After a brief hiatus from blogging, I think a good way to get back into the swing of things might be again asking “why I blog,” with the help of a piece from The Atlantic that resonated with me and even challenged me.
On the subject of tone, Andrew Sullivan (the author) remarks:
For bloggers, the deadline is always now. Blogging is therefore to writing what extreme sports are to athletics: more free-form, more accident-prone, less formal, more alive. It is, in many ways, writing out loud.
I agree with this completely–and think it’s one of the most misunderstood aspects of blogging (hence my blog’s name). An understanding that there will be mistakes and times when you’ll change your mind are an important part of the medium.
The blog remained a superficial medium, of course. By superficial, I mean simply that blogging rewards brevity and immediacy.Â … the key to understanding a blog is to realize that itâ€™s a broadcast, not a publication. If it stops moving, it dies. If it stops paddling, it sinks.
D’oh! Tough words for the occasional blogger. The funny thing is, during the break I accumulated a list of things I want to blog about, but never did. To me, it’s less important to consistently update–I’d rather sacrifice a few readers than miss the opportunity to respond in a way that’s at least somewhat thought out.
Sullivan goes on to describe bloggers of history, including one I’m not familar with: Montaigne.
Montaigne was living his skepticism, daring to show how a writer evolves, changes his mind, learns new things, shifts perspectives, grows olderâ€”and that this, far from being something that needs to be hidden behind a veneer of unchanging authority, can become a virtue, a new way of looking at the pretensions of authorship and text and truth.Â …Â To blog is therefore to let go of your writing in a way, to hold it at armâ€™s length, open it to scrutiny, allow it to float in the ether for a while, and to let others, as Montaigne did, pivot you toward relative truth.
Again, Sullivan captures the spirit of a blog so well with this historical analogue. The personality of a bloggers thought and, well, personality are what gives the medium this facinating balance between intimacy and publicity, or between the surface and depth of our thoughts and feelings.Â Finally:
If all this sounds postmodern, thatâ€™s because it is. And blogging suffers from the same flaws as postmodernism: a failure to provide stable truth or a permanent perspective. A traditional writer is valued by readers precisely because they trust him to have thought long and hard about a subject, given it time to evolve in his head, and composed a piece of writing that is worth their time to read at length and to ponder. Bloggers donâ€™t do this and cannot do thisâ€”and that limits them far more than it does traditional long-form writing.
I’ll admit to being a postmoderist, and if it takes one to know one, I think I can say that Sullivan is right to call blogging a largely postmodern exercise. Where I think he’s completely wrong is that blogging can’t be well thought out. Academic bloggers must walk a fine line between shooting from the hip and providing reasoned analysis. Some think on their feet quite well, and these become the more prolific academic bloggers.Â Personally, I need at least a little time to digest.Â I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a blogging style that consciously tries to balance these issues of timeliness, reason, and personality. If Sullivan were to really take a postmodern approach to blogging, there would be nothing a blogger ‘could not do,’ because it’s such a personal exercise.