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De Scriptura MMXII (250th Post Skeptacular!)

February 20, 2012

Friends and lovers, I place before you Our Daily Beard’s 250th post.

On this fauxmentous occasion, online writing seems like a fitting topic. Some of you may recognize sections of the following that have previously appeared in your lives in the form of drunken rants, sober rants, out-of-character serious Facebook statuses, and so on and so forth.

For years, I put off starting this blog. Although I liked the idea of having my own place online, I’d always found blogs annoying and pointless, and I assumed everyone would justifiably feel the same way about mine. Then, in the summer of 2009, I went to some writing workshops at SFU. Every instructor mentioned that it was important for a writer to have a website. My whole thing at the time was that I was going to start incorporating writing into my life and into my identity in a serious way, so very soon after I got home from the workshops I logged into WordPress and the Beard was born. But the title of my first post (“Is This Really Necessary?”) was a good indication that I still had little idea what I was doing or why I was doing it. A bunch of people in the writing and publishing business had told me to, so I did. I’ve always been above-averagely good at following directions.

Within a couple of weeks, though, it stopped feeling like an obligation. I really enjoyed writing posts. And soon unobligated people began to read them, which felt great. The answers to my initial two questions are obvious now: what I’m doing is writing whatever I want, and why I’m doing it is because the internet is the second-best place (nothing beats a live audience) to do experiments with ideas and language and make them immediately accessible to others. The more I posted, the less worried I became about the blog having a single theme or being written in a consistent style or genre. The whole kickass point of it, I realized, was that it was a place where people could check out all the elements of my creativity and character and follow along with the ones that appealed most to them. As a person and as a writer, I appreciate versatility and I’m even downer with authenticity. I decided I didn’t need to worry about investing time or energy into corralling my posts into a unifying theme; irregardless of their surface dissimilarity, they were already united by their author’s identity.

Also, over time, when/if my writing career progressed and I began to be published, readers who visited my website wouldn’t end up blogslogging through substanceless posts on how many words I’d written that day (who cares?), vague descriptions of projects I was thinking about doing (that time would be better spent actually working on the projects), or reviews of my work (who cares?: the sequel). People could show up here and get like a million more words’ worth of the writing that had made them want to knock on my door in the first place.

So there I was, just e-givin’ ‘er. But then, during classes in my creative writing program, in the heyday of the Sunday Afternoon Blog Parody Series no less (now defunct, but resurrectable at a moment’s notice!), I began to hear strange and terrible things about online writing. Bizarre, mystifying things like:

“A blog post shouldn’t exceed 500 words.”

This declaration often comes with additional lowest-common-denominator bullhonky like “A blog post without an image attached is impossible for human beings to comprehend” and “Numerical lists are the best way to present information.”

I’ve never come across a convincing, legitimate reason why I should be, or why any writer should be, pursuing the affection of borderline illiterate readers with five-minute attention spans. Not that there’s anything wrong with writing a 500-word post or including an image with it when appropriate. But the thought that that’s the only way, that a person can’t sit still past word 500 or will find written words insufficient in themselves–malarky!

Further malarkish thinking can be found here:

“Your blog’s legitimacy is determined by the number of comments it receives.”

I’ve read way too many way too long e-mails about how comments are a big deal and any blog worth reading gets at least x many comments per day/post/whatever. And so then this of course leads to friends setting up little alliances whereby they all agree to visit each other’s websites way too often to leave meaningless comments. How does this kind of behaviour have anything to do with writing quality? Doesn’t original and compelling writing legitimize itself? Cinnamon cocks!

And finally, men of Athens, just when you’ve begun to think that maybe the people around you have run out of ridiculous ideas, here comes the assholiest one of all:

“You are a brand.”

Writers and editors at all stages of their careers, many of them people whose work I respected, were letting this phrase escape the barrier of their teeth like it was an obvious fact. From it sprang other ideas about how you should be able to “define yourself” in a sentence or two in a query letter, “market yourself” to publishers and potential readers, etc. But can anyone explain to me how this could fail to be a path to mediocrity and pigeonholing, though? I’m not a brand; I’m a human being. I’m changing all the time and so is language and so is my use of it. My curiosity about how those three facts will intersect on a given day is the main reason why I love writing. I’m suspicious of any writer who wants to define herself. Etymologically, “define” means limit. “I write x.” Fuck that shit. I’m taking the whole damn alphabet, and I’m going to do whatever I want with it.

A writer has no business inviting any kind of creativity-undermining BS into her text, online or anywhere else. The challenge of earning an audience in a place where space is free and unlimited is to maintain a high standard of integrity and sincerity and interestingness while you’re there, am I right? I’m right. Now let’s get out there and ignore the bejesus out of the heaps of thoughtless, limit-inducing writing advice that plague humanity and let our brains contentedly eff around with language until they’ve told us all of their ideas, which should happen right around never o’clock.

[insert image of choice here]

Word count: 1067

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Who permalink
    February 21, 2012 7:18 am

    Random comment to demonstrate the worth of your blog post.

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