such confusion can be revolutionary. In the west, it’s just another toxic luxury. But that’s a topic for some other blog post.
Another result is product – shot out on electric impulse and juiced by every laptop flipping open – that looks and even feels like writing. But it’s not.
Blogging is not writing. In gastric metaphor, it’s more like e-farting. Except without a smell, which is what makes farting a bit more authentic by contrast.
So what’s writing, then? I can answer that with the fundamentals of what I teach – and what I teach comes directly from what I’ve learned as a journalist, writer of poetry, and essayist. (In other words, these ideas do NOT come from some teaching theory I studied or read in a book.)
Writing is
1. re-writing
2. working with a teacher/editor
3. communicating to a general audience
Students are always surprised when I tell them that writing is NOT dashing something off and then turning it in. Real writers pore over every single word multiple times and go through drafts like so much two-ply in an extended toilet session. Writing is revising. Writing is an act of expansion, and this can be dangerous because it just might produce something you didn’t think of or didn’t want to be reminded of.
OK, so someone might now think of Jack Kerouac, arguing that true writing is keeping to one’s own authentic voice without censorship or emendation. On the opposite end would be William Burroughs’s Naked Lunch, a novel of vigorous editorial work. In the real world, where most Jacks and Bills toil, we are all somewhere in between. In other words, we all have to do a mix of authentic expression AND panning for gold – putting genuine stuff on page while moving it around to match the most wondrous gems you still have locked up in your mind.
True writing is also working with a teacher or editor. That’s really the ONLY way to improve as a writer, to have someone collaborate with you as a kind of coach. In the real world, I never put one past the goalie on page without working heavily with an editor. And to tell the truth, that’s really how I’ve made any progress at all. Bad editors have always left me feeling like I wasted my time, even if I got paid and published. Good editors made me feel like I was doing something worthwhile, and getting really good feedback for free!
Self-publishing, blogging solo, or pushing out endless screeds without some sort of crafting – by contrast – is like playing with Lego. You might end up with some interesting looking castles and skyscrapers, but nothing will be truly original or shine beyond the sheen of brittle plastic.
Writing, finally, is communicating to a general audience. One you do NOT know. One you never anticipated. One that surprises and often fills you with anxiety. Who are these people? That’s what you should be asking of all who read you. Writing, thus, is a surprise, a gift, the unexpected visitor whose presence is welcome but whose little habits might be somewhat annoying.
If you’re writing just for your buddies, you’re not getting much in the bargain.
Possible refutation: The instant feedback of blogging, from potentially limitless audience, acts as a balance to self-indulgent e-publishing. MAYBE. But not likely. Blogging’s comment button – a welcome piece of druggish indulgence for anyone who wants to be a writer – is more like a cheering section than a reality check.
And I remember Nelson Algren’s comment, that “writing is not a social hour,” or some such. Maybe he said it’s NOT happy hour. That would make sense. Writing of any value happens in a very lonely, private, and unheralded place.
And if it ever sees the light of day, it becomes something else altogether in the eye of the reader. Something you have entirely no control of, up to and including the very name you typed at the top of the work to claim as your own.

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