Saturday, July 24, 2010

What I have gained from writing a blog

A student at one of the seminars I gave recently asked me how I wrote my books, an interesting question nobody had ever asked me before, nor one that I found I could easily answer. She wanted to know whether the words just flowed from pen to paper or whether I reworked what I had written a lot. This set me looking at how I actually do write. I proceed in small bounds, working on bite-sized chunks of words, invariably written away from home in some place of refreshment (see my blog of March 14th on Coffee Shops I Have Known), at most in very short bouts of perhaps 10 – 20 minutes. I then go back and transfer this to my computer, print it out, and take this printed version away with me again to my next expedition outside, to correct, delete and usually abbreviate, until the words flow as I want them to do, with the kind of cadence I am looking for. I then use the last paragraphs of this amended version to move me on to the next thought. I often have no idea where this will come from, but it seems to appear once I am happy with the content of what has just gone before, as each small kernel of thought leads me on to the next.

Since each of these excursions into a new thought represents about a page or so of writing, I find this now fits appropriately into the space of a blog, and I have increasingly begun to include in my blog some of these snippets of thought. I will, I imagine, eventually draw them together into another book, although I realise it would be far easier (and far, far cheaper, since I self-publish), simply to go on blogging and forget the publishing. On the other hand, I regard each book I write as in some way reflecting a form of completed thought, or at least a kind of temporary full-stop in what may well be a continuous process. And shaping a book requires much more than the publication of the snippets which a blog can resemble. A compromise would be to publish the blog as it stands, though that would, I think, be a bit lazy.

Nevertheless, the pressure of an audience for my thoughts out there, some of whom declare themselves to me, others forming rows of silent listeners surrounding me, encourages me in my thinking. I am sure, too, that much of what I have written in books remains unread by the people buying them, for I recognise that I do not myself always read books from cover to cover, often dipping into the first chapters and leaving the rest for another time, perhaps never to be re-opened. The same may be true of a blog, but, because they are shorter, it is more likely that people read to the end, rather than stopping half-way through. Perhaps, with people’s attention span much shorter because of the vast number of words out there waiting to be read, a blog is more likely to be read than any book now, and is more conducive to the realities of people’s rushed lives than the kind of protracted reading a book requires.

Certainly the presence of my blog has changed how I approach my writing and given it some urgency, because of the need to add to it at regular intervals. So here’s to further happy blogging, with the added bonus that now, thanks to Zara (see my blog of July 17th asking for help), I now know how to correct what I have already published!

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