Early this morning – very early – Amanda Palmer posted an interesting blog on blogging itself and tweeting as secondary art forms and went into really good detail about why. It’s a really good read and if you have ten minutes spare you should do so. Actually, do it now. I can wait…
I tweeted her earlier this afternoon:
I got a reply:
So here I am, blogging a response to another blog.
Why do I blog?
I like to write articles. That seems really bloody obvious because that’s what you do on them. You don’t just dump pictures of your favourite TV shows twisted to suit your twisted fantasies about the characters (for that, there is Tumblr). I am a writer – at least, that’s what I’d like to think – so it’s a good opportunity for me to write sensibly about things that I’m not able to write elsewhere. Here’s a few examples, at the risk of self-promoting myself, which I always loathe but accept is part of being a writer:
These aren’t necessarily written to entertain but they are definitely written because I want make a point or two. However, other things that I write, either here or in other places, are written not just because I have an opinion but also deliberately with the intention of provoking a response and being entertaining. I’ll provide a couple of examples from the old version of my music-based blog, The Musical Chairs, before I dumped it all in the cyber-bin:
There is genuine anger and argument in both of those posts but I also realise that both 30 Seconds To Mars and Axl Rose are very easy targets, so the trick is to think of new ways to go about stating your case. If you can make people laugh then that’s a bonus really.
I also use this blog a lot for things that really aren’t important – brain-dumps, as Palmer calls them, or just brief posts with no real thought attached to them. It’s the latter, surprisingly, that sometimes gets this blog a lot of traffic. Take this post, a gentle mocking of Jeremy Kyle’s assistant Graham Stanier from 2009, and you’ll see a lot of comments and the traffic figures point this out as the most visited page on my site. Pretty astonishing when all I did was 194 words and put up a supporting YouTube video. In recent times, this tutting post at Fearne Cotton being unintentionally racist to Morgan Freeman has also received a lot of traffic recently, even though I only wrote 76 original words.
I’m not saying that my more serious posts don’t do well. The Sky News piece got a lot of traffic when it was written as did the university piece but it’s nowhere near as sustained.
Why do I tweet?
On the subject of Twitter, there’s not much to say about it other than I generally use it as informal communication between friends and to make brief comments about stuff that happens in the world. Much of it is knee-jerk and reactionary, admittedly, and I do tend to swear a lot more there than I do in ANY of my writing (don’t ask me why, it might be an unwritten rule that my brain made up one day and I’ve somehow stubbornly stuck to it) but I can still do the same things I would do if I was blogging; make jokes, form opinions, communicate with people…it’s just that because of the 140 character limit you have to go about it in a different and more succinct way.
Why do I even bother with blogging and tweeting?
Simple. I’m a freelancer. I’d love to be able to do writing as a career, either as a journalist or a non-journalist, but the industry is hard to break into. There’s also the issue that I’d like to write about music for money. This is obviously a flawed career choice. I continue to write voluntarily for music webzines and publications like MusicOMH, Clash and so forth because I enjoy doing it and want to keep doing it until I magically get what I want. Maybe it won’t ever happen, but it’s fun trying to get there in a twisted sort of way.
So, if you’re unemployed or, like me, a struggling freelancer then surely the best thing you can do aside from filling in job application after job application is to just write and keep self-promoting. What’s more, it’s free, so you don’t even have money on the line. What do you have to lose? Nuffin’.
The same thing applies to Twitter. It can be used as a tool for wannabee writers to just plug the heck out of whatever it is they write, interact with fellow human beings relating to subjects that they write about, talk to experts in the field on Twitter. Again, there’s nothing to lose. You might even get your link re-tweeted by someone who has more followers than you and, lo and behold, you have more fans. That’s what happened with my Sky News piece – I sent the link to Steven Baxter, who in an excellent writer on his own Enemies of Reason blog and for the New Statesman – and I got a lot of traffic for it and some kind words from others on Twitter.
Is it art?
That is a tricky question to answer.
Why could it be considered art? It’s because you are trying to provoke a response. You’ve also spent time trying to figure out a coherent way of making your point because no one is going to approve poor writing (well, in theory anyway, as Richard Littlejohn continues to disprove this point every week). Most importantly though, a lot of the time you’re trying to be creative and write in a way that is distinctively you and not a replica of someone else.
There are arguments against, obviously. Most of them seem to centre around the idea that because the internet is so diluted with opinions that there’s a lot of awful writing that weakens the case for ‘yes’. However, you could say the same about other forms of art like music, given how the digital era has meant that we know of more bands that exist than ever before and the harsh reality is that many of them aren’t that good.
Wow, what an ambiguous conclusion…
Let me put it another way then. Of all the words that Palmer wrote, these were my favourite:
it’s also a format ACCESSIBLE TO EVERYBODY. though nowadays with self-publishing, almost anybody can publish a book (and this has all sorts of positive and liberating consequences), it’s still FAR EASIER (and cheaper) to blog. if you’re online and living in the first world, you can blog almost as easily as you can go to the bathroom. and many have argued: therein lies the problem. often blogging is just mind-shitting. sometimes tweeting is just soul-puking. i can’t disagree.
but when it’s not?
art-making, writing and music-making has never been SO DEMOCRATIC.
I am in total agreement with this because it also sums up perfectly what I think.
Oh wait, I could have just posted that as opposed to the other thousand words I just spent the last hour typing.
I’m never going to win.