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The Death of Better Writing

Inspired by Steven Levy’s recent article for Wired on “The Burden of Twitter,” I’m encouraged to agree with him. I often feel guilty too. I have a blog I haven't contributed to regularly for several months. I feel more than guilty—approaching inadequate–that all my pals on Facebook have so much time to post cool pictures and updates, while I’m still struggling to update from my Christmas pictures. And not only haven't I ever Dugg anything since, well, ever, I don’t really even know what Digging does.

I really do find social networking pretty cool—in some ways, I mean. Facebook has been incredible in linking me up with old people from my more embarrassing days. And posting short updates on there feels much more immediate and relevant than this old blog, not to mention the old novel sitting on my hard drive for nigh on 6 years now. And I love feeling like we’re at the start of something that could be really great for our writing community.

But there’s still that nagging sense that because I have limited time and/or desire to divulge every bit of info about myself to the world, I'm only skimming the surface of the formerly deep (or at least deeper) waters of our withering social construct. And even at that, I'm not making any really significant contribution. I feel like I’m more connected, and yet less really connecting, all the time.

And I have a feeling that not only have I felt that before–I'll feel it again and again.

So, as a result, I fight back. I work harder to provide something more meaningful than the rest of the emailers, bloggers, Facebookians, and tweeters, which in itself is a perpetual burden. How do you provide something more meaningful in a 140-character update?

This very question reveals more about me than I'm sure I'm comfortable revealing.

Which delivers us to the ultimate insult: as I strive to make more substantial deposits into the stretching info abyss, the more difficult and unnecessary it seems to preserve something good for the more substantial repositories—books, for instance. That’s right. Remember those? I wonder if one day we’ll look up and realize what fools we were to think we could keep heading so quickly into the future and still hold onto our quaint notion of continuing to invest in the antiquated analog of print publication. We get immediate response this way. And the words don't get nearly as polished. There's much less frustration. Why would anyone work at words the old, harder way anymore?

But I suppose just as the Internet is rewriting all our futures, it's revising this particular piece of common wisdom as well: best not to ask questions you don't want Google to answer.

Until then, I’ll keep working to calm myself by unplugging periodically and reassuring myself that there’s far more value in time spent writing for a book over a blog post.

And yes, I will now go mention this new post on Twitter and Facebook.

9 Responses to “The Death of Better Writing”

  1. “I’ll keep working to calm myself by unplugging periodically and reassuring myself that there’s far more value in time spent writing for a book over a blog post.”
    Great encouragement, Mick. I have tried to do the same of late, and have found that my (thrice-updated since November) blog is no burden compared to the feeling of an almost (so close I can taste it) completed draft of a novel.
    Perhaps it’s just me, but there really is no joy in blogging compared to the pleasure of agonizing over every word in a short story or novel and, after draft after draft and endless hours of work, watching the words on the page snap together in a way you couldn’t possibly describe before seeing it. The end result it something that is both more emotive and evocative than any stream of consciousness thing I have produced in any other medium.
    Social media could never top that. It’s coffee shop conversation up against box seats at the Globe Theater.

  2. Mitch says:

    Yeah, but how long since you’ve played the piano? Huh? That’s important too. Don’t make me mention the garden. (and don’t blame snow for anything)

  3. Mick says:

    Thanks, Brandon. It’s always good to reflect on the personal benefits of the practice.
    Mitch, you forgot latch-hooking. I’ve found there isn’t a worldly concern a little latch-hook can’t soothe.

  4. Tina says:

    This is so good to hear. I am not alone! I beat myself up all the time that I don’t write more thoughtful posts. In some ways blogging just makes me feel like I’m wasting creativity that I should be saving for my fiction.

  5. What does it mean when you revisit a post often, quietly, but its words leave you with none?
    Maybe silence is best.
    I’ve been contemplating this column in the Chronicle Review by Yale Professor, William Deresiewicz: The End of Solitude… http://chronicle.com/free/v55/i21/21b00601.htm
    Though deeply stirred by his startling, compelling words, I haven’t written a blog post about it, not yet… too busy working on the harder words.
    And then again… maybe just silence is better.

  6. (And what’s been sitting on your hard drive for six years? If these blog posts are but a shadow…. )

  7. Ironic that I find this post right after sending you a friend request on Facebook.

  8. spaghettipie says:

    I beg to differ. Speed Racing trash talk absolutely has a positive influence on my writing . . .

  9. Mick says:

    Thanks for the article, Ann. Very good food for thought. It reminded me of this older one from The Atlantic: Is Google Making Us Stupid? http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200807/google
    We need to grapple with these issues. Especially as writers striving for good words.

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