...but is it "writing"?

It is the nature of every niche to try and justify its existence. And if the process takes a celebratory, navel-gazing approach which ends up proving just how necessary and important it is, then so much the better.

And so, inevitably, blog-posts will end up observing the world of blogging. And since I'm not vying for will-power awards, I give in, and for this week this space will all (as KM puts it) "meta".

Today's topic:
Is blogging a style/genre/niche of Writing at all, or is it just "words and sentences and punctuation"?

I am in favour of the former. Not fully, mind you, but definitely leaning in a manner obvious to the naked eye. And pray, what justification is there for said slanted stance?

Before that though, to define Writing, as opposed to writing. The group domain, as it were.

How about - a unique, easily identificable, style/format of presenting prose/poetry? Simplistic perhaps, but seems to cover all bases.

So, then, to slightly alter the topic. The search is to be able to justify Blogging as being a unique subset of Writing, not as being distinct from Writing. And for that, all one needs to show is that it has distinct features which can mark it out from other styles (such as journalism, magic realism, free-verse, stream-of-consciousness), and which are likely to be representative of the majority of bloggers.

So, if everyone is ok with the story so far, then (possible) evidence is as follows:

1) The very time-based nature of the format creates a unique atmosphere, in a way that is quite distinct from that of journalism, which is merely chronologically-bound. No, what subtly colours how we blog is the possibility of an instantaneous outpouring of ideas and thoughts. How many of us haven't posted something either as an immediate reaction to a story read elsewhere, or after some event in our lives, or when some sudden idea strikes us? Very few, I would reckon.

Ah, but you say, that's just reaction, that's not a different form of writing. But it is Writing, because the spontaneity alters the very words and ideas that we type, as opposed to if we took the time to think about. My posts this week, for instance, would have been much better organised and written in-depth than if they were not being hurriedly churned out while I wait for that delicious pot of spiced pulao to finish cooking.

Therefore, to summarise point 1: Evolution of a spontaneous, stream-of-consciousness style.

2) As also pointed in a post yesterday, the time factor is present not only on the input end, but from the end-receiver too. Knowing that most of your readers are likely to have many blog-posts to go through on any day, apart from all the news and other work-related things they need to read, in between other mundane aspects like...oh, having a life - that gradually makes most bloggers (with the exception of some like Falstaff and the Punkster) restrict their posts to a certain length range, generally speaking. Whether this is a good thing or not is a separate issue (I don't think it is), but what matters is that it results in a different stlye of Writing.

Blog-posts are - for better or worse - expected to be a quick read, and if they're on a serious topic, spread across several posts (even TR's China descriptions seemed longer than they were because of all those gorgeous snaps in between). Which is why any post that's longer than, say, six 10-line paras (such as this one) usually begin with a "Warning: Lengthy post" salutation.

So, point 2: Self-regulating length-restrictive writing.

3) Stylistic influences. Because blogging, at some level, is a social activity (respond to comments, go leave comments, reciprocate blogrolls, etc), and because bloggers tend to find those who have similar interests and/or writing styles, it is likely that a certain amount of osmosis will take place between the same.

While current bloggers may still be maintaining a unique voice of their own, it is already common to see key words and phrases being picked up and spread through mutual circles. And many bloggers write posts that are triggered by a phrase or throw-away idea seen in others' posts, often to delve deeper into the idea, or to explore a tangential part of it.

Apart from all this, it could be argued that regular bloggers are indirectly forced to get more inventive in the material of their posts, simply because a lot of what they think/feel/do, has already been covered by other bloggers. After all, given that they are all inhabiting the same subset of Bloggerdom (sharing similar interests etc), it is more than likely than they may all react to certain things in a similar manner. Hence, bloggers see greater need to delve further and deeper and wider into matters on which they may post.

Thus, point 3: Styles are affected by blogging peers.

There are some more points here, but this has gone on a little too long already, and the pulao's quite ready, so let's just have the discussions already and I'll either do another post tomorrow, or merge the additional points here.

