Monthly Archives: November 2012

The Writer’s Toolbox

I’ve been writing a diary every day for nine years now. I don’t remember ever specifically wanting to start  a diary, but a Christmas gift from my Grandma triggered an enjoyment in journal keeping that has become an obsession, a love of looking back over my life at memories that I can read and re-read again and again. But I have a confession to make. I’ve let my diary writing fall by the wayside for the past week or so. Just as I have let my blogging. As I survey my surroundings whilst I sit and type, it’s not difficult to see why. Scattered around my room is a mosaic of sodden laundry that I vainly hope will dry. Coffee mugs adorn every available surface. Everything is haphazard to a slightly unacceptable degree.



What I am also surrounded by are words, but these words are not my own. Scraps of paper scribbled in quotations, critical voices resounding from tea-stained library tomes, photocopies and extracts. It is these fragments of opinions, these quips and epigrams of literary characters that have been swirling in my mind for the past week or so, immersing me in the bounds of books.

What I relish in blogging however is that it allows us to speak and listen beyond the pages of fiction or the monochrome columns of a newspaper. For those of us hurrying past the newsagents with little time to stop, blogging keeps us connected, and particularly in a journalistic capacity, dramatises momentous news stories in an intense real-time framework. As an arts student, the Oxford English Dictionary always proves an invaluable tool in bolstering an essay’s argument and revealing new layers of meaning to words.  Of course, stylistically, online blogging is not the same as essay writing, but a quick definition search of ‘blog’ provoked some interesting thoughts about what is expected of bloggers as they log into WordPress and compose a witty snippet. ‘Blog’ is defined as ‘to write and maintain a weblog’. For me, the idea of ‘maintenance’ is particularly interesting. It seems that blogs need to be up to date, current, recent. The blogger’s voice should freshly echo what is unfolding in society.

Blogging in a journalistic field therefore becomes particularly valuable. Cambridge’s Varsity newspaper certainly made use of the excitement and vitality of a ‘live blog’ unfolding alongside the tensions of the recent Presidential election. Online media allows writers indefinite opportunities to upload, edit and refresh. And this creates a culture that must forever be up to date. Our yearning to be kept in the know is kindled even more by the interactivity of reading in an online format. As journalists link their pieces to Twitter, we can enter a world once confined to offices of broadsheet, tweeting comments and questions to writers in response to their articles. Of course, the interactivity of the reader has implications for the ethics of online writing. Bloggers and journalists are always accountable for their work.  The force of ‘click to share’ could become dangerous, spreading poor, misinformed or offensive opinion and perpetuating a negative online presence for writers involved.

But is a cantankerous voice resonating online worse than not being heard at all? Certainly Oscar Wilde stated that ‘the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about’. Perhaps, the endless renewal and updating of online pieces and blogs mixed with carefully crafted tweets, gives those who have made a slip of the tongue a chance for redemption. Yet maintaining our writing online in the heady world of technological progress proves challenging. With Twitter’s bemusing and alien lexicon of ‘retweets’, ‘modified tweets’, ‘hashtags’ and ‘trending’, many voices may find themselves lost in translation.

As technology advances, all that writers like me can do is hope that they can keep up, maintaining their voices and satisfying eager and inquisitive readers. This is where sites like Mashable become so handy. It might not be the first place we think of, but in providing the ‘how to’ for social media, this is where all aspiring writers should start.  A handbook for anyone challenged by the hashtag, Mashable provides a catalogue of helpful articles ranging from ‘5 better ways to network on Twitter and LinkedIn’ and ‘A Totally Serious Beginner’s Guide to Memes’. It is a tool box I have rummaged in from time to time, helping me navigate the haze of bitlyed links and retweets and better understand how to speak to those who might want to listen. In breaking down the giant that is social media into its clear components, Mashable provides a handy map for anyone wanting to scribble their thoughts upon the canvas of cyberspace. In this way, even when my little emerald green leather-bound diary lies unfilled by the inky splashes of my mind, my words might just fill someone else’s mind across the distances of the globe for one little moment.



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