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Studio 60, Bloggers & What Makes Good Writing

This week’s “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” episode (it’s getting better, by the way, like we all knew it would) had a joke about a woman blogger who was bashing their fictional show where the director thumbed his nose at the blogger saying she was probably (I’m paraphrasing) “in her pajamas with her 5 cats”. Well, I’m here to say nothing could be further from the truth. I’m blogging in my nightshirt with my five cats (actually four – one is at the vet overnight.)

Seriously though, as someone who has worked hard to get articles published in paper publications and is currently going through the arduous process of looking for a publisher for a book, knowing how easy it is to get “published” online via a blog does make it an easy target for people in older media to tear down bloggers. Also, bloggers don’t necessarily always blog in a traditionally journalistic way meaning some are more news-oriented, others are editorialists and many just want to write about their navel lint like in a diary.

The Palo Alto Weekly yesterday published another article about the Silicon Valley Moms Blog (with two quotes from a post of mine) and I had began wonder why a local newspaper is writing about women in their pajamas blogging, as well as a nationally broadcast TV show? I guess we’re a hot commodity. But that will soon pass and then it’ll be child bloggers that get the attention: Janey the three year-old prodigy blogging about her stuffed pony’s nose ring.

What interests me more, however, is the question of what makes good writing. Because after the blogging hype dies down (soon enough, I’m sure, since we’re well past the early adoptor stage), blogging will become like TV talk shows – just another place to change the channels.

I like to think of good writing on four levels: 1) objective – grammatically correct, stylistically accurate text according to major conventions, 2) subjective – appealing to the majority of readers when it comes to language usage, flow and interest, 3) promotion/popularity – the old adage of a tree falling in the forest applies here, meaning it would be a lot more wonderful if more people knew about it, and 4) literary – creative combinations of words into prose that transcends popularity and becomes an object of art standing the test of time on its own.

In traditional (offline) media, most published writers have mastered level 1. They can only hope that the editors did a good enough job choosing the topics and molding the work so it fits in level 2 and connects with a large audience so that publishers can work to make their writing fit into level 3, judged by sales. Level 4 is the elusive quest for excellence that many writers seek but never achieve either from lack of talent, training or both and three is judged by academics who have studied the masters of literature over decades or centuries.

Where blogging fits can confuse people because it tends to be self-managed. Bloggers don’t typically have editors and publishing teams that fine-tune the works and there’s no screening process. Anyone with Internet access can blog. (I realize I’m stating the obvious here for most people who read my blog, but for the less technical people, I like to spell it out a little.) In the case of the Silicon Valley Moms Blog, however, the reason we attract attention is because we do have editorial and promotional processes. So my hypothesis is that the bloggers that perform highest in levels 1-4 will be taken seriously by all media; and those blogs that are merely wanking will be like the pamphlets left on cars that get tossed in mud in the parking lot.

Time will tell what happens with this blog, but for now, I’m content when most days I can check-off level 1 and get half way through level 2 while still in my nightshirt.