filofaxes on a desk

Even the longest Journal entry is never going to occupy the same part of my brain that spends months on a 7000-word essay. Where I become flummoxed is when I confuse the worlds.

Listen to me read the below here:


“Writers have to be able to delay gratification. To work without immediate pleasures… If the ability to delay gratification is the great sign of being a mature human being, with the internet we have all regressed, because the internet gives us everything that writing does not: it gives us what we dream about when sitting alone at our desks: contact with our tribe and the sense that we’re in a community; for posting mere snippets, we get liked, retweeted, favorited, shared, tagged, and notified; we get emails and instant messages and invitations to chat online. We read daily what our friends and also some of our most esteemed writers have to say about writing and life.” — “The Trouble with Writing,” Michelle Huneven, The Millions

In a phone conversation with a potential client–the client being someone who was interested in reading my written work–I hastened to say that the Journal was the most obvious way to find my work online, but that there is also published writing that is not my blog, and that writing is of a different caliber, a different kind.

Which is not to say that I’m not proud of the Journal, or that I find this—imagine me gesturing into space–a pointless exercise. I wouldn’t be spending the hours necessary to draft, edit, and publish these entries if I didn’t feel and see that they provide value to myself and others. But I’m also very aware of the fact that this is a specific genre of writing, as I’ve written about before when discussing the trouble with blogging. Even the longest Journal entry is never going to occupy the same part of my brain that spends months on a 7000-word essay.

Where I become flummoxed is when I confuse the worlds. When I believe that writing here should be the same as the way I write elsewhere. It’s when I believe this that I become frustrated with listicles, even listicles-making-fun-of-listicles, or endless how-to posts; I see the importance of writing “what is helpful,” but I also want to write about what is not obviously “helpful.”

pens on desk with sunlight

Because writing encourages complexity and nuance, but the common wisdom about blogging does not. In the world of blogging, every story must be, if not straight-up advice, an Aesop’s fable with a clear moral. We’re even encouraged to put the moral in bold, if possible, because blogging is a genre, and genres have certain borders and shapes to them–if they didn’t, they wouldn’t be genres.

Noir has its femme fatale. Locked-room mysteries have a seemingly impossible escape.

The blog genre suggests that we be helpful, be amusing, be brief. Be easy to read. Be simple. Since its inception, blogging has developed self-proclaimed rules strong enough to cause the springing-up of sites such as ProBlogger, as well as infinite books about how to perform well in this online space.

To write well within any genre is a challenge. We look to people who write well within genres as luminaries (Ursula LeGuin comes to mind), but it’s their ability to stretch and reshape the rules of genre that make them so. I consider Beth Kirby of Local Milk, who has written a well-loved guest entry here, a phenomenal example of someone who could be pigeonholed as a “food blogger,” but is anything but ordinary as she writes about biscuits and banana bread, and she will and does wax poetic on New Orleans and the metaphysics of identity and travel right before dropping a high-quality recipe. And I haven’t even mentioned her award-winning photography.

Which is to say that I am making my peace with the notion that blogging is a genre. I work to stretch its boundaries when I can, and I tip my hat to those who do as well. Go forth; be excellent.