Finding a social networking and writing balance

Monday, August 23, 2010

Author Alexander Chee writes about how keeping a personal blog has helped his writing as a whole, and offers some tips for how to balance the two:

[W]hat I have learned is that keeping a blog has helped me more than it has hurt me. It’s helped me get teaching jobs, kept me in touch with people and introduced me to new people I would never have met, people I wanted to meet. Also, it’s helped me drive traffic to online sites posting my work. All the same, there were many times I thought of just shutting it down in exasperation, like when I printed my first blog after closing it and discovered it was 723 pages long ...

Chee is writing specifically about using a blog to augment his longer works, such as keeping a diary while working on a novel or using the blog to point to articles published elsewhere, rather than making blogging the end goal. As a long time blogger, I've always found it hard to balance the work online with "real" writing, and setting rules like Chee suggests really helps.

While social networks get all the attention now, both for publicity and a medium on their own, some tech commentators are questioning their utility for chronicling anything other than the ephemeral "I am here" status update or silly joke. Scott Rosenberg asks whether we can really trust Facebook as an archive of our lives (try searching for something you posted there sometime), and both Paul Carr and Leo Laporte have recently questioned how much good all this tweeting and tumbling and posting does when no one is paying attention.

What I see here is a couple of tech pundits recovering from their tendency to go overboard on every new fad (Laporte fully admits this) and drop everything for the shiniest new toy. The answer, as always, is moderation, and figuring out how a new technology can complement what we already have, rather than insisting it has to "kill" something else. Google Buzz didn't need to "kill" Twitter or Facebook any more than e-books need to "kill" paper books. They can complement each other when used to their strengths. In that context, Chee's approach to blogging is all the more appropriate.