Brian looks at blogging for a second time and asks: are computers compromising our ability to write and so influence? Should we get back to our literary roots and ditch the word processor for the classic pen, paper and free flowing thoughts?
In an earlier article I discussed the trials, but also the importance of blogging. To recap: if you can trump procrastination and blog regularly you could become an influencer. This was discussed by BBC Radio 4 in episode 2, series 2, of the Digital Human, which you can listen to here. And naturally, as in line with my career ambitions, I want to be a blogger because I want to influence.
But unfortunately one cannot simply say: I blog, therefore I influence. No, to become an influential online voice you have to blog quality content consistently over many months and years. That is my firm goal and it is one that I am sticking to. However, as I said in my "Trials of Blogging" post here, I find blogging often intensely difficult.
But since then I've been thinking, reading and discussing about how to take the difficulty out of blogging. I put a few of the suggestions gathered into practice and have enjoyed some pleasing results - so now I want to share them with you.
The first thing is simple: if you want to write and blog well, you need to read well. Yes, if you read good literature you will invariably begin to pick up style, measure and vocabulary which will enrich your ability to write with concision and structure.
The second thing is another simple point: you need to practice blogging. They don't say practice makes perfect for no reason after all.
The third thing is a simple one again: read popular blogs. See how they write, understand their manner and blogging style. Learn from that a good blog or blogger and try to emulate them without plagiarising.
The fourth is a more difficult: keep abreast of what is going on in the world and maintain a continuity of content so that you can build a specialism in your subject area.
The fifth thing is a little more abstract: writing a blog is not about sitting in front of a computer screen and expecting blogging magic to happen.
This last point makes particular sense and I believe that this is where I believe I was going wrong. I was plonking myself in front of the computer, opening Microsoft Word and expecting the words and sentences to come flowing forth. I was expecting the ideas, opinions and views that had come to me earlier to come back instantaneously. But when you sit in front of a computer, which is precise and rigid in its functionality, you freeze.
So I want to ask you: do you ever sit in front of a computer screen and find it hard to write a blog? I know a good number of my friends and acquaintances do. But don't worry I've figured there's a solution to this problem. The solution is a return to the way things began: to the pen and paper.
Divorce yourself from the rigidity of technology and let your thoughts, cerebral creativity and prose roam free. Write down your thoughts and potential blogging content throughout the day; when you're out for a walk, when you're lying in bed and when you're out in the pub. This is when the best ideas can come. But don't allow them to escape, capture them then and there. Don't expect to remember them later in the day when you come round to sitting before a computer.
You should also just try some mental and prosaic riffs on paper. It's so much freer than working from a keyboard before a bright screen. You can just write a sentence or two, strike it out, try again and crumple it up if necessary. This freedom and looseness will really free up your mind which should bring fluidity to your writing.
I'm not saying that you should drop the tools of the digital world and go all Luddite. Rather, marry the old with the new. Marry the old tools with the new tools and the old practices with the new practices. I believe that this all makes perfect sense: writing is not a static process. It is something that requires exploration, freedom and the distillation and the marinating of ideas that come throughout the day and across the week.
Yes, there are a great many esteemed bloggers who can sit before a computer and write perfect prose effortlessly. But for the main part, the general blogging public cannot do this. So if you want to blog and influence try and make a space for the pen and paper in your life. Then you can write down your thoughts, cerebral creations and literary riffs as they come to you. And then if you get really good you could become an online influencer or even a blogging superstar!