Posted by: George | July 7, 2010

Blogging

July 7, 2010 (morning)

Last night, I checked into a Best Western in Pinedale WY because, despite a long day of driving, I couldn’t quite make it to good camp grounds. I also had a number of posts I wanted to upload, so I needed to spend a few hours with WiFi.

I have already been learning a great deal about blogging, which is entirely new to me. It is very much writing of the moment, more like journalism on the fly, not at all the kind of writing I have done most of my career. I have spent ten years writing books that a few hundred people might one day read, if humanity lasts a few more thousand years. As my academic career progressed, I found myself becoming more and more specialized and writing for fewer and fewer people.

Last fall, I traveled (with my friends Michael and Jim) to a Darwin conference in Portugal to deliver a paper to an audience of one. I really don’t want to do that anymore.

For the rest of my career, I would rather write for a broader audience. Even my last academic book, Storytelling in Alcoholics Anonymous: A Rhetorical Analysis, was less narrowly defined than some of my earlier work.

The one thing that I have found frustrating about blogging is that I have to write so fast and post without multiple passes of editing, as we teach the students in the Professional and Technical Writing program at University of Arkansas at Little Rock. I am a compulsive reviser. I revised Some of the Words Are Theirs, a memoir about my family or origin, for about seven or eight years after it had taken, more or less, final shape. As I drive during the day, I think of the posts I want to write and the posts I have already written. I want to pull over and rework a post.

At night, if I have time and energy, I go back over posts and try to revise or edit them a bit. But I can’t take up the entire trip writing. I hope readers will be understanding if I have a few errors here and there, or some awkward phrases.

When Steinbeck was on his trip, he didn’t write at all. He only took notes. He wrote that his ideas have to percolate before he can begin to put words on paper. That’s more the way I prefer to write.

In Travels with Charley, Steinbeck also often complains about being isolated and lonely. He was not, like me, a naturally outgoing person. His truck/camper, unusual for 1960, helped him to initiate some conversations, and Charley was, he wrote, his ambassador.

Because I am blogging about this trip, I am finding that I don’t feel so isolated. This is not to say that I have thousands of people following me. My best day so far was 78 views. But it the blog is helping me to stay connected with family and friends—and even make a few new friends.

With New Media (all that Internet and computer communication), we are more connected to those far away and less connected to those sitting a few feet from us. Our sense of community has definitely changed, for better or worse.

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Responses

  1. I think your travel blog is fantastic. Getting into the zone with blog writing is tough at first but the habit is not unlike other writing habits we teach. Thinking about audience expectation is the hardest part for me. I think an audience has a different set of expectations for reading a blog as opposed to reading a novel. Would Steinbeck’s travel blog read the same as the novel? In the end I think it’s always about good reflection, but something about the format and the interaction makes it different.

    I think there’s a lot about interaction design that we as writers fail to consider when writing. Check out my friend Karen’s travel blog when her bf from Ohio flew to San Francisco and they drove back together. http://weloveadventures.tumblr.com/

    The design alone is pretty radical (and rad). There’s definitely a chronology, but the reading experience is less linear.

    Anyway you’re doing the right thing with this blog. Maybe you should take more pictures. Definitely more pictures. Not just the grand ones, you can spend some time and attention on the little things. I for one am a sucker for pictures of poorly written signs, and I bet you’ve seen your fair share.

    And your twitter account needs a headshot. 🙂

    P.S. I subscribe via RSS so I don’t always show up in your view count–I’m sure I’m not alone.

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    • Thanks for advice Aaron. I may not be able to follow up on it until I get back to Little Rock. I have only short spots of time to do the Internet thing.

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  2. Geo–
    I’m really enjoying your blog–so thoughtful and funny, too. I especially liked the family reunion sequence, and the comments about how we market Native American culture, using the fake to draw us to the authentic. John and I leave for Scotland next Monday. We view the British Isles much as you do the West: resenting the way many Americans think of UK as a “toy country” of little red mailboxes, double decker buses. and bad food. Anyway, your blog and photos are grand–keep it up and I’ll catch up when we get back home.
    Cheers and Godspeed,
    Suzann

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  3. This is such a good thing you’re doing, good for your writing and good for the soul. If you ever start following others on Twitter, I am llcadle. Also, there are little apps that tweet your location too, if you think that would be a worthwhile addition to your notes.

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    • Good advice. Appreciate it Lanette.

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  4. Perhaps you should write in stream of consciousness mode. 🙂

    I am constantly tinkering with my blog. Maybe someday I’ll even re-publish a post with a new title and slight variations in Raymond Carver fashion.

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    • Good advice. Of couse, I am not sure there is a “stream” to my “consciousness.” It’s more a case of sputters.

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  5. I’ve been keeping up with your posts here, a bit envious of your travels. As a younger person my family breezed through the yellowstone/teton region and we didn’t pause to spend enough time there. Something I regret.

    Anyway, I enjoy your blog. The post about your wife was really moving. And I feel like sharing something else that I enjoyed reading this morning. Totally unrelated: http://powazek.com/posts/2489

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    • Thanks Drew. I appreciate the comment.

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  6. I am glad you want to spend the rest of your career writing for a larger audience. Hope your having fun dad call me when you get some free time.

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