Sunday, March 30, 2014

Turning Point, Part III: Why Writers Write

Continued from:
Turning Point, and
Turning Point, Part II

Vladimir Kush

Just as illusions are meant to confuse the eyes and senses, summoning the brain to make sense of things, so too can the respective roles of blogging and publishing confuse the writer. I wouldn't want serious authors to give up publishing in favor of blogging, not because I do not find value in blogging, but because I am of the opinion that crafting a book (including eBooks) produces a valuable resource. Of course, it would be unenlightened to say that blogging doesn't have its place in the world. 

There is a watertight division between what comprises blogging and what belongs to publishing; there is always an overlap between them as blogging, in the technical sense, is indeed publishing, only virtual, and often times, though not always, for free. Just as it is annoying to see writers endlessly disputing the authority of blogging and its legitimate pedagogic aims, the latter must likewise keep any initiative they take in blogging within the limits of the most elementary rules of writing and the principles of publication. 

A writer isn't here to give authority about the value of how readers receive their information, though many can write on the subject. Ultimately, it is up to readers to decide the ways in which they will receive their information. Many individuals I know, including myself, read the news online, research online, and yet, return to books, some old and familiar, others new, for detailed information on specific subjects, in particular on subjects pertaining to our professions or personal interests. Reading books versus surfing the web for information is essentially a matter of ease and convenience, and perhaps a matter of habit. As younger generations, raised on the Internet, begin building their libraries of knowledge, traditional books may represent costly, burdensome objects that take up space and are difficult to transport. In the same respect, even eBooks, unless they are textbooks, might seem too long to bother reading. Digital reading overlaps with the psychologies involved in digital surfing: less is more.

Antiquarian booksellers cater to an older audience for a reason; they are more accustomed to holding a book in their hands than they are reading a book on an electronic device, such as their phone or tablet. Initially, I had difficulty transitioning to reading books on my tablet, but once I started downloading more of my favorites, which were often times free of charge, I soon discovered how much easier they were to transport and how much easier it was to read at night. No longer was my nighttime reading interrupted by poor lighting. No longer were the pages of my book crumpled when I adjusted reading positions. No longer did I need bookmarks. No longer did marks from my highlighters and writing instruments bleed through the pages, as I can highlight with a swoosh of the finger - and remove it, just as easily. 

Let me make myself clear: I'm not arguing for one approach over the other. I'm convinced that, within the new framework of modern publishing, that both approaches are valid, albeit different. What is required is for the writer to know themselves, to know their audience, and understand which approach is best suited for their writing goals. We need to ensure that what we write is positioned in the space where it is most likely to be read. While some authors may disagree, I am still of the belief that the purpose of writing is to be read, even if only by the writer, themselves. 

It is the little shadows of doubt that plague writers and undermine their authority to publish. Questions like "Should I publish this?" and "Is my book any good?" and "Will anyone read my book?" are always at the forefront of a writer's mind. In this respect, blogging helps to answer these questions. While the statistics are never fully indicative of what people think about a writer's writing, they are an indication of what the general population is searching for - and reading. Even those who publish in a specific field will find readers flocking to their sites if their writing is easily accessible and reader friendly. Even sites built by the aesthetically challenged find readership if the information is of value to enough people. Here, blogging serves as a reliable testing ground to help authors (and publishers) gauge interest in written material. Of course, there are some blogs, such as mine, that offer a lot of visual feedback, i.e., pictures and artwork. Many visitors find their way to my blog searching for images. While this might skew statistics in the sense that visitors come for the pictures and nothing more, there are many who linger (according to the statistics of how long visitors remain on the page or click on new pages while they are on my blog) that read. When a visitor visits a webpage, for any given reason, and then clicks on another link, often times it is because the written subject matter caught their attention and piqued their curiosity. In any rate, blogging gives writers a chance to test out their material prior to undertaking the arduous (traditional) publication journey. Admittedly publishing is not as difficult as it used to be. With the advent of self-publishing, it is easy to publish books. However, the impetus to publish a book (eBook or traditional) is more than mere ease, it also brings into question one's motivations; be them economy, the desire for an object of worth, or general philosophies one holds associated with global sharing. 

I would like to take a moment to discuss eBooks, which are electronic versions of a printed book that can be read on a computer or handheld device. While many eBooks can be downloaded for free, others are for cost. Sometimes the cost of an eBook is the same as a traditional book. Many authors write with the exclusive intention to publish eBook readers rather than have their books appear in print. One advantage to this is that eBook readers can include hyperlinks, they can be more interactive in terms of readers having the ability to highlight text, as mentioned above, to look up words with a simple touch of the screen, and also to have videos or gifs embedded within the text which can bring the text to life. In this series, I am not limiting traditional publishing to printed work consisting of pages glued or sewn together and bound in a cover. In this series, when I use the word publication, it also includes eBooks. 

All of this information is so commonplace that it might be found a bit silly to dedicate a series to exploring the differences in writing, blogging, and publishing: but I think it touches on some profound issues in the writing process. Many writers do not arrange the type of writing they do into any kind of hierarchy, so they often put arbitrary, whimsical or pointless refusals regarding the different types of writing on the same level as the most essential aspects. For example, you don't publish full-length chapters in a single blog post (though some of my articles test this theory) because most readers won't read for longer than 90 seconds (the average online attention span). With this being said, it is crucial to understand which venue should be used for various types of writing. 

(To be continued)

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