The Writer’s Dilemma and the Blogger’s Secret

Filed as Features, General on April 19, 2007 6:00 am

As I write this, I wonder what you might find worthwhile or entertaining, where you are, and how I might offer you a puzzle, a thought, a question, you find worth pursuing. It’s the writer’s dilemma. I remember it stated best in an interview in which Hunter S Thompson was asked, Would you rather research or write? He answered simply,

“Researching is much easier, because no one can help you write.”

That’s really the problem, isn’t it?

No matter how we look it. No matter how much we read and research it. At the end, at the start, it’s me alone with my thoughts and hopefully, something to say. Anyone can watch and critique. Some can offer direction or guidance, but no one can be my voice. No one can do my writing.

I come to this blog with a writer’s ego and a writer’s self-doubt. The ego is what makes me brave enough to put the words where folks can read them. The self-doubt is what makes me curious and more centered in the folks who read. The ego makes me reach for expression. The self-doubt makes me listen for sense and meaning.

I hate writing. I love having written. — Hugh Prather, Jr.

Quote after quote tells the story of writers who know that they have to go it alone. Every blogger worth his or her blogging salt knows the same thing.

Yet we do it. Why do we do it? We have a secret.

It’s more than the momentary thrill of a finished writing piece. We might have started out thinking it was about the writing, but that’s only part, and that’s where it changes. I’m from publishing so I know of what I speak.

When I write for print, once it’s published, the event is over.

When I blog, once it’s published, it’s often the beginning. A conversation can start. It can last for hours or pick up again days later. The thoughts I wrote get answered. They get reflected, reformed, and reignited. Sometimes they get interpreted in ways I never expected and I find myself amazed. I find myself totally engaged in a discussion that takes the idea to places beyond, filling in nuances and broadening the spectrum. The folks who “comment” add insights, draw conclusions, analyze and synthesize the thinking. The speak in the realm of logic and emotion with equal fluency and flexibility.

I come for the company – Tony D. Clark.

Every day I return to my blog and I write. Often I’m still there until the wee hours of the next morning. No one can help me write. . . . but you can take the thought wider and deeper with the authenticity of your experience. That’s the Blogger’s Secret.

Liz Strauss writes and blogs at Successful-Blog, where all of her readers are in on the secret.

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  1. By jhon posted on April 19, 2007 at 6:40 am
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    “…but you can take the thought wider and deeper with the authenticity of your experience…”. Can blogging about products and services that you never experience but do it for money fall in to this? I mean I see a lot of blog reviews written about some web site or product that, I’m sure( ’cause i can tell), the writer never had experience of but do it for money and some even beg to review your product and/or service. Please keep in mind that this doesn’t concern many of the blogs out there that are really good and quite important to read- even those of personal one’s.

  2. By Jean posted on April 19, 2007 at 7:14 am
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    This is a great post, Liz. I really like the point you make between print publishing and blogging — the finality of one, and the on-going dialogue of the other. I know that there are nuances in both, but your point is well-made.

    It also makes me think about the publishing process in general. In print publishing, you write something and by the time it takes to actually be published, you are way beyond the topic in your own thinking. Blogging is fast and current and so much more instantaneous. That’s why the dialogue and the relationship is so very valuable and adds value to one’s thinking.

  3. By Chris Cree posted on April 19, 2007 at 7:28 am
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    Liz, I have said the same thing Hugh Prather did, but with regards to working out!

    And I’m with Tony Clark. The company keeps me coming back.

  4. Blog News Watch » Blog Archive » Writing/Blogging Article Worth ReadingApril 19, 2007 at 8:03 am
  5. By pelf posted on April 19, 2007 at 8:07 am
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    Oh my.. This sounds like me — researching for enough materials to write my thesis. Anybody can help by sending me papers and directing me to more journals but at the end of the day, I’d have to do the writing myself.

    Beautifully written :)

  6. By Liz Strauss posted on April 19, 2007 at 8:31 am
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    Hi John,
    Having been a product development person, I can see how a product blog could work the same way regarding thinking through product ideas with customers and and in case of “store-type” blog or product blog hearing their closest needs, desires, and wishes. Great product blogs from my point of view, aren’t really about being hype-ful but instead they’re about being helpful. So I see lots of room for discussing wishes and dreams and ideas.

  7. By Liz Strauss posted on April 19, 2007 at 8:34 am
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    Hi Jean,
    I know that you’ve been in publishing for such a long time. So you too, speak from experience. I had totally forgotten how once something is ready to be published, it’s been worked well into shape and well out of it’s “freshness.” Thanks for that reminder.

