“Before you can write anything, you have to notice something.”
— John Irving
Every day since I became a blogger, the line between what I notice and what I write blurs exponentially.
This is a stark change from the days when I was a professional journalist, noticing and writing for a living. In those days, I couldn’t even move forward past the idea stage without approval from my editor; and oftentimes, depending on how controversial the topic, an idea would never grow beyond seedling. The publisher would balk. The advertising sales reps would protest. There were hurdles upon hurdles over which to leap.
This was a particularly sensitive process in the Jewish newspaper world where the publisher is often the Jewish Federation, and the advertisers have a stake in the level of ethics and propriety in the content you’re providing. How can you advertise kosher cuts of beef, for instance, in the same paper that features Tel Aviv’s nude beaches?
I don’t work in the newspaper world right now, so I can’t speak to whether or not restrictions have lessened or morals have loosened. But as a serial blogger, I do know what goes in the land of free online content:
And you know what? I love it.
Not just as a writer — because presumably I now have an audience for all the ideas that swim around in my head — but as a thinker, who as a blogger has created a community with whom to discuss those ideas.
And when I blog, I most often blog as a thinker — not as a writer.
The thinker in me is the one with the ideas.
The writer in me is the one with the concern.
The thinker in me wants to push buttons.
The writer in me wants to wax nostalgic.
The thinker in me wants you to DO something already.
The writer in me understands your resistance.
The thinker giggles with glee when I imagine how appalled my former editor would be if I pitched this article to her.
The writer in me is the one who proofreads the piece five times before hitting publish.
The thinker and the writer have one thing in common: We’re both afraid of people getting hurt. Which is why, when I blog, the thinker’s passion is often tempered by the writer’s professionalism. But what often gets lost in the editorial process is a kernel of authenticity.
You get the edited version of me.
And while there are many who think that’s for the best, particularly in the Jewish blog world – that we have a responsibility to our extended readership to “mind ourselves;” to not “fuel the fires of people who hate us already;” to not “perpetuate stereotypes” – I can’t help but feel as if we just missed having an amazing conversation. I can’t help but feel that if I was just bold enough to let the thinker do the writing, we could actually bust stereotypes and hatred wide open.
Because, after all, what happens when you turn on the lights and expose all the “demons” in the previously dark room?
They’re often a lot less scary, and certainly possess a lot less power.
In recent weeks, I’ve been in the minority amongst a crowd of angry readers of The Times of Israel – people who want to tar and feather thinkers for thinking too loud, too obnoxiously, or thinking publicly thoughts that are typically reserved for quiet conversations with friends over espresso. I think those controversial and somewhat unfiltered blog posts are the best ones yet – and clearly you all do, too – since you’re taking the time to read, comment on, and share those posts with your friends. I won’t be cruel enough to point out the “serious” articles on this web site that no one is paying attention to, but I can tell you this: No one is sharing my thoughtfully and carefully edited poem with their online friends. Why? Because it didn’t turn them on. It didn’t rile them up. And while it might have made someone out there go, “Hmm…” it didn’t drive anyone to action.
And that’s what a good blog does: It drives you to action. It inspires you to engage. It penetrates you to the point you feel compelled to say something in response.
If what you really want is even-handed, mild-mannered reports of current events from an unbiased professional observer (aka a journalist), I suggest you stick to newspapers, which will forever be glossed over by a film of inauthenticity due to previously agreed-upon standards, often driven by advertisers and/or publishers.
If that’s what you prefer, you should definitely steer clear of blogs, which, in their often brutally unedited fashion, are poised to become the most powerful conversation pieces of our time.
Blogs let loose the elephant in the room we all need to wake us up from our carefully edited slumber.