Monday, May 25, 2009

For old school writers, to blog means ...

My fellow blogger and writer Mark Folse who blogs at Toulouse Street, an excellent spot on the web, and who is also on Twitter as Wet Bank Guy, sent me a note that made me laugh. He wrote, "Writing for the blog is writing. Blogging a horrid word. Does anyone Book?"

Mark is wrote the book Carry Me Home.
The collection of short essays in Carry Me Home begins as a lament for what in September 2005 looked to be the lost city of New Orleans. Over the following two-and-one-half years, these brief essays become a lyrical celebration of the city and the people, and a journal of a 20-year expatriate's decision to move home after the flood. Mark Folse is a former journalist who, after a twenty-year remove first to Washington, D.C. and later to the upper Midwest, returned with his family to the city of his birth. He currently resides in the Mid-City neighborhood of New Orleans with his wife Rebecca, and their two children Killian and Matthew. He continues to chronicle his life in the city of New Orleans at his weblog Toulouse Street -- Odd Bits of Life in New Orleans. (from the books product description)
Folse has taken to "blogging" like an alligator to the bayou, and he's right about the oddness of the word "blog" but only because so many people on the Net now have forgotten how the word "blog" evolved. Dinosaur that I am, I was there when the Internet gods said, "In the beginning was the Web Log and the Web Log was Blog."

The web log concept is connected to the brick-and-mortar world practice of keeping a log, an account of say a radio station's or a science experiment's events or incidents, maintenance records, etc. and in verb form the word "log" means "to enter in a log; compile; amass; keep a record of: to log a day's events." Star Trek fans recognize this as "Captain's Log, stardate 1514.0"

With that in mind, the idea that a web log was just some human keeping track of his or her day, in the old days nobody thought a blogger was a writer anymore than they thought the engineer documenting an adjustment he made to editing machine at the TV station was a writer or that a housewife writing in her diary was a writer.

To be a writer you had to be doing something at least a little extraordinary, not just listing what you had for dinner, and these folks keeping web logs were ordinary nobodies doing ordinary things, mostly computer geeks telling others on the Net a little about themselves and how to fix computer bugs, maybe sharing what they did that day, but with the development of applications that made web logging easy, no geekiness required, the telling evolved into how-to-guides, political opinions, fashion advice, music critiques, celebrity gossip, Net poetry, flash fiction online, and all kinds of "experts."

A good example of a group furthering the evolution of the web log would be what we now call "mommy bloggers." Mothers were web logging much more in the traditional sense at first, ordinary moms telling other mothers about their days with their children. But, as it turns out, their daily information was useful to other mothers, and so their blogs grew into communities of mothers talking about their children. This mommy blogger community became monster huge because all humans have mothers, and eventually it gave birth to people like Dooce.

I name Dooce aka Heather Armstrong to poke mommy bloggers (of which I have been considered a member sometimes) because when Armstrong is named as though she's the only successful mommy blogger online, some people get annoyed. There are many other mommy-blogger-to-super-writing-stardom stories. I mentioned some who've gone from blog to hard-print book in a Mother's Day gifts article.

With all this web logging going on, talented writers were bound to emerge, and with people landing book deals talking about anything from adventures with baby to their wild sex lives to actually producing novels via blog, "the professionals" noticed. Book deals attracted to the blogosphere people who think of themselves as "real writers."

By "real" writers I mean people who came to writing through traditional scribe channels such as journalism, English, and MFA programs, who suspected they were born with ink in their veins, who sniffed the morning newspaper and got high. These are the people who were working hard at being writers, getting paid or collecting rejection slips, and telling their families they were writers like to write was a sacred calling back when the tech elite spoke over all our heads about something called Arpanet.

I'm not talking about people who had an epiphany while keeping their web log that they too could be a writer and earn money or who pop up in interviews saying, "I dunno. I just sorta fell into writing, never thought about it before until Editor Bob called me and wanted to put my whole blog in a book." And yet, these Johnny-come-latelies are "real" writers as well.

So, with the mashing of the words web and log to weblog and then that word's minimalization, we got the word "blog" as noun and verb. But only with the evolution of blog power did bloggers and writers frequently become one in the same.

From that history, just as to say one "logs the day" makes sense, to say one "blogs" also makes sense, but only the words in the blogger's posts tell us if we're reading a writer or some cool person's hellish quest for popularity and hipness via web log.

I think Wet Bank Guy--Mark Folse, book author--knows that. He doesn't blog his day. He writes his world.


Blue State Cowgirl said...

Lots of food for thought in both this post and your earlier one. I'm still digesting to see if I can come up with a meaningful comment. But I think you said it better than I could when you pointed out the distinction between a simple blogger and an author is that the latter "writes his world".

Maybe you and Mark should coin a new term for yourselves. Since you are both producers of fine literature, what about FLOGGERS?

Vérité Parlant said...

O.K., Lisa. I'm down here with Roman Catholics so I know a little about Catholic church history. Uh, FLOGGERS means something totally different here. ROFL.

Considering how writers of "fine literature" beat themselves sometimes and their fellow writers about writing for the sake of art, it could work. ;-) But I'm not into punishing myself much. Hehe.

I think I'll tweet that despite yesterday's post, "Is the blogger world, social media revolution ruining your chance of becoming a book author?"


msladydeborah said...

I'm willing to jump into this discussion.

I find that my style of writin on my blog is definitely different than my personal pen to paper writing. I like the instant gratification of a produced piece of written and published work.

My close friends question why I put energy into blogging? My answer is simple-it keeps my brain active and allows me to do some serious research on topics of interest.

Ten years ago I seriously doubt if anyone really considered the impact blogging would have on writing and reading. I cannot imagine writing about my day. I could produce a written piece of work-but I would probably make some serious professional enemies along the way. :-)

I believe that writers are compelled to write. I know that I am constantly tale spinning inside of my head. I carry a journal with me and note things down frequently. I've even written on napkins and the back of flyers.

Mark Folse said...

After a bunch of years in corporate hell I've gotten pretty good at clever acronyms, but I'm struggling with this one. Things like WOB jst aren't cutting it on their own, fall as flat as flogging.

Not all writer are bloggers nor all bloggers writers, but when you are wandering around the Intertubes you know when you find the writers who happen to have blogs (or even primarily write for their blog audience).

I blog as well, but mostly by posting up bits of music and poetry that please me, and sometimes commenting on them. The closest I come to pure blogging are the things I post on Twitter or Facebook.

Thanks for the kind notice.