Youmans (pronounced like 'yeoman' with an 's' added) is the best-kept secret among contemporary American writers.--John Wilson, editor, Books and Culture.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Blogs, Social Media, Hot Water, & Getting Fired, part 1 of 2

This little post was inspired by several friends who have come to me in some degree of unrest caused by what they had posted on a blog. It covers a number of issues that have occurred to me over a few years of blogging. Part 2 will appear tomorrow.

12 Suggestions for thought

1. CHILDREN. Your blog is a sort of adjunct chamber to your house where people who do not know can visit. In the riot of your imagination, just ponder who might possibly stumble into your door: mad clowns, local predators, carnivorous aliens from another star system, and other potential undesirables. No matter how interesting they may be, they’re not people you want ogling your children. I never posted pictures of my three young children; when my first two children graduated from high school, I did post a picture of my son and of my daughter with friends on my blog. For me, when considering under-18 children, initials are good enough on a public blog.

2. FRANKNESS. In addition, don’t get too naked, metaphorically speaking, in that room. Reticence is a lost virtue, but you can bring it back and yet still reveal much that is interesting.

3. POLITICS. Unless your purpose is to write a political blog, what reason do I have to want to know your political stance? I tend to like people, and I’m interested in people—a writer ought to care about people—but I notice that many people blog as if wholly unaware that other people do not believe as they do. That mode leads people like Nir Rosen to think that they can make abusive, sexist, unclean tweets about an American woman’s rape and beating in a public square with complete impunity. Wrong. (In the interests of full disclosure, I confess that I am a registered Democrat who is not particularly happy with either party or with the way of the world as presently constituted. Hey, it’s a fallen world. But at the moment it strikes me as still falling.)

4. PURPOSE. And what is your purpose, anyway—do you have any coherent idea? Figure it out and stick to your goals.

5. INTEREST. We all have different interests. I’m going to talk about my upcoming books. But I probably have plenty of people who only choose to read the Midget Palace post or the I Interview my Visitors series. Don’t try to reach everybody in every post. A blog is a whole with many parts. That said, don’t examine navel lint than can only be of concern to you and your significant other—well, I think even navel-lint-level topics can be funny or curious, but one has to exert a little artifice. Do that. Don’t be lazy, don’t be boring.

6. MODESTY. You know, even Michelangelo and the Tang emperors and Shakespeare had to die. No matter what we believe, we can agree that our very birth is a miracle against long odds (so many sperm headed for our special egg, so many ancestors who might have died too soon); likewise, we all have a variety of gifts that we did absolutely nothing to earn, that were freely given to us at birth. The only thing we can take credit for is whether we use those gifts or not. And even then, we’re just lucky if we weren’t born to be featured on “The Tard Blog” or to be a slave in the cocoa fields or to find some other role that feels like doom. So how about a little humility?

To be continued...

Photograph courtesy of Michael Faes of Switzerland and sxc.hu.

7 comments:

  1. I always enjoy your artwork especially and your posts that are linked to cool poetry podcasts. I finally got to hear how you pronounce the name of that magazine

    Blogs are weird arent they. They are so modern.

    I perfer to think of mine as a journal.

    I enjoyed your statements about blogs. I can only think of maybe 2 times people got agressive and pissy over something I wrote.
    I know at times I may seem careless with what I make public but dont be fooled! I always know how much cleavege one can show appropriatley! hahaaaa I got to go...am at work so better stop messing around

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  2. 2 Words for Susanna6:14 PM, February 16, 2011

    1. Don't
    2. Change

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  3. What magazine? Must have been either "qarrtsiluni" or "Mezzo Cammin."

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  4. "qarrtsiluni" try saying that three times in a row =)

    Thank you to whoever posted, I will try to always be true to myself.

    Sus

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  5. That was me, actually! I don't even want you to learn to spell! I love your spellings! They often seem amusing and meaningful.

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  6. I agree with some of these -- maybe most if they are taken as suggestions to consider rather than rules to follow in all cases. I've read so many absolutist "rules for bloggers" by professional meta-bloggers that I've quite soured on the genre, but the evidence suggests that a lot of people with blogs still haven't thought things through very well. So I think it's a good idea to encourage them to do that, as you've done.

    Re: #3, I do enjoy reading political posts by people who only occasionally blog politics, such as my friend Dale Favier at mole (whom I rarely agree with on such matters) or Beth Adams at the cassandra pages (whose thinking is closer to my own). I don't read political blogs hardly ever, even the ones I agree with -- they strike me as arid, devoted to abstractions, with little connection to real life. But seeing how thoughtful people are reacting to political events? That's awesome, and one of the reasons why I prefer the personal/journaling style of blogging above all else.

    My own rule about politics is to avoid posting rants more than two or three times a year (and to lable them as such when I do, by putting them in the Rants category). Even with the wave of revolutions sweeping the Arab world, about which as a Gandhian and an anarchist there's a lot I could say, I have so far managed to restrict myself to saying it through poetry, filtered through my own observations and experience. The weekly links roundup I've initiated will allow me to share a few more things of an out-an-out political nature, but I'll still probably try and keep that to a minimum.

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  7. Dave,

    Well, you were threatening a rant with weeping, and I wouldn't mind that from you. That one was not political though.

    No, I'm not big on lowering rules on people. This was inspired by several friend-bloggers who went through terrified I'm-going-to-be-fired patches.

    I feel that in some sense I am apolitical or perhaps myriad-political, in that I seem to see more points of view sympathetically (or maybe just see them) than a lot of bloggers. I don't feel the need to drive my slant home. Sometimes I don't feel it's up to me to have a slant. Odd, I suppose. I'd say it's the result of writing fiction, but a good many writers are absolutely bound to the idea of driving their own slant home! And to the idea that writers "know better."

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Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.