Thursday, April 22, 2010

Why I Started a Blog

Two people have made the same comment since I started this blog: I need to know who my audience is. If I want to write academic work, then academic people will be drawn to what I write. If I write about celebrity gossip, then I draw that crowd. It seems simple, but somehow this has only been a source of stress for me. I don’t know what to write, or more specifically, there are so many things I want to write and I feel I have to write on certain topics in a certain tone.

I talked with a friend last night about my work, and in our conversation a truth I’d known existed emerged with words I could identify it with: I don’t know how to be funny in my writing. There could be up to two problems at work here. I could actually not be funny at all, and my writing makes it clear that this is so, and/or I’ve never had to write in a humorous way so the whole exercise is starting at the most basic level.

Is the first true? I don’t think it is. I’m a funny person. Come on.

The second? Yes. Nearly all the writing in the past five years, with the exception of the occasional love letter, has had a serious tone to it. Academic work doesn’t leave room for much humor, although it’s not forbidden. Love letters can have humor, but I want to get to the words that show affection. Journaling is always serious for me. I’ve hated it, but it’s the case. I usually start journaling when there is too much drama for me to handle and I need another outlet beyond the friends in my life to empty all these thoughts and feelings into something that can handle it, thus it’s inevitably serious in tone. Paper has an amazing resilience in this regard.

So all these fronts have been sober: academic, journaling, love life etc. Why such a divide?

There is one place where humor emerges in the written word, but another problem comes with it. Instant messaging and text messaging. Yes, I’m funny left and right in these venues. People say something and I think of something witty in response and we all laugh. Wonderful.

Why doesn’t that come up in other writing then?

Simple. The kind of writing done in text messaging and instant messaging is short, often grammatically incorrect, poorly thought out, and the thoughts are the least developed they can be. In a sense, I have no stamina to write funny material that’s longer than three sentences after spending too much time in the world of text messaging. Think of how long this blog entry is. Could you imagine getting a text this long? Would you have the patience for it? No.

I’m not against text messaging or instant messaging. I’ll be the first to defend it in situations where someone says it’s degenerating society and keeping people from face-to-face interaction, or even hearing another person’s voice. This, of course, does happen with some people, but their problem isn’t text messaging. Their problem only shows itself through text messaging. Easy.

A blog is a place for longer conversations. If my writing life becomes so polarized that I either write twenty page papers in a serious tone or one sentence messages in a playful tone, then I live in two worlds I can’t reconcile. The place where it runs together is the spoken word, in conversations etc. That was one of the reasons I started a blog. I wanted what happened in conversations with friends to come out in a way that was more concrete, and sharable to more than a few people at a time. A place between the stilted academic work I do for class, and not the mindless play I create in texting.

I look at the entries before this, and notice I’ve taken it to the academic side. This bothers me. I don’t want to be so serious and leave a significant facet of my personality out of my writing. Besides, it’s really boring if it’s not entertaining in the least.

So, where is the humor in this blog?

I had a roof joke to tell, but it’s probably over your head.


Claire said...

Roof joke: lol.

I think being funny is easier when you have something to react to; harder when you come up with your own material. Hence, e.g., all the situational humor in stand-up.

"Nearly all the writing in the past five years, with the exception of the occasional love letter, has had a serious tone to it...Love letters can have humor, but I want to get to the words that show affection."

This surprises me. If the words you use to show affection aren't serious, what would you call them?

Will Edmonson said...

I would consider them serious in the world where there are only two options in writing, serious or playful. Yet I wouldn't necessarily call them serious in the same sense as political or theological writing. Love letters are all on their own. Romantic seriousness versus business/academic seriousness. If I wrote a love letter with the same business-like tone as a dissertation, it would come across as offensive.

Claire said...

So they are emotionally serious rather than intellectually serious. Got it.