Thursday, May 19, 2011

Slow-Roasted Writing, or Fast Food?

There's quick-turnaround writing, and then there's the slow roasted variety.

Blogs are in the first category. No matter how long the writer spends on a post, the reader's click and scan are very fast.  Not interested? Click somewhere else. To compete in the boundary-blasted crazy virtual world where we increasingly hang out, some bloggers hint at instant gratification. Lifestyle blogs. Parenting blogs. Spirituality blogs. Sometimes you get the impression from the "About" section of the home page that the writer has mastered Zen and is offering you enlightenment in about 3 weeks.

But if you read on, behind that slick surface can be a pretty damn interesting life.  You  find a lot of travail and intelligence and guts in the posts--as when Vietnamese Zen monk Thich Nhat Hahn says that if you look deeply enough at a flower, you can see the presence of compost and garbage, rain and sunlight.

Scientists tell us that plants actually contain light particles
The problem is there are so many of us doing this.  The slick interface is a bid for attention, but it risks turning people off.  Come to think of it, competition is the problem with "slow" writing, too--there are books that take years to write and never find publishers.  To generate actual subscribers, bloggers engage in the similar intense marketing practices that book authors have to pursue.  Then again, some don't!  ("0" comments, anyone?)

In both cases, the writer is in danger of losing something.  Writing is pretty magical--totally symbolic, those squirmy marks on the page can create worlds. They can make a reader feel that someone understands. Words can bring back the dead. They grope toward wisdom.

We writers teeter on a razor's edge--once a writer creates a world, she wants people to experience it, and we can become obsessed with marketing, as if that determines the validity of the work.  Once I received a lovely email from someone who had found a poem of mine greatly helpful in a family situation she faced.  The same week, I got about 4 rejection letters for my work.  I poured all my energy into pouting about the rejections, as if the genuine connection with a reader didn't "count."  

Something wrong with that picture. So, bloggers, writers:  Remember the nature of the flower.  Try not to get caught up in trying to package it for a quick sale.  It's a lovely truth--the nature of the flower remains the same, even if no one's looking.

Here's a cool blog that shows real guts and life experience:  The ever-sassy Torrey Shannon really has something to say.


Catherine Stine said...

Thich Nhat Hahn is the man. Love his gentle wisdom! Whether it's taken a long or short time to write a piece, it's all good if the writing shines and the message is deep. Hey, love your graphics, very nice layout!

HelenQP said...

Thanks for the kudos on the's a very amateur production. Coming from you, that's a major compliment!