This is a piece by Scarlett Harris, on the changing landscape for online writing.
It seems that everywhere I look on the internet these days there’s a nostalgia for blogging.
Emily Gould, the prolific former Gawker writer who arguably changed the way we think of blogging, wrote of her wistfulness for blogging in—what else—her TinyLetter, which seems to be the direction in which what we formerly knew as blogging is heading.
The recently revived The Hairpin similarly published an ode to blogging, with Kelly Conaboy writing that “All of the old good writers aren’t writing anymore. And it seems like the new young people aren’t very interested in blogging and instead want to write long personal essays about sex…”
So why aren’t we blogging anymore?
I have personally tried to distance myself from blogging and the term “blogger” over the past couple of years as I succumb to the notion that blogging is somehow “less than”, a far cry from when I discovered blogging in 2010, worshipping such fellow bloggers as Gala Darling.
When I first started my blog, The Scarlett Woman (then in its former iteration, called The Early Bird Catches the Worm), “blogger” was what I identified as more so than “writer”. But as I started to have freelance pieces published in 2012, and suffered a bout of writer’s block for most of 2013 that saw me neglect my previously thriving blog, I moved away from the term.
I also attended Darling, Shauna Haider and Kat Williams’ Blogcademy workshop in late 2014, which I found less-than-impressive, and which I think contributed to my renewed focus on freelancing while moving away from attempting to monetise my somewhat languishing blog in a market that makes it nearly impossible.
Now, whenever someone asks me about my blog, I shudder at the word like those who turned their nose up at a medium they didn’t quite understand way back when. It’s obviously lip service: anyone who’s visited my blog in recent years, or even paid attention to my Facebook or Twitter, would know that it functions primarily as a portfolio at this point, with the occasional link roundup, which might better be served by the above mentioned TinyLetter.
For the last few freelance pieces I’ve worked on I’ve even changed my author bio, eliminating the word “blogger”.
This gravitation from blogging has since come full circle with a renewed interest in the mode. Gould writes that blogging can be differentiated from other published work by the amount of editing that goes into it. “There's still a part of me that resists the notion that you have to revise —that revision is an important part of the writing process. The thing is, it's also true that you can get lost in revision.” That’s exactly what I would do: sit on the couch a few times a week and pump out a variety of pieces—some opinion, some reviews, some short, snappy news- and culture-pegged pieces—without a lot of forethought, drafting or editing.
Maybe that’s why I was far more productive in my blogging days, when I didn’t take my time putting together a piece, not to mention relying on editors to work their magic on it. I could click the publish button and it was out there for the world to see.
The recent shuttering of pioneering online publication Gawker, Gould’s previous stomping ground, could contribute to the gun-shyness surrounding blogging although, as writers are edited and paid, could it even be considered blogging? On the other hand, hot take culture, which I wrote about for Writers Bloc a few weeks ago, could resemble trigger- keyboard-happy blogging more than we’d perhaps like to admit.
This nostalgia calls to mind a time when blogging was an identity that had to be committed to with the discipline of an Instagram star, often at the expense of reality. Curated images meant to convey a covetable life took precedence over the actual written #content, making those who couldn’t keep up feel inferior. In its early days, I struggled to find a place for my blog and to keep up with the bloggers who inspired me. These days, I just don’t identify with being a blogger anymore and instead I want my writing to appeal to a wide audience across different publications.
I would wager that the format we formerly knew as blogging is migrating to other platforms such as Instagram, Facebook and TinyLetter. There’s less pressure for writers and, indeed, anyone with something to say to smash out a few hundred words on Facebook via their smartphone than to sit down and contemplate a blog post or article. Whereas blogging made everyone a writer, social media has cemented that relationship.
Though writers who made their name by blogging, such as Gould, have moved on to other things, make no mistake: blogs are still thriving, if not to the level of their giddy heyday. As with everything, writing evolves. Blogging is a great way to dive headfirst into writing online but, for a lot of us, that mode just isn’t cutting it anymore.
This is an ideas piece, part of a series where writers discuss ideas around the craft of writing. To read more like this, click here:
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Scarlett Harris is a regional Victoria-based freelance writer, musing about femin- and other -isms.