Is blogging bad for writing?

Do you want to become a good writer? Keep writing! Practice makes perfect.

Or does it?

Keep writing is usually the advice new writers are given to help them launch a journey onto the uncharted waters of how to write well, a practice that doesn’t usually have any proven rules of success although there’s plenty of advice going around.

I realized that as in every good thing in life, blogging too comes with its own share of pitfalls. Where there is opportunity for improvement in writing, there is also a need for tremendous caution.

Some of the pitfalls might not be that obvious in the first few months when the novelty of producing writing every week obscures many a nuance of habits picked up, where the unsuspecting traveler of the blogosphere might encounter a dangerous writer’s sinkhole.

Writing becomes work. A hobby becomes a job.

Most experienced bloggers recommend publishing upwards of three times a week in order to keep a rhythm alive. If the frequency of posts lapse, no matter how great a post, it has fewer readers. Yet, while in rhythm, even the most banal of posts are guaranteed to have a minimum number of views buoyed up by the other posts.

For the blogger, attempting to stick to this rhythm can have a detrimental effect on the pleasure of writing and being too prolific might compromise quality. What was fun becomes work and too much work makes the writing pedestrian.

Complex ideas are dumbed down.

If a blogger already has a niche audience that reads longer, involved posts, s/he is relatively safe. But for those bloggers who have to build an audience, it becomes quickly obvious that longer posts with nuances and details that are not simply vivid descriptions or emotion-invoking statements or situations of small talk (anger, feelings of comfort, chatting about everyday situations) will be overlooked. A point that needs sustained critical thinking will receive less interest than shorter posts that actually require less effort to write.

That is not to say that all short posts are easy to read, understand or write but it’s certainly easier to dumb down a long idea or write down a part of it than to thrash out the whole. In that sense, the temptation is tremendous for the blogger to pick up the habit of a choppy style that talks about bits and pieces of ideas at one go and gets out of practice with engagement with complex subjects.

A sudden idea is shot out onto the internet as a permanent point of view on an impulse.

The temptation to hit the publish button is tremendous in blogging although it can be argued that whether a person succumbs to desire is more a reflection of one’s personality than a reflection of an attribute of blogging. Yet, repeated exposure to such temptation can affect core writing values and privilege short-term goals over long-term gains.

So let’s be cautious as we enjoy blogging.

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26 thoughts on “Is blogging bad for writing?”

  1. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. I’m brand new to blogging and I’ve definitely started feeling that pressure, which I rarely feel with my writing. I’m not worrying about feeling as if I need to dumb down my content YET, but I can imagine it happening if I don’t watch out.

    Having said all that, I think it’s really important to not get too lost in your online “blogger” life if you are a writer. (Of course this doesn’t apply to people who actual want to be or are professional bloggers.)
    It’s about being faithful to your writing and trusting that the right people will come along. Too many writers who blog get lost in social networking.
    Also, as a serious writer I choose to to only post what I don’t plan on publishing at some stage. I think that too many writers are careless about what they post and that it could bite them in the ass.

    Thank you for this thoughtful post!

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  2. I write for pleasure, and have steam coming out of my ears when the pressure builds up if I haven’t been writing. I always hesitate before pressing publish, as I truly believe that most writers reveal their soul when they write, and I have always found it quite an ordeal to do that revealing, just as I know that’s exactly what my writing is. I think the points you make about the drawbacks of blogging are spot on, and then again I have found my writing has improved with my confidence, as I’ve found bloggers to be a very supportive community

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  3. Bottled Worder, you always give me something to think about. The blogging world is so diverse, ranging from someone’s trite diary, to get rich quick schemes, to poetry and fiction, to all sorts of hobbies, that it is hard to make a simple statement about it. For myself, i can say that I have always wanted to write, and blogging gives me that chance. I hope it spurs me on to bigger challenges. I cannot publish on set dates or on set topics because that would make me feel boxed in, a condition I try to avoid in all aspects of life. I can’t say that my writing has improved, but at least I am having the experience of doing it.

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  4. “For the blogger, attempting to stick to this rhythm can have a detrimental effect on the pleasure of writing and being too prolific might compromise quality. What was fun becomes work and too much work makes the writing pedestrian.”

    I really agree on this. You can burn out so easily when you try to write something every x days. When I read people who do this, they almost repeat themselves every other post.

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  5. I think the answer to this one is yes, possibly,… it depends.

    I’ve personally found blogging to be a great way of relieving the creative pressure, but the downside to it arises when we begin to have expectations about what blogging is about – attracting readers, hits, likes, follows and so on. Then it becomes a way of measuring ourselves, and our egos will always have us coming up short. As soon as we begin to worry that we’ve not posted in a while and we’re risking losing our “status” on account of it, then I think we need to take a step back, maybe take a blogging holiday. I’ve certainly backed off this year. I still enjoy blogging for the freedom it gives me to explore whatever I want, and present it to a readership, but it’s also an insatiable monster void of any tangible rewards, so we need to be careful who’s in charge of it.

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  6. I sometimes worry about dumbing down complex ideas in my blog. How, I wonder, have I dared to write short posts of 600 words or so about large topics like Chinese food, Pearl Harbor, interracial marriages, and foot binding? And yet, it was never my intention to discuss those subjects at length. Instead, I wanted to introduce ideas related to my novel in a way that would interest a variety of people. I hope I’m not developing a choppy style.

