For This Writer, Blogging and Writing Are Different. Vive la difference!

PART ONE:Kamy Wicoff on the differences between blogging and writing, and on why the latter is her first true love.

This weekend, the thrilling, perpetually soldout BlogHer 2010 conference will take place in New York City. I attended my first BlogHer conference last summer in Chicago, and spent most of the time wandering around like a deer in headlights, trying to get my bearings. (And meeting some wonderful women, like Ananda Leeke, who I hope to see again tonight!) This year, however, I will be moderating a panel, "The Evolving Publishing Ecosystem," part of BlogHer's new writing track. Why? Because, according to one of BlogHer's three co-founders, Elisa Camahort, the bloggers who attend the conference have been asking for more tools, tips and encouragement when it came to writing. These women, Elisa told me, wanted to write better. I couldn't help wondering, however, if they wanted to blog better, or write better. Because to me there is a difference.

Is blogging writing?

Or is writing something else?

On some level it is a silly question, I know. Writing is putting letters together to form words and putting those words in order on a page or a screen, and in that sense blogging is writing, of course. But when I finish this blogpost and put it up on She Writes, I won't feel like I wrote today. I will feel like I blogged today, and wish that I'd found time to write. A friend recently said to me, "I think you are creatively stymied right now, and you're suffering for it." I almost jumped in to protest by saying, "But on She Writes, I write all the time!" but I didn't say it, because that's not how I feel about it. Instead I realized I need to build writing time back into my life, now.

What's the difference? Sometimes I think of blogging as a genre, akin to writing a column (if we must compare it to a "traditional" form), and if the brilliant and inimitable Katha Pollitt is not a writer, who is? I have heard Katha say that a 750 word column is capable of supporting exactly one and a half ideas, and to the extent that a blogpost makes an argument or succeeds in capturing an idea or experience with clarity and purpose, bloggers and columnists are very much alike. Katha, however, is also a poet, (she has won a Guggenheim for her poetry) and when Nancy K. Miller interviewed her for our first-ever "Five Questions for...", Katha had this to say about the difference between her columns and her poetry: "Ezra Pound calls poetry 'news that stays news.' In other words, poetry, if it’s going to be of interest for more than a moment, takes what’s of the moment to a deeper level. My column deals with what’s happening the week that I write it. That’s a kind of writing that dates very quickly."

Writing, in other words, is built to last. And as such, it takes time -- months or even years -- and its value is directly correlated to the process implicit in laboring so long over one's words. If it's good, it's good because it is the product of the precious, irreplaceable work of writing, rewriting, rewriting, and rewriting again. It is this work that distinguishes art from reportage. When considered this way, poetry assumes its rightful place as writing of the first degree, for there are no words more carefully considered or more mightily labored over than each and every word a poet chooses to use in her work. As Katha herself observed, "There’s more to life—and language-- than can be expressed in a Nation column!"

Which is why for me, anyway, blogging is blogging, and writing is writing, and I like doing both.

So do many of you, apparently. And this weekend I will go to BlogHer and have the distinct pleasure of interacting with a group of women who got together and said, "We want to write better." I can't imagine a crowd I'd rather be in than that.

STAY TUNED FOR PART TWO: What I Learned About My Writing from Blogging.

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Tags: #process/craft, #social media, BlogHer, Katha Politt, blogging

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Comment by Hope A. Perlman on July 21, 2011 at 12:21pm
This post is timely for me. I've been engrossed in a pet project about success (http://www.unmappedcountry.blogspot.com), and I've been taking notes and blogging about it, while considering how to turn it into articles or a book. Maybe I need to try creating the book part now. And then get back to fiction writing.
Comment by Alex Iwashyna on August 11, 2010 at 10:13am
I grappled with this question during and since BlogHer. I listed blogger and writer separately on my business card because I agree with you. They are different.
I began blogging so I could write daily and fell in love with with the genre. But I believe it is a genre (or genre-like). Separate from writing a book or even a series of essays. They can play off each other. Inspire each other (as often is the case for me). But they are not each other.
And I have just begun to make time for writing again too. Because I missed it even posting 5-6 times a week on Late Enough.
Comment by Kathy Matthews on August 10, 2010 at 5:50pm
Kamy, I agree. I have been blogging for 2 1/2 years, but the last real writing I did were term papers in 2004, in college. (I have written a couple of essays on my blog that can be considered writing, but most of my blog is not "writing" writing.) I was working on my newborn historical novel this weekend, and was struck with the difference between creating blog posts and working on a fiction story. I had to fill out my sentences, and really concentrate on what I was saying, and pay attention to how it was coming across.

