I am contributing an essay on blogging for the Writing Spaces collections being put together by Charlie Lowe and Pavel Zemliansky. As part of my proposal I suggested the following
My intention is to present the essay as a series of blog posts. Since
the collection will be available through a Creative Commons license, if
it is acceptable to you, I thought I would post parts of the essay, in
draft form, on my blog and elicit comments. This format will also allow me to
demonstrate one of the key rhetorical differences between the blog and
the essay: where the essay typically flows tightly from one part to
another and is read as an organic whole, the blog takes a serial
approach to subject matter where the relations between posts are
As blog readers and perhaps bloggers yourselves, you already know this, but I bring this up as I plan to be carrying out this blog-essay composition here over the summer. I'd appreciate any feedback you might hae along the way with the understanding that some of your comments might end up in the essay itself. (If you mention that you don't want your comments included then I won't include them.)
Writing an essay for a first-year writing course on blogging isn't as easy as it might appear. Obviously blogging represents a broad range of discursive practices so I intend to focus on the uses of blogging for novice writers and the advantages of maintaining a blog about one’s area of professional or academic interest.
For the novice writer, perhaps the most important quality of the blog is its invitation to a regular writing practice. Nothing is more important to the development of a writer than a daily writing practice. A close second though is the opportunity a blog provides to build an audience and purpose for one’s writing. In choosing to write about one’s area of professional or academic interest and connecting with an audience, one has the ability to engage current and important issues in one’s field. This provides an opportunity for students to articulate the relevance of their studies for themselves.
In my view, the fundamental challenges of blogging are not very different from those of any kind of writing. One requires sufficient exigency to write. Where does this come from?
- An urgency to the subject matter (e.g. a current event)
- An important and reasonable purpose (e.g. writing a job letter to get a job)
- A sense of authority, feeling qualified to write about a subject
- A strong personal interest (e.g. creative writing, political writing)
- An audience that will give you positive feedback
One doesn't need all of these. Over time, it is likely that different exigencies will emerge. More importantly, as one develops a writing habit, one begins to think less about needing a reason to write. Hopefully there is always some reason of course, but I think that as one becomes a writer that the act of responding to one's experiences with writing becomes more natural or expected. It simply becomes what one does. As a regular writer or blogger one begins to trust that exigency or purpose will become clear through the act of writing.
The best analogy I can come up with is being vegetarian. Most anyone could decide to not eat meat for a day or two. In fact, you might happen to not eat meat one day without even thinking about it. If you chose today to be a vegetarian, the first week would seem strange. The first month might seem very odd. You might think "so this is what it is like to be a vegetarian." But it isn't. At least not for me. I've been a vegetarian for several years and I give no more thought to eating a hamburger or a chicken leg than most people (in the US anyway) would give to eating a dog. In other words, it doesn't seem strange to me to be a vegetarian, like I'm not eating something I want to eat or should be eating.
As a novice writer, starting to write seems as odd as becoming vegetarian. We know there are writers and vegetarians out there, but we aren't those things. We may write sometimes, just as we eat vegetables, but that's not our identity. What would it mean to make writing a part of our identity? For it to be as much a part of our daily habits as the other things by which we identify ourselves? Blogging is a way to seek an answer to those questions.