    On the positive side, blogging gives me a chance to think and write about a wide variety of subjects. It’s been fun these past few months and also a bit of a relief to break away from the control and consistent voice necessary in writing a novel.

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  7. Again, another post that triggers reflection. Considering the number of interesting replies, many of us share the same concerns. I tend to agree with cripleh. Since I have a small readership (compared to Bottleworder’s!) I feel free to explore diffferent topics on my blog. Always with my little French touch. Regular blogging has improved my writing and post after post more readers have noticed, too. Short-term goals are the temptation of our time but more of us (I think) are aware of the benefits of taking it a step at a time. Thank you, Bottleworder, for keeping us engaged and focused.

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  8. Hmmmm, good stuff to think about while blogging. I think it is really a good idea to figure out what your raison d’etre as a blogger is going to be. And more and more I’m hearing that creating more content does not equal a better or more followed blog. We are awash in words, blogs, social media, tweets, opinions, news, music, entertainment…I’m wondering where it ends. After expansion, a period of contraction? What will that look like? When will young people decide that it is “more cool” to meet in person than on social media? I think it is only a matter of time before the pendulum swings. How far back it swings remains to be seen.

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  9. There are so many different reasons for blogging — business development, self-expression, networking with like-minded writers, and on and on and. I think you make a good case that the demands of blogging (frequency and consistency of tone) might make it a detrimental experience for people whose writing is artistic exploration.

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  10. I know that my blog has helped to make me a better writer. Not just from the writing of the post, but by the reading of others. You can get caught up in it though, and instead of finishing that novel in front of you, your time is spent blogging and reading! It takes a certain amount of discipline to level the table.

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  11. Very thought provoking post. There are some bloggers who view blog posts much like Facebook status updates, posting everyday trivia written in abbreviated jargon, and they receive many likes and comments. The blogger who is intent on building a large number of followers (just like gathering Facebook friends) appreciates these “easy” entry points to getting more of a following. I can be attracted to a photo and like that without knowing much more about the blogger. The blogging platform does make it more challenging to engage in meatier writing. I am sometimes suspicious of long posts–a rant about a bad cab driver or 1200 word love poem to your cat, and I don’t want to give you that precious time. But over time I have grown to notice bloggers who write thoughtful, sensitive pieces and I look forward to them with not a care for the word count. I am trying to write my second novel and be a blogger. I think the latter is helping me bring a level of contemporary punch to my writing and be unfussy. But I read a lot of great novels so that quality of writing is also floating about in my brain too. In all honesty though, blogging is time away from my second novel so a certain amount of resentment can creep in. I love to post when I have something to say that’s been itching me. I set a goal early on for two post a week and hate to feel that Thursday has arrived, then Friday, and I’m due to post but haven’t given it any thought.Then it becomes like a homework assignment. So mixed bag, I guess! Your writing always interests me enough to stop and think when I come upon it!

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  12. Anything worth doing is worth doing well. It also takes TIME to develop creative, worthwhile and enlightening posts. I try not to beat myself up about lack of productivity or how many hits I got, etc. I also do not subscribe to the “writing as work” because I really genuinely take pleasure in writing. I don’t want it to be a job…’cause Hello! I have one of those…I also try not to overanalyze my posts. I write therefore I am. That’s it. That’s all. And that’s enough. You are enough.

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  13. But all this is negated if the blogger in question isn’t that concerned with audience numbers. Having lots of readers is nice, an ego buzz on a daily basis, but it’s not a marker of the worth of a writer.

    I use my blog as a space to sound off about a variety of subjects (sometimes loosely) based on the act of writing. If people find it helpful and/or funny then great but I don’t loose sleep over the hit count. If it encourages a lively discourse then even better.

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    1. This is true. But I was also talking about the blog as a form. People don’t often scroll to the end of a long piece of a blog post online but the same people read a long article by a writer of a similar stature on an online newspaper. Also, people often read an article based on a subject they’re interested in and not necessarily based on whether they are regular readers of that particular writer in a magazine. In that sense, a blog is like a column in a newspaper by a writer people come to regularly. Sounding off ideas and lively discussion becomes harder if there are few visitors. So I think the number and quality of audience is a concern for any writer on a public forum. Thanks for reading.

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      1. Oh indeed, it does get easier with more visitors. From my experience though I write my blog as a sound board, I’m not really trying to attract hundreds of people. I think writing about writing is a pretty insular thing anyway. The actual act of writing any creative piece is always a private one.

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        1. The act of writing a creative piece is often a private one although some writers do prefer company while writing and while collaborating on writing. However, the piece itself is usually a public text/composition unless it is a private diary and hence some of the concerns about keeping a rhetorical context in mind (such as adjusting the “level” of writing so the audience is able to comprehend) is one fundamental aspect of good writing, not just a popularity mongering ploy I think :) As for “writing about writing” being insular, I agree there’s a lot of drivel out there just as there are lots of pretty banal creative pieces churned out everyday but the valuable pieces about writing can be good critical experiences of knowledge sharing and so quite important. Thanks for a thought provoking response.

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  14. Good points. Since my blog is mostly random topics published on a regular basis, I always wonder if a new follower will care to stick around. I think about this even more when there is a significant shift from one post to the next. I try to remind myself that I’m writing for me, but it’s hard not to feel some pressure.

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