Barking Kitten

Fiction, musings on literature, food writing, and the occasional Friday cat blog. For lovers of serious literature, cooking, and eating.


Close to forty. Not cool. Politically left. Atheist. Happily married. No kids.

Friday, January 26, 2007

On Sloppiness

I finally have the time to comment properly on Ed's post about writers who blog. His comments link to this blog, wherein the writer notes that blogging has made his writing sloppy.

This accusation is oft levelled at bloggers (though, I should clarify, not by Scott at Slushpile, whose post I linked to above): our speed, nay, our very lack of professional capacity, means we are careless and know little of writing mechanics. Naturally we protest. Many of us are pros, or can at least claim to have some publications to our names. On paper. That we were paid for.

The internet is rife with sloppy writing. So is the print world, not to mention everyday speech. The ugly truth is most Americans are not taught to speak or write correct English, so when they blog, much bad writing ensues.

But the blogosphere mimics the real world in another way: good bloggers rise above the masses. Reading Ed Champion, Darby Dixon, Laila Lalami, Pinky, or the folks posting on Critical Mass (doubtless I am missing countless other excellent writers-who-blog. My apologies to all of you) rapidly dispels notions of sloppiness.

Caveat: I am speaking here of bloggers whose primary concerns are books, reading, and writing. I am not talking about Joe Public, who blogs about hunting, his SUV, or golfing. Joe may not care a whit about his sentences. Or perhaps he does. Brad DeLong blogs about economics. I dare anybody to call him a sloppy writer. See also Kevin Drum.

But back to the writer-as-blogger.

In fifteen years of serious commitment to writing, I have written--and published--fiction, non-fiction, poetry, book reviews, and erotica. In July 2006 I acquired a MacBook and an Airport Extreme. I began blogging. I now have more readers than I ever had in any other medium. Futher, they are returning readers, meaning I must keep my material fresh, entertaining, and sharp. Like many bloggers, I have a full-time job and a household to run. Often I am too tired to blog when I feel I "should." Sometimes I sit down to write anyway, and find myself immersed. Other nights I am indeed too tired. The resulting sentences take up residence in the trash.

I am blessed with a husband whose keen editorial eye allows little room for error. Misspellings, confusing locutions, and flawed logic are all mercilessly dissected. I cannot overstate how much I value his unvarnished opinion, not to mention his tech support.

But I still work hard at blogging. I read across the net. I study other people's layouts, their posting frequency, their comments. In fact, I look at a good blog the way I look at an especially fine novel: what makes it work? Why?

This sort of dedicated study is the ongoing work of the writer, be you Barking Kitten or Philip Roth. Writing is a grueling apprenticeship, no matter your medium. Speed can be the enemy, but plenty of journalists produce amazing work on tight deadlines. For those of us toiling anonymously, the reward lies in our readers, who care enough about our words to keep coming back, and in our increased writing facility.

Yes, increased facility. Blogging has not made my work sloppier: far from it. While my "fiction" voice is far different from my "blogging" voice, both are carefully crafted. The fact that this blog can be accessed by anybody and everybody is never far from my mind. The idea of just tossing off some paragraph in a spare moment is right up there with a midnight joyride through downtown Detroit: ain't gonna happen.

Finally, the impact of blogging on print media is enormous. Inescapable. Those who long held themselves arbiters of taste increasingly find their opinions questioned (hell, savaged) by intelligent people who are tired of being patronized. Readers and writers may now communicate directly, self-publish, post work rejected by the New York Houses, pass along their favorite writers. Are we sloppy? Some of us, sure. Is the old guard scared?

You bet.


Blogger Darby M. Dixon III said...

Flattery will get you everywhere, my hairball-flinging friend!

January 28, 2007 1:35 PM  
Anonymous Jade Park said...

BarkingKitten--this is fascinating! I have been blogging for 10+ years (even though my current anonymous blog is only a few months old). Some days I feel it hurts my creative writing, some other days, I think they're two separate entities.

In the end, I don't really think it matters, at least for me, whether I blog or not, and I don't think blogging "hurts" my writing. Hell, if everything we write is supposed to be a "Masterpiece," then we should stop writing emails.

And stop talking in casual speech, too, while you're at it.

February 02, 2007 1:19 PM  

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