Blog Fast, Me Slow


2 March 2009

From “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart,” 12/3/08, special guest Arianna Huffington, founder of the popular (liberal) blog  The HuffPost:

AH: You know 50,000 blogs are started every day.
JS: You  make it sound like a sexually transmitted disease.
AH: Well, no, it’s a lot more fun.

Arianna Huffington has edited a new “complete guide” to blogging.  Here’s some of what she has to say about the essence of blogging:

First thoughts, best thoughts.  Don’t overthink it…  It’s like a first draft.

Blogging is not about perfectionism, it’s about intimacy, immediacy, transparency, and sharing your thoughts the way you would share it with a friend.

Here’s Jon Stewart on why he won’t be blogging:

AH:  I’ll bet you have more thoughts than what you use on the show.

JS: But why should I give people the drek?  Shouldn’t I try to focus it and make it as good as I can… my “other thoughts,” there’s a reeeaason I haven’t put them on the show.

I love Jon Stewart.

The literary writer is slow.  The literary writer labors over words.  Don’t overthink it?  Uy yuy yuy.  It’s like a first draft?  

Anyone who knows Anne Lamott’s book Bird By Bird knows about the shitty first draft.  The shitty first draft is what we accept as “first thoughts,” how we resist letting perfectionism prevent us from getting the ideas down.  But the thing about the shitty first draft — the essence of the shitty first draft — is that no one ever sees it.  For the literary writer, first thoughts are rarely best thoughts.*

As Arianna Huffington has aptly recognized, the ascendance of the blog represents the ascendance of the immediate. In buying in to this appetite for the now, I hope we don’t end up ultimately dumbing down our readerly expectations, not to mention intellectual capacity. I myself have had a heck of a time getting through The Brothers Karamazov, and I can’t help wondering how much all this instant verbage (both reading it and writing it) is altering my brain.  

Any literary writers out there who also blog, your thoughts on this most welcome.


*I never publish first drafts on this blog. I rarely even send first-draft emails.


6 Responses to “Blog Fast, Me Slow”

  1. Sean Gaffney Says:

    First off, yay for Steward, Lamott and Dostoevsky (I am 4/6 of the way through “Crime & Punishment” right now).

    As a child, adults kept trying to get me to learn the lesson – “think first, act later.” This was to prevent miscommunication as well as hasty action (my brother still regrets throwing that onion dip at me: if he thought first, he would have hit me and not the drapes instead).

    And now we are told to eliminate the thinking step in the process when communicating to the world.

    I’m with you and Stewart — there is a reason that my shitty first drafts should be foisted on no one but myself. And I prove that point every time I send out a blog that is a first draft…

  2. Lisa N.R. Says:

    I don’t blog (what I wouldn’t give right now for some shitty first drafts of ANYTHING), but I do appreciate “Ward Six” by JR Lennon, Rhian Mellis and Ed Skoog. Also, C. Dale Young’s “Avoiding the Muse.” I’m just in awe of how they’re all so damned prolific, blogging AND writing.

  3. sonyachung Says:

    I’ll have to check out those blog recs, LNR. These are such different kinds of writing, I haven’t yet discovered how they can feed one another as opposed to drain juice from one another.

    Sean Gaffney! Why 4/6 and not 2/3? (In my nerdy high school years, I was a Calculus wiz.. dunno what happened.) My next Russian big-book project will be War & Peace; so if you notice a multi-week absence from blogging, Tolstoy (and all those dern words he wrote) may be the culprit.

  4. Sean Gaffney Says:

    The novel is divided into six parts — and I just finished part four. As the last chapters are longer, I am less than 2/3 of the way through; but by counting parts, I am further along — a full 4/6. Ah, I missed my calling as a politician.

  5. Mimi Says:

    SEAN GAFFNEY!!! I’ve been looking for you… (and how ironic to say this AND find you in Sonya’s BLOG)… on Facebook 🙂

    Ok, I quote Lamott’s shitty first draft line to my students ALL the time, except I say CRAPPY first draft, because they NEED to get over the fear of writing crap. I also refer to another book ART & FEAR to explain “quantity over quality” b/c quality shows up after much quality (my paraphrase)… Blogging is this: people choose to read my crappy quantity and happen upon some quality. The best part of blogging is the TRADE, IMO. I’ll read your quantity and comment on some quality, and you do the same for me, thanks much.

    Anyone watch Jon Stewart’s talk show years and years ago like me? Back when he was enormously engaging and charming to ALL his guests??? So THAT was his quantity.

  6. sonyachung Says:

    “Quantity and quality” is the heart of it, I think that’s right on. In writing, yes, quantity is absolutely necessary. This culture that’s arisen of sharing and trading the quantity publicly — that’s definitely new. For instance, the place where literary writers often “dumped” a lot of their quantity in the past, pre-Internet, was in correspondence. Notice how those correspondences are typically published post-mortem…

    Perhaps the Opinion Page columnist is the closest analog to the blogger — I always think, how do they write/publish so OFTEN, and I wonder what percentage of their output (quantity) they look back on and think, “That’s really good.” Same with Stewart — I mean, the guy does that show DAILY after all.

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