I like to let a draft post cure a day or so before publishing it. Quite frequently, after this time, some drafts get the heave. This one was lucky. But I’m sure many will feel it should have joined the reject pile, along with a few others I've posted.
Base words are uttered only by the base
And can for such at once be understood,
But noble platitudes:--ah, there’s a case
Where the most careful scrutiny is needed
To tell a voice that’s genuinely good
From one that’s base but merely has succeeded.
Wystan Hugh Auden.
Gina Mink’s post, and her own reply to it, got me thinking – about all sorts of things. Apart from the bother I had getting a comment, with a link, onto her post, perhaps the time spent attempting to do this allowed me to think more about how I write posts.
Is my approach unique?
I wondered if my approach is one often used by others. I’m aware that the twenty-first century culture that is held by some bloggers, is such that most do not dwell on the crafting. To them, getting the message across is where it’s at. I’ve no problem with that.
I study poetry. I enjoy reading the skilled writing of others. From time to time, I come across blogs that are well written – almost crafted, and I can only admire those.
The Fire And The Anvil:
I recently re-read a wonderful little book by New Zealand’s celebrated poet James K Baxter. The Fire and the Anvil is a brilliant series of lectures. They are about the product of poets whose craft is forged in the fire of the creative mind. It's then hammered into shape by feedback from critics that alters the way the poets write. It is a reflective practice that involves the writing, the poets and their audience.
Much though I would like to bash out a post and publish it in ten minutes, I can’t often do this. Too often I want to go back and alter things. Some call it stuffing mushrooms.
I might even change a word or two after a post is published - almost heresy in some circles. Dave Ferguson has crafted a few posts on and around the topic of editing posts.
But from the moment I think about a post, I am aware that I’m following much of the process that Baxter refers to in his book:
The World Of Thou:
It “denotes the whole various world of relationship where being meets being.”
“The primal substance of the” post, “non-verbal, which the verbal structure” of the post reflects – “its point of contact with the world of Thou.”
“The whole complex verbal pattern” which the writer creates in response to the matrix.
Baxter’s period of gestation, “during which the matrix is carried obscurely in the mind”, is not unlike how the substance of the post is thought about before anything is entered through the keyboard or other interface.
Texture and Time-life:
These have their counterparts in the diction and crafting used by the writer. Sentence length and construction, the way each sentence sits with the paragraph, and paragraph length, are parameters that expert bloggers tell us are important to writing good blog posts.
All of these parts of the post writing process have closely corresponding items in Baxter’s sequence.
The crafting and how it helps me:
For me the crafting is part of the reflective practice of writing a post. It’s not just the diction and the paragraphing. It’s to do with the thought processes that lead up to that.
Ken Stewart wrote a post Why Do You Write. It prompted me to write a comment which I later copied with little alteration and put it in a post. This was one of the few times I posted without crafting. But it had the essence of why I write, how I write and all of what’s in it for me.
- Writing helps me organise my thoughts.
- Prioritising those sparks further thought.
- Organising what I write puts to rest serendipitous thought-threads.
More reflective practice:
There’s more to blogging than just writing exhaustively edited posts – I’m trying to avoid those. Lately I’ve made use of action research as a means to develop my way of writing posts.
While I have not yet used blogging specifically as a teaching tool, it has helped me organise my thoughts about how I teach. This in itself is powerful reflective practice.
Of course, action research is reflective practice. It can be widely applied to more or less any people-related activity. And like it or not, writing a post is a people-related activity.