I plan on keeping up the work on my blog, and on my novel. They both serve creative purposes for me, and are for separate audiences.
Comment by Meagan Frank on August 10, 2010 at 1:52pm
Agreed. There are definitely two categories of bloggers. There are the bloggers who write...and then there are writers who blog. I categorize myself in the latter. I use my blog writing as a springboard for book writing; daily exercises to get the keyboard warmed up. I love doing both blogging and writing, and I am absolutely starting to note the differences between the two.
Comment by Julie Bond Genovese on August 10, 2010 at 1:17pm
Kamy, thank you! There IS a difference between blogging and writing and you nailed it (in several ways!) Your clarity helped me understand why I need and love both. Thanks for the major a-ha!
Comment by Kate King on August 8, 2010 at 3:25pm
I wonder if we like the instant gratification of the blog? WRite it, post it, see it!! Most other kinds of writing not only take a long time to write but days, weeks, months or even years to reach the public domain.
I blog for work (any cat lovers out there?) and find my clients like a constant stream of new content. That can be a burden at times, whereas my writing/reading blog is fun and a warmup for my 'real' writing.
Comment by Tania Pryputniewicz on August 6, 2010 at 6:46pm
I’ll weigh in as a poet…grateful, given the 3 kids, to have the time to write at all; when my youngest was still nursing, my blogging was a way to give myself a deadline, and given that’d it be in the public eye, sculpt it past just the first thought that came into my head. It served as a place to talk about the process behind writing some of the poems, a place also to provide links to published poems until I could get a collection out there in print. And I intended to also weave in the work of other writers and artists to provide inspiration. Along the way, the blog became home to reflections about motherhood and writing.

But I agree with Kamy, in the sense that giving myself “raw writing time” without one half of my psyche already turned towards publishing it on-line by the end of the day (as I tend to do with blog entries) still is critical to staying in the world of the poems I’m trying to write. I am debating right now about wether to drop out of the blogosphere to devote more time to the other manuscripts I’m working on (given that I’m wearing a hat as a poetry editor and am just this fall returning to work teaching), but I think I’m also hooked on the conversation and the sweetly bolstering web of give and take I’ve experienced with other writers and bloggers. Hard to go it alone, so again, I’m grateful to She Writes.
Comment by Patricia A. McGoldrick on August 6, 2010 at 5:03pm
Blogging and writing--to me they offer a place for all the writing voices out there. Over a year ago, I never would have considered blogging; it was way beyond the scope of "writing" with poems, essays, stories being the "real" thing. After the passage of time, some blogging challenge days, and interactions with so many other bloggers, I have adjusted my view of this "activity".It is writing, in all its varied ways. As with other formats of writing, there are the varied voices and styles of each individual. Vive la difference!
Comment by The Salonniere on August 6, 2010 at 6:16am
I just changed the title of this post to better reflect my meaning -- and Jenne, I'm glad you pointed out, as others have, that blogs can also be a place to post more serious work, as they are an online HQ for a writer who is not only blogging in the traditional, once-a-day sense, but also sharing her poetry, essays and other efforts via her blog. Let me be clear -- blogging is a kind of writing, of course!, but for me, it is different from the writing I hold closest to my heart.
Comment by Deborah Siegel on August 5, 2010 at 9:53pm
As someone who identifies as both writer and blogger (I'm a writer who blogs, and a blogger who writes longer prose) I find this thread so interesting. I'm with Dawn, who has "come to think of my blog as part of my writing practice." Like Dawn, "blog writing does, without doubt, influence my longer prose." I tend to think of my blogging as a different animal than my longer nonfiction, but it feeds the beast, as they say.

I'm too tired at the moment (it's 12:45am where I am!) but sense there's an interesting thread within this comment thread about writER (the identity) and writING (the activity) -- though I'm too foggy brained at the moment to figure out what it is. But Lisa, if you put words together on screen or page, you SO belong on She Writes!

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