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05/17/2003

Blogging the Line

...between Blood and Bernstein....

A College Writing Assignment: Read Rebecca Blood's The Weblog Handbook, plus Mark Bernstein's review of Blood's book and, (this is my own addition), his article "Writing the Living Web".

If I'm not mistaken, among the various issues that might boil up in response to reading these two side by side, you will also find the following paradoxes of web writing, (which are, as it turns out, the paradoxes of all writing):

Say your piece. Link to what others have to say.

To thine own self be true. Only connect.

"Stacey A.", in her first-year teaching log for the college writing course, says:

I can't help but yet again feel pinned between Bernstein and Blood .... Blood says to write for yourself. Bernstein more or less says I need to be interesting, constructing rhetorical and social situations by creating effective links.

— entry for 5/15/03,

(quoted 5/16/03 by Bernstein)

 

Be yourself. Be interesting. Does some such dynamic pairing define a borderline between Bernstein and Blood, both influential personalities when it comes to the topic of web writing? Is this the uncomfortable rock and hard place where a fledgling web writer could get pinned?

Maybe. Except I don't see Scylla and Charybdis. To write at all you have to believe that you are interesting. Martha Graham puts it even more emphatically:

There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time this expression is unique.

And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost.

It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how valuable, nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours, clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.

I believe this. And yet, to write at all well, a writer also needs to follow the lead of John Gardner, who says, "[the writing] is about other people." It would be a poor world, artistically, culturally, politically, if artists didn't enter imaginatively into the experience of another.

Individual. Community.

What seems important is to be mindful of where the balance point might be between creation's rival hungers for privacy and for audience. Creation plainly craves both. Privacy argues against exposure, but hiding blunts authenticity. Audiences claim to crave authenticity, but everyone knows audiences are fickle.

Still, the audience likes a good story. The audience likes context.

Include the audience. But don't lose yourself.

The first paragraph of Bernstein's review of Blood's manual gives the lay of the land of blogs:

Tragedy tells us that our weblogs are the playthings of the Gods, subject to the whims of fate and fortune. Comedy promises that our weblogs can succeed through hard work, struggle, and good fortune. Melodrama warns us that there are bad people and evil forces in the world, and that only through courage and determination can our weblogs overcome their malignity. And Romance assures us that, though weblogs fail everywhere, our weblog will prosper because we, ourselves, are wonderful.

Mark Bernstein, in HypertextNow.

 

I love this. If you substitute something a little broader — 'endeavor' or 'work' — the passage opens out to encompass the entire existential dilemma of the artist. The four "genres" of the blog are not discrete states of being, they form a continuum of the artist's state of mind, by turns fatalistic, hopeful, fearful and self-involved. The balance point is always shifting, and with it, the artist's ability to look inward or outward.

May 17, 2003 in Tinderbox, Weblogs, practical theories | Permalink

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