The assumption is that a blog represents the uncensored expression of the blogger’s thoughts and feelings, hopefully skillfully enough delivered as to be worthy of the busy time of strangers. But that’s a bonus, the “skillfully enough delivered.” On its most basic level, a blog is simply a platform where guys, or the female version of guys, can freely and fearlessly express whatever they want. To paraphrase the respected rabbi Hillel,
“If not there, where?”
You’re not getting paid. That’s the “down” side. The “up” side is, because you’re not getting paid, you have no payer to answer to, no one to gracelessly remind you, “I’m writing your paycheck. Do what I tell you.” With a blog, there are no external pressures to submit to. You write what you want to write.
Or do you?
A Primary Concern
You don’t want to write for nobody. You’re hoping somebody will read it. Otherwise, you can save the wear and tear on your fingers, and simply talk to yourself. I actually do that a lot. Dr. M doesn’t care for it. She thinks I should be talking to her. She doesn’t know I’m doing her a favor. She wouldn’t like what I’m saying to myself. That’s why I’m saying it to myself.
Bloggers have to please somebody or they’re out of business. Which is embarrassing – losing a job that doesn’t pay anything. I don’t even know if there’s a word for that condition.
“From what job?”
“No job at all.”
That’s really depressing.
You don’t want that to happen.
To keep that from happening, the blogger’s required to maintain at least a minimum number of readers. Your perception of what that “minimum” would be is subjective, but the word “minimum” suggests, no matter who you are, it’s not a very big number.
Accepting “maintaining a minimum readership” as a condition for blogospheric survival, which, by having started the blog we’ve acknowledged we’re interested in, what then, precisely, is involved?
Let me be clear here. I am not discussing “How To Write A Popular Blog?” You would need to go elsewhere for that information. What I’m interested in examining is, is a blog truly an “uncensored expression of the blogger’s thoughts and feelings”, or, in an effort to attract a minimal number of somebodies to insure survival, does the blog, consciously or unconsciously, evolve into some crowd-soliciting sales tool funhouse-mirrorly different from the blogger’s original intention?
For openers, reader responses shape the content. Wait. Before that, reader responses shape the output. I post five days a week. Why so regularly? Readers have come to expect it from me. Do I want to post five days a week? I’m not really sure. But it’s noteworthy that the pace of my output is not entirely under my control.
Back to content. As a former big league television writer, I have stories to tell about, among others, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Taxi, The Cosby Show and Larry Sanders. I also have thoughts about how careers happen, and “hands on” particulars on what’s involved in the writing. TV writing is an area I can speak about authoritatively. I am happy to pass along what I remember, and take a crack at questions readers who are interested in the process want to ask.
Would I want to write exclusively about television? No. It’s not a question of downplaying my experiences. Writing for television was a dream come true. But it was also a shitload of work, and extremely stressful, especially when I was running the shows. My goal was to complete the daily requirements and then go home. That’s not a very interesting story. It’s just a guy doing his job.
I’ve tried to be balanced talking about my what I did. There was genuine excitement, and I hope you picked up on that. But I made sure to show you the human toll as well. Again, however, did I under-report the human toll to avoid sounding ungrateful for the opportunity, not to mention unappealing in my character? I probably did. Nudging me away from my “uncensored expression.”
How about style? Do I try to be funny? I hope I don’t push it, but I do, generally, focus on stories with humorous formulations, though hopefully, there’s more. But by angling for laughs, am I seriously distorting the stories themselves? And what valuable but unfunny stories am I leaving out entirely?
It’s a meaningful question. What truth-damaging alterations does the blogger succumb to in the name of trying to please the public?
How about effort? Recently, I rewrote, and, I believe, improved, a post published over a week ago. Did I do that for you? Or did I do it for me? I think I did it because I thought of something that would make the post better and I felt duty bound to include the improvement. But it wasn’t entirely art for art’s sake. I alerted you to it in a subsequent post.
Tone. Too angry? Too vindictive? Too self-serving? Too sad? Critical calls when you’re writing for others. But they have nothing to do with “uncensored expression.”
Finally, there’s opinion. Here, I’ll defer to my superior and writing hero, Mark Twain. In his essay, “The Privilege of the Grave”, (reprinted in the New Yorker, December 22 & 29, 2008), Twain asserts that,
Its (the grave’s) occupant has one privilege which is not exercised by any living person: free speech…. As an active privilege, it ranks with the privilege of committing murder; we may exercise it if we are willing to take the consequences. Murder is forbidden both in form and in fact: free speech is granted in form but forbidden in fact.… Murder is sometimes punished, free speech always.
So there’s that.
I tell ya, it seems like it’s my blog.
But I wouldn’t actually bet on it.