5) Lists get hits. Opine all you like about our short attention span and the decline of critical thinking, but there’s something about a top five or top ten list that entices people to read. So, I sometimes write posts with lists (like this one). But hey, it’s not just a new media thing: God started it…remember those commandments?
4) Keep it short. Blogging has taught me to keep my arguments short and my word count (almost always) under 1,000. Tight, dense, honed writing is much more difficult to pull off than verbose mind dumps. That’s not to say blogging is a high form of writing — that’s not its function — but, in my experience, it does focus the mind.
3) Complexity? Not so much. Rather often, I find myself writing a blog post (or composing one in my head) and opting not to pursue a line of argument due to its complexity and the space and time in which it would take to explain its nuances. I hate this. Certainly, there are many bloggers who regularly write wonderfully complex, nuanced pieces but it’s a special skill. Rachel Held Evans accomplishes the feat with brilliant use of spacing, bolded text, emphatic fonts, and a master explainer’s voice. But, for mortals like me, I claim this as a continued struggle.
2) Audience weirdness. The beauty of blogging, tweeting, and (for most of us) Facebook is that anyone can read your posts. The problem with blogging, tweeting, and (for most of us) Facebook is that anyone can read your posts. I’m obsessive about audience. When I have a writing contract with a publisher, I always ask about the target audience. I hope I have never preached a sermon that would work perfectly in another context. New media writing really pushes me to think about audience with a wide, general lens. It’s weird, and helpful. Moving into my position at Concordia College has caused me to want all online posts to be of the highest standard, worthy of a professor at all times — as if my audience is mainly my future evaluation committee. I hope, as I become more comfortable in my position at the college, I can open up again and be more free.
1) A website is a hungry beast. Blogging takes writing, a lot of it. Over the five years I’ve blogged, I’ve written around 700 posts. That’s a lot of time, energy, typing, and deleting but we all know the best websites regularly have new content. Having a blog pushes me to think through and reflect often, even if sometimes it’d be wiser to wait and write another draft the next day. The flip-side, however, is great: blogging requires writing, and good writing requires repetition. There’s no question that writing regularly for new media has honed my writing skills, even if some of the honing is mainly in areas appropriate for new media rhetoric.
What about you? How has new media changed the way you think and write, for better or for worse?
image by Joseph Hart