However, to make my position clear, to me Blogging is more than just having a blog, and posting on it things that have already been written, or using the blog merely as event-diaries without any observations or insights. It is the focused or spontaneous creation of material, as well as an overall awareness and exploration of the medium and the opportunities it offers.

Simply, Blogging is to having a blog, as Poetry is to writing a poem, or Art is painting.

I agree that it's probably difficult to name many blogs that currently fit the above criteria, but I put that down to the newness of the whole experience. Once the numbers of for-the-heck-of-it bloggers tapers off, and those left increasingly start experimenting more, it will be easier to see more bloggers who Write.

PS. Update: A day later, I notice how many sentences start with "and" and "so". Something to work on.


Falstaff said...

Hmmm..it's a little tautological, isn't it? If you define Blogging as "more than just having a blog" and "the focused or spontaneous creation of material, through an overall awareness and exploration of the medium and the opportunities it offers" then of course it's writing. If it weren't writing, you wouldn't consider it blogging, not by your definition. And I'm not sure how many blogs would actually meet that definition.

??! said...

If it weren't writing, you wouldn't consider it blogging
Just so. To blog is easy - to put up notices, or diaries, or somesuch. But Blogging is more than that.

And yes, I agree that many blogs haven't reached that stage. Yet. But that's because of the relative newness of the medium. People are still exploring how to correctly mine this field, and I can foresee a lot of evolution ahead.

km said...

??!: Excellent post. I hope the pulao turned out just as good. I'd have liked to write about this on my blog, but that would go against my "faster, crappier, looser" motto :) Or maybe I will.

Form follows function and vice versa. The function of Writing is different from the function of Blogging.

A classical composer who wants to convey his big ideas needs a 74-minute symphonic structure and a 105-piece orchestra. A pop singer who wants to talk about his crush (or world peace) needs only 3 minutes and an acoustic guitar.

And no one claims pop music is classical music. It is neither better or worse, just different.

Here's another critical distinction between the two.

Blogging is about interconnectedness of ideas and opinions. Writing is isolationist by nature. It is about inventing a parallel world, an alternative universe and then taking the character - and the reader - on a wild ride through that world.

Now, a good blog can do that as well, but I will argue that it is not the primary function of a blog.

P.s: Those of you who were around on USENET in the early-to-mid 90s will know that linking and blogrolls were unknown concepts back then. People were either encouraged to write/create their own content or participate in debates and discussions. That, to me, is closer to the spirit of Writing than blogging.

??! said...

Ah, so we come at it from different views. You (seem to) define Writing as Fiction, whereas I see it as the uppermost classification of which all other forms are subsets. The way you describe it, journalism wouldn't be Writing either, but is it not one?

Perhaps we should be talking of Literature, not Writing.

And the pulao was mmmmmm. Although it was more of a khichdi.

km said...

There you go. Mystery solved :)

My definition of Writing is "Literature".

BTW, journalism is not literature. (OK, Capote, Orwell, Terkel et al did do away with such distinctions, but still.) Just as writing ABOUT science is not Science.

Falstaff said...

??!: It's not that many blogs haven't reached that stage - I don't know that many blogs want to. Or should want to. And it seems a little presumptuous to be hijacking the term Blogging for the exclusive use of a small subset of people who want to use the blog as a medium for writing.

I think the better analogy is to speech. Certainly one can use speech to do wonderfully creative things, but most people are not trying to. You're not going to dismiss all conversation that doesn't quite make the Socratic ideal as just talking but not really speech, would you?

So no, the majority of blogging is not writing. Just as (and I agree with km, though writing to me is literature and not fiction) the majority of journalism is not writing either. Certainly some journalistic writing is literature, and has a style / form that's unique to the genre, but that's the exception, not the rule.

Espèra said...

Well, I have a tendency to start sentences with 'well'.

??! said...

In that case, all may not be well.