I recently attended an excellent course with The Gentle Author. Exactly as his name implies he was a person who enabled a group of us to come to some understandings about the new opportunities to tell stories through blogging.
This new medium offers a platform to everyone and indeed it seems everyone is blogging! In 2012 the Neilsen group reported on their website ‘Overall, 6.7 million people publish blogs on blogging websites, and another 12 million write blogs using their social networks.’ (http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/newswire/2012/buzz-in-the-blogosphere-millions-more-bloggers-and-blog-readers.html)
So the question is why blog and if you do blog how will you grab an audience in this saturated blogosphere?
For myself there were several useful realisations. One was that blogging is an organic process and unlike other forms of publishing there is something dynamic and living about this medium. The Gentle Author’s own site http://spitalfieldslife.com/ began very simply with a post setting out his intent to blog every day about where he lived, in Spitalfields followed by a post about his cat. It wasn’t until several posts later, having gained confidence in this medium and realised what it can do, that the site developed into a fascinating evocation of the place, the people who live there and it’s history. It grew into itself and those early posts serve as a fascinating departure point. Looking now at this huge archive of posts, one a day since August 26th 2009 you do wonder where this journey began and you can go and find out.
The success of Spitalfields life, as well as the engaging style of writing, is also attributable to the focus of the subject. It was interesting to note that this blog is about Spitalfields and the stories related are all discovered by the author, who remains anonymous and other than his reflection in a style of writing that is generous to its subject, allowing them (people, places, animals, events) a voice, he remains in the background. The blog therefore has value as an archive about a location. It is its specificity that not only is its appeal but also makes it findable in the melee of material out there. If you are interested in Spitalfields you will find it.
The notion of the author’s voice is interesting in the context of a blog. It is a very personal relationship. In contrast to the printed page the author and reader coexist in the same space. They have a shared space that facilitates (promotes) dialogue. It is useful therefore to approach this writing as a conversation. Again this is something I imagine develops with time as an audience for a blog emerges and begins to engage , shaping that conversation through comments and through the statistics their usage generates. So The Gentle Author knows something of his audience. How many there are, where roughly geographically they are from, when they mostly look at the site.
In order to bring us to think about the conversation aspect of blogging we engaged in an exercise watching someone reading one of our posts to someone who responded with a ‘no’ at the end of each paragraph. This displayed and made apparent the issue of an audience, that if they are there and reading they will have a response and what might that be? What might you, as a writer, want that to be? And how might your style of writing provoke that response?
The Gentle Author has a promise on his site and on the course we formulated manifesto’s that were a pact with the audience about what the intentions of the blog were. This creates realistic expectations and sets parameters for writer and reader.