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Why blog? Is writing for blogs first draft writing?

The question of whether you, a writer, should create a blog may very well depend on what type of writer you are. When people ask me about the difference between blogs and websites, one main characteristic I name is that they are dynamic as opposed to the more static nature of websites. What I’m usually referring to is the real-time nature of blogs and their ability to allow the readers to comment and initiate a dialogue with the writer and other readers. For some writers these may be real plusses. They are writers who like to engage others in a more immediate way and who like to offer up commentary on a whole host of subjects. They are also writers who enjoy the physical act of writing because, while they may not post daily, blogs demand that their writers make frequent entries.

Why are blogs so demanding? Blogs are all about developing a readership. People who blog 1) have something to say and 2) want to be heard. That means they want someone to hear what they have to say and respond immediately. They need an immediate audience. People who read blogs are the perfect audience for such a writer. They want to be part of the dialogue. They want to read and think and respond directly. Blogs allow for a far more direct engagement with the reader than writers will experience in other mediums. (Some may find it a little too direct and immediate.) That means the blogger must be passionate about—or at the very least engaged with–his or her’s subject and should have a strong desire to communicate this passion. Now you could say that about any other writer, whether they’re writing essays, stories, or novels. But bloggers are more instantaneous: they seek immediate acknowledgement of their thoughts. Instead of automatic responders, I’d say they’re immediate responders.

For example, my post today is in response to a comment made during C-SPAN’s Book TV In Depth interview with author Charles Murray. (Murray is the author of The Bell Curve and seven other books.) He had commented that part of his daily morning ritual included reading a number of blogs. A listener called in and asked if he maintained a blog and if not why not? Murray answered by saying he did not consider himself to be a “first draft writer.” That, if anything, he was a re-writer, and he thought blog writing required more of a first draft skill than he possessed.

He’s probably correct. While careful bloggers do not post their immediate “first draft” and do review their material, they are still operating on a first draft level because they do not write a draft, then go through a number of major rewrites to allow the piece to evolve, nor do they generally put the writing away for a few weeks to let it grow cold and then return to it to edit even more before posting the piece. Blogging is definitely more immediate and, you could say, more fresh. Many bloggers are responding to daily events and are posting quickly because the landscape that is their subject matter is changing even as they write. They are posting first drafts in the sense that their writing reflects their immediate response to an event, a thought, or a word that has captured their attention that day.

This post is in response to Murray ’s comment that I heard maybe fifteen to twenty minutes ago and is composed of my initial thoughts and my immediate reaction to his words, so in that respect it is clearly a first draft. Were I to develop this further, I would allow these words to sit while I thought more about the subject, and then I would return and the essay would more than likely morph into something else–but then it would not be material for my blog. It would be work that I would want to send to a journal or a magazine or maybe include in a book. The anecdote about Murray may or may not be included because my reaction would have evolved into something else I wanted to say about blogs and first draft writing or even about first draft writing itself.

So now you know one reason why I began a blog. Down the Writer’s Path affords me a way to publish my initial thoughts on a variety of subjects pertaining to the writer’s life. Now you might ask why I would want to do that. Well, the mere fact that I know that someone will be reading what I am writing orients the way I lay down my immediate response. I’m not just chronicling my ideas and thoughts in a journal to stash away for later drafting and consumption; I’m not scribbling on pieces of paper only to lose them later. I’m organizing and thinking through my thoughts as I write this. Once posted, another reason for why I blog comes into play. I wanted to know if what I had to say about the writing life and the craft, as well as the publishing industry, would bring an audience and develop a readership. Did I have anything to say on the subject that would merit anyone to return again and again to my blog to read what I had to say?

Whether a blog is the right medium for you or whether you should even have a blog will depend not only on what type of writer you are but also on what type of blog you want to create. Not every writer will want to do a blog such as mine. Stay tuned for further developments on these thoughts and more during the week.

Note: The interview with Charles Murray will be repeated tonight at midnight (Eastern time) on C-SPAN Book TV. On the first Sunday of every month C-SPAN airs its 3-hour interviews with accomplished writers. Next month on March 6 at noon and again at midnight will be Helen Caldicott.

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