    Another counterpoint that explains why I get up with a smile every day. :)

  8. By Liz Strauss posted on April 19, 2007 at 8:35 am
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    Hi Chris!
    Hugh and Tony are two guys I quote a lot. Then there’s Chris Cree. He’s getting quoted more and more lately. :)

  9. By Liz Strauss posted on April 19, 2007 at 8:37 am
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    Hi Pelf!
    I find that when I do the research, I often don’t want to write it. It seems that i’ve solved the problem already so the the writing process is extraneous because the discovery is over. I’d help, Pelf, but I need to write my own stuff and I can’t find anyone who can help me. :)

    Thank you for the kind words. They’re the best help. :)

  10. By noah posted on April 19, 2007 at 8:50 am
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    The reseacrh destroys the exercise. If you read too much you think too much and then suddenly all the angles mix up in your head. There’s a fine line where you know just enough to write and keep the language moving in an interesting way. Most bloggers seem to fixate more on content, and fact-checking. I guess that is just a symptom of blogging’s problem, which is anyone can do it. For an amazing sui generis site (can’t call it a blog) I recommend http://www.philalawyer.net. The author writes a really raunchy book in serials and the language is astounding.

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  12. By Liz Strauss posted on April 19, 2007 at 8:57 am
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    HI Noah!
    I agree that the research kills the problem for me. Writing helps to sort my thoughts as that’s what planing a written work does. But if I’ve solved the problme, i’ve no reason. My thoughts are already sorted and organized and I’ve no inclination or wish to write them down . . . unless I want to teach someone else what I’ve learned.

    Liz

  13. By Tony D. Clark posted on April 19, 2007 at 9:11 am
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    Wow, Thompson, Prather, and me… Never thought I’d see THAT day :)

    I completely agree that hitting “publish” is the beginning of the conversation. It’s why I started blogging.

    In the intertubes, publishing a post is equivalent to walking up to a group of interesting folks at a party and sparking a conversation. You never know where it’s going to go, but rarely is it boring.

    Thanks Liz!

  14. By Liz Strauss posted on April 19, 2007 at 10:59 am
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    Hi Tony,
    If you would just stop saying just important things, I would stop linking to you. Darn it anyway. :)

    I love your description of folks at a party in conversation. That’s how I experience it too sometimes. Sometimes it’s like a coffeehouse where we all meet — and there’s chocolate cake. :)

  15. By basketer posted on April 19, 2007 at 11:20 am
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    Perfect. Thats essentially all I have been pondering about for a month now :). So i guess writing is weaker than blogging is what you wanted to say Bm??

    Also, what is the chocolate cake the readers get in this blogging scenario??

  16. By Jeff Brown posted on April 19, 2007 at 11:42 am
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    Now for the dark side of blogging Liz won’t tell you about. :)

    It’s legal heroin that begins gnawing on the back of your mind until it crashes into the front of your skull demanding to be fed.

    Then you blog and it leaves you alone for a day – two at the most. It’s insidious.

    For this I blame Liz – world’s most successful pusher. :)

  17. By Vernon Lun posted on April 19, 2007 at 12:45 pm
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    It is an addiction… what prevents us from stopping is the fear that we wake up one day and be excluded from the conversation.

    I see blogging different from publishing because you never feel you have to be perfect, you just have to be you and your thoughts are unadulterated and your opinions are raw. It is reality writing, usually instantaneous, rarely insincere. That’s why we are all so drawn to reading blogs because they are in that sense a window to the blogger’s soul.

  18. By Chris Cree posted on April 19, 2007 at 1:05 pm
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    Guys, I think the reason it’s so addictive is we get that nearly instant feedback (traffic, stats, comments, etc.) which is missing in traditional publishing. Just like with drugs we find it takes more and more just to get the same high so we keep cranking out the content to get the feedback (and the high).

  19. By Liz Strauss posted on April 19, 2007 at 3:35 pm
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    Hi Jeff,
    The meeting of people in actual communication can be truly uplifting to the spirit. Put that together with something that interests us and we’re there in a minutes.

    Write in a conversational tone and our brains are trained to tune in. So, yeah it really is chemically enticing. :)
    Brilliant, jeff!
    You know I never tell you that you’re wrong . . . except once in a while . . . um er now and then . . . almost . . . well you know what I mean. :)

  20. By Liz Strauss posted on April 19, 2007 at 10:31 pm
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    Hi Vernon!
    I think of it more as a kid who has to go to be early and is afraid that I’m going to miss something while I am sleeping — something someone said or did while I was away.

    Yea, I too, love the forgiveness and humaness of blogging. The fact that we take the time usually to make sure that we know what the other guy means. That the agreed upon rule is authenticity and transparency, and that most folks abide by those simple traits making it easy to see who they really are. When I’ve met bloggers in the real world, they look the same to me as they did online in the comment box. As you say, a look into their soul.

  21. By Liz Strauss posted on April 19, 2007 at 10:34 pm
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    Chris,
    I hear what you’re saying about the feeback. Yes, I look there as well. The feedback this morning of knowing this post that I stayed up writing was listened to and heard was waiting for me when I turned on my computer this early morning. :)

    The stats let me know what folks care about so that I know what I should write and how to best suit their needs and unsxpressed desires. Feedback is important and addictive. The comment box will always be the feedback that I like most. :)

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