The Writing Circus

A friend of mine was feeling dejected at her writing group earlier this week. Like me, she’s been blogging for few years now and has derived some sort of pleasure from cranking out, on a regular basis, a short piece that the online world can enjoy. She tells me at her writing group, she feels like a second-class citizen because the others “keep hoping to catch up” on her blog but never seem to. She feels that, as a blogger, she’s a second-class writing citizen because her aspirations to write a novel or pen poetry have been put on hold for this less-than-artisan form.

Her comments caused me to defend this form of writing (which I happen to love) from the Church Ladies of the writing scene. I could almost hear them staring down their noses at my blog and exclaiming, “Well… Isn’t that just special?”

The following thoughts are rapid-fire, ones I’ve pulled from the text messages I was writing, and maybe elaborated on, just a bit.

Is it necessarily bad to be pigeonholed as a blogger? Does it hurt my credibility as a writer? Is blogging necessarily not-good writing? It seems to me that it’s just a different skillset.

Some folks think that blog writing is considered a bit dilettante, like online journals  To this crowd, it’s definitely not the same as writing poetry or stories. It’s not “serious.” It’s brief and squishy. Newspapers have more to offer because, when you’re done with a newspaper you can wrap fish in it.

Yet that’s bullshiat in my opinion. Blogging is different, not worse.  I compared it to people who say that if you don’t bow your head, close your eyes, and fold your hands while you pray, you’re somehow doing it wrong. It’s not wrong. It’s just a level of comfort. I’m tall. I don’t like to bow my head. It’s a long way down to the floor; besides, folding my hands makes my knuckles ache. I also don’t close my eyes because how ELSE am I going to see who’s raising their hands for the sins in their life, during the altar call? (I’m saying this only slightly with my tongue in cheek). Similarly, I don’t feel comfortable writing extended pieces. Yet. My strength is in spontaneity and brevity.

Is blogging self-indulgent? Maybe. But all writing, and particularly poetry, is self-indulgent these days. I write poetry on occasion. I have friends who do the same. I have favorite poets who write great works of poetry. but on the whole, poetry gives a freedom of expression that can lead to self-indulgence.

So, yeah, maybe blogging is a redheaded stepchild of real writing, I don’t care all that much. If I write a 500-word post 200 times a year, that’s 100,000 words–the same as a 300-page paperback novel. Having short, consise statements and thoughts in a journal-style post is just a different skillset than sustaining narrative over the course of a few hundred pages. It’s not better or worse; just different.

Writing a novel is like juggling six balls in the air for an hour. You gotta keep em going. They weave in and out, amazing the crowd. Don’t drop a ball, and your audience will applaud you. Or maybe it’s like sticking your head inside the mouth of a lion and then leaving it there. While the audience sits silently, waiting for the moment when the animal decides you’re soft as a chocolate bar, with a crispy center.

We bloggers are the sword swallowers of the writing world.  We’re given one tool. If we do our job very well, it’s an awesome experience. But it’s brief, quick and you have no second chances. Also it’s as flashy as hell. But if you tend to your craft badly, you skewer your insides and die.

Or maybe to some, we’re just a Volkswagen full of clowns, spraying the pants of our audience with seltzer and frightening the children with garish face paint and giant floppy shoes.

Poetry is often like watching a trapeze artist.  The writer swings and sways, flips and turns,  and the audience is amazed by the artistry. Or sometimes, it’s a bit more like paying a quarter to catch a glimpse of the naked bearded lady behind glass to see if she’s really got the girl-parts.

We offer different skills, but we’re all in the circus together.

So, which am I? Why do I blog? Very early in my writing career, I posted an answer. I think my reasons have changed. I write because the craft makes me happy. I write because it makes my audience happy. I write because, frankly, I like the applause.

But mostly, I write because sometimes I’ve got something to say and I need someone to share it with.

Enough clowning around at the writing circus. Talk to you all soon. Be well, and I hope you enjoy my second blog of the day.

3 thoughts on “The Writing Circus”

  1. Hey Brian, Just a thought, but it seems to me that the biggest difference between blogging and most other forms of publishing is peer-review. Anybody with the web space can put up a blog (although they might not attract a fan-base), but a published writer goes through several layers of peer-review before his writing is available to the public. It just means that as a source, a blog isn’t as credible as a journal or magazine.


    1. Hi Elo– thanks for the comment!

      This is possible, but it also isn’t my point. I’m not talking about the validity of content, but the quality of the writing as a craft. I’ve read phenomenal bloggers and read crappy newspaper articles. Conversely, I’ve seen exactly the opposite way too often. Outside academia and the research worlds, peer reviewing is pretty meaningless anyhow. If anyone receives intense scrutiny, it’s a blogger.

      Hope you’re doing well! Haven’t seen you in awhile!


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