Thursday, July 19, 2007

Blogging, Writing, Journalisiming and the like...

The virtual world is a rapid moving one isn't it? It's embraced by kids who are young enough to be my kids. It's full of incredibly fast moving concepts and constantly evolving ideas, rather brilliant in many ways, slightly crap in a few others.

So as a chap who's now been blogging for the eternity that is, yes, over a whole year, I feel like an old hand. I also feel like a young woman but that's a side issue.

I've noticed that there are all sorts, there's a liberal splattering of every type of person that blogs. There are blogs one every subject one can think of. There are probably blogs centred around people who don't blog. Ones like this, listed on Kottu and Achcharu are primarily Sri Lankan in origin or content, but you'd probably sussed that out yourself.

I started it as something to do, I'd read many of the Sri Lankan blogs for a few months and just had a desire to give it a go. I know you'll be amazed, surprised and startled at this but I had no previous writing experience. I hadn't written anything since English "O" level. Letters and stuff maybe but nothing that required a degree of imagination or creativity. I had particularly admired blogs that were written by journos like Sach, Theena and Lady Luck. I know the good Lady Luck isn't technically a journalist but she writes like one, a medical one who can diagnose stuff and do operations and things too.

I'm not a writer, it's simple for me. There are the proper journalists, as I've mentioned and then there are the amateurs, those of us who just play around, chucking a few words and a few sentences out every now and then and hoping someone reads them. I've got total admiration and respect for professional writers, as I have for professional musicians, photographers and such. These are people who make a living from their field, that means that they have to meet deadlines and they have to make enough money to put food on the table. That's if they've made the money to buy the table.

I've also observed many bloggers who think that they're "proper" writers because they get a big readership or a lot of comments. I reckon this is a delusion, one which feeds egos but doesn't do any favours to the real writers. It's like being a prostitute, just without the sex or the money. We write crap, our thoughts on any random subject we want to. We don't rely on readership or potential readership to have to get it published, we just hit the "publish post" icon and it's that simple. Then people read it.

Up until a couple of weeks ago the whole blogging versus proper writing scenario was that clear in my mind. Then the whole Lakbimagate thing happened. All my nice thick black lines went fuzzy and blurred as the boundaries between professional and amateur went a bit mad. Something I had written in this blog got published in a magazine and I read it with disbelief. I read things written on their blogs by real writers like Pradeep Jeganathan and my head went all funny as I started to question the foundations of my principles.

I'm not a writer, I blog to fill some time when I'm at my desk. I find it interesting and I've made a lot of friends through it, but it's just a minor part of me. Coves like Pradeep Jeganathan and Sach are professional writers and they earn money from it. Now I read people saying that blogging might be changing the shape of the mass media, that it's a new way of publishing.

Wow. Journalists have blogs, bloggers write for newspapers, editors use blog posts in their newspapers and folks like us read them all. If I want to know about a recent event in Sri Lanka my second port of call is now the Sri Lankan blogosphere. My first is personal contact; phone, text, email or whatever with friends. But then I'll check on Achcharu or Kottu or look at my regularly read blogs to see who's saying what. The next day I might have a brief look at the Sri lankan papers online to see what they're saying. Only eighteen months ago the online papers would have been my number two. Now they're barely in the chart.

There are positives and negatives in this for me. A touch of discomfort when I read some blogs and realise that the writer actually thinks of themselves as a writer, but in fact they can hardly construct a sentence. Maybe I'm a snob like that, JK Rowling doesn't need to know the intricacies of grammar to be called a writer after all. But I think of the rules as building blocks and I know that proper writers have those blocks in place.

The positives loom large for me. Any idiot can have an idea or a story to tell and someone somewhere might read it. It doesn't matter if you don't know the difference between a colon and a vagina or if you talk in txtspk, someone will find it and read it. There's a whole wealth of good information that can be gleaned from blogs, there's some great writing too. Witty stuff and shitty stuff, it's all out there if you want it.

How good is that?


n said...

I think we're bloggers first and writers second if at all. I was reading a photography book the other day and I think it was Sam Abell who said that one is not truly a photographer until one gets something published...which I think is true and why I describe myself as an 'aspiring photographer.'

I don't think you neccesarily have to write or photograph as a means of income to be called a writer or photographer but you have to be recognized for your efforts somewhere before you can call yourself one.

On that note RD that would make you a writer right? Since you have been published...albeit without your permission.

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

This "being published" thing is what made me think on this N, the whole concept and how it happened to so any bloggers. It kind of cheapens the whole being a writer thing for me.

It's like when I listen to many great and professional drummers playing crap music. Often they have to do it to keep the money coming in, they don't have the luxury of turning things down just because they don't like the music. All the parameters change when people are professional.

Java Jones said...

Hey RD – All ‘bloggers are definitely NOT good ‘writers’, but are all ‘writers’ good ‘bloggers’?

Voice in Colombo said...

Overall a good post RD. Few thoughts to add…

I think I am one of those people in your categorization ,of people who “can hardly construct a sentence” in English. Many people have pointed that to me so many times and I have a standard answer.

I am not a professional writer. Never in Englsih! Because Englsih is only my second language, and I’m not that comfortable in using that language.

But I blog in Englsih. Why? Because, I strongly believe, expressing some one’s ideas should never be limited by his/her knowledge of the language.

The real delusion is the belief that, “only the people who can write properly should express their idea in main stream medea or blogging”.

This is an idea that injected into our brains, by few people who want to dominated the channels of mass media, and now the blogosphere. The easiest way to block the ideas of “non-English speaking community” on the blogosphere, is to humiliate their English language skills.

You might ask, then why don’t I blog in Sinhaa? Because I want to speak to a wider audience than those who can read only Sinhala.

In summer, “Proper writing” is a mythology created by those conservative high-born society, who thinks of themselves as the sole deciders of the fate of a country.

There’s a popular book about this, written originally in Italian and translated later into many languages. I can’t recall the name of that book. But it cleverly articulate how the Italian up class society prevented the poor, village children climbing the ladder of education in Italian system, by putting forward the “proper language useage” as a barrier. (Italian is a language with a high regional diversity)

Apart from that, I agree with rest of the ideology in your post. User generated information on internet going to be the main source of acquiring news and information in years to come. Mass media won’t be able to fight that. And, putting forward the barrier of “proper writing” is only just another effort by the main stream media people, for avoiding normal people like me and you entering the discussion.

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Mr Jones - I think most writers would be better at blogging than the average man in the street, simply because they are more used to the act of writing for an audience. However that does depend on what you or I looks for in a blog, which might be different to what we seek in a printed publication.

Voice in Colombo - Even though I don't agree with many of your political opinions I often read your blog, as you may be aware. I suspect most of your readers realise that English isn't your first language, but your thoughts and opinions are very obviously those of someone with intelligence.

Your English is infinitely better than my Sinhala too!

Indyana said...

"Can hardly construct a sentence"....oops!I must be one of em!

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