I rejected the idea of blogging for years because I felt it was a self-indulgent practice that often lacks a clear sense of audience and thus leads inexorably toward blather.
Since I am now blogging (and enjoying it), I hold myself to this one simple rule: no self-indulgent blather.
This means that I will impose the following restrictions to the things I post in this blog:
- 500 words or less. Anything longer, no matter how much I want to care, seems to fall victim to the sin of self-indulgence. If you doubt me, just read Emile Hirsch’s recent blog about a conflict he had in a random, unnamed bar in New York City. There is a legitimate point in there somewhere, but I only have so much patience when I’m reading a blog! By virtue of its blog status, it’s not an article in The Atlantic, and as such it shouldn’t be as long as such an article.
- Unless the story involves a former or current American president, don’t drop names. Unless I know the person writing the blog, and the people s/he is writing about, I don’t want to know with whom that person is planning to meet, dine, or attend a food and wine festival. Want to see how irritating these things can be? Check out Marcus Samuelsson’s recent blog post. I think Marcus Samuelsson is a great Food Network personality, and his cooking resume is nearly unmatched. But, if I want to give a shout-out to my peeps, I’ll do it on Facebook. If I want to offer some kind of legitimate insight that deserves more than about two seconds of my audience’s time, I’ll do it in my blog.
The other problem with blogging is that the audience is so ambiguous. I bet the people Samuelsson’s blog post mentions really appreciated his gesture, but for almost everyone in the national audience the blog got by virtue of being included in The Huffington Post the name-dropping was just obnoxious. To avoid this problem in my own writing, I have arrived at several guiding principles for my blog:
- I live in Greenwood, SC. Since I’m a professor and therefore generally don’t spend my time gallivanting around the globe, most of my writing will be about this place.
- I think this place is pretty cool and thoroughly under-appreciated.
- I want people who don’t live in Greenwood to read my writing, and I think they should read it because Greenwood is typical of any small town in “The South.” For that matter, I think it’s pretty typical of any small town in the United States.
- Since I’m writing about Greenwood, I reserve the right to drop names of people around town and explain why they are awesome. I hope such activity explains why Greenwood rocks and encourages people in similar places to appreciate whatever is distinctive about their small town.
And this is a 500-word blog post.