State of the Art: The Scribe Meets Anxiety

I have a confession to make. I have technology anxiety. Remember math anxiety? The symptoms are the same—rapid heartbeat, panic, and most of all, inability to think clearly and solve your problem. I know because I had it this morning. I kept getting a frightening black screen every time I tried to restart my computer. And this was the day I was supposed to write my newly tagged blog, “Where the Scribe Meets Modernity.” The part I haven’t told you—and almost wasn’t going to—is that I had to phone my husband to figure out how to solve my problem.

You wouldn't know all this by reading my past blogs, because it turns out that I've managed to master my phobia--technology--in order to experiment with a new form of writing that wouldn't exist without it. Luckily, I've been helped along by savvy female guides to the genre. And so from She Writes to blogs everywhere, I give you my top five lessons learned about the fine art of blogging.

1. It’s easier to learn technical skills from other women. Thanks to the very smart women who lead bloginars at She Writes, I learned the mechanics of setting up a blog and a Twitter account. Our Twitter teacher, Sarah Milstein, was one of the first people EVER to use Twitter in its caveman days, so I was a bit overawed. Yet when I asked a question, she didn’t act astounded that I didn’t already know the answer. I was able to write—and post—my first blog without male help.

2. Writing a blog is different from writing a news article. Actually, I’m still learning this. As a writer schooled in the impersonal voice of journalism, I usually take myself out of the story. After my first blogs were posted, I realized that the traditional news lede didn’t always work. I’m trying to make that first sentence and the blog itself more personal.

3. Anger inspires the best blog. I wrote my last blog about whether I should let you steal my work. That was after three publications—all of which have paid me to write for them in the past—had just rejected a story idea dear to my heart. “You don’t mind writing for free?” a writer friend asked me when I told her I’d decided to write the piece for an online magazine that doesn’t pay. Actually, I was indignant when I thought about it that way. But at the same time, there was a sense of freedom: I could use my own voice rather than that of an established news organization. (I’m not alone: Kamy Wicoff’s indignation about the zero women on Publisher’s Weekly’s 10 Best list sparked a social protest movement here at She Writes.)

4. The best blog gets the most reaction. My last blog produced an outpouring of comments from She Writes members, some sharing in the indignation, others pointing out the advantages of putting your stuff in cyberspace for free. Your comments expanded the discussion and provided illustrative stories from your own experiences.

5. A blog lets you stop pretending. When I went freelance in the ‘80s to work as a reporter from home with two small children, I tried to keep my location a secret from sources I was interviewing. Working from home didn’t just seem unprofessional; it was a badge of shame. I just read one of freelancer Lori Widmer’s blogs about trying to work while her children were home from college. It’s a humorous and recognizable account of how hard it is to get anything done and seems perfectly appropriate to a blog about writing.
Her blog was just named one of the 25 best blogs of 2009 about the writing profession.

When the founders of She Writes asked me to write this blog, I had written for publications like the New York Times Book Review about the intersection between writing and technology—e-books, self-publishing and new forms of experimental writing on the Internet. What I didn’t say is that the reason I find these innovations so fascinating is that I’m technologically naïve, a little like Tarzan emerging from the jungle. In a way, our world is changing so fast that we’re all emerging from the jungle together. With this blog I hope to take you all with me.

In the meantime, I’m hoping to find a girl who can help me at the genius bar.

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Tags: #social media, blogging

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Comment by Kamy Wicoff on March 26, 2010 at 3:46pm
Sarah, this is such a great post. I have been struggling a lot of these same issues, and have also felt that this community is uniquely equipped to help us all get through. Blogging did not come naturally to me, and that PW list, and the anger I felt about it, was a real turning point. And I also agree that Twitter webinar -- amazing! :)
Comment by Sarah Milstein on March 21, 2010 at 3:36pm
So glad the Twitter help demystified things and gave you confidence! Makes my day to hear that.
Comment by Judith van Praag on March 20, 2010 at 12:24pm
Dear Sarah "SOTA" Glazer,
When I started my blog Hope Filled Jars I'd in 2005, I'd been writing for publication for five, six years (forget about the one-time magazine writing stint 15-years earlier). In 2005 I wanted to be taken seriously as a journalist, so I didn't want to give away my writing for free. What I published on my blog, had to be short, unsellable elsewhere and yet well rounded, I thought. It's taken me five years to discover how different writing for a blog is from writing for an (old-fashioned) paper publication. It's only thanks to expat+HAREM the group-blog magazine founded by SW member Anastasia Ashman that I've gained insight in what makes an effective blog post. The irony is that I've felt far more self assured about the technology of blogging than of my role as a writer Online.
If the art of blogging is dialogue, women have something going for them, don't you think?
Hoka Hey! (there's more to come),
Judith

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