PostaDay2011 Raises A Philosophical Question: Is More Always Better?

William Shakespeare, chief figure of the Engli...

William Shakespeare, image via Wikipedia

WordPress.com, the best free blog platform in the whole World Wide Web, has thrown down a challenge to bloggers. I’m a joiner, so I’ll take up the challenge.

The goal of the WordPress challenge is to encourage bloggers to post more often. Two obvious options are to post every day during 2011 (that would put you on the path to being the Cal Ripken* of blogging), or to post once a week during 2011. I’m going for once a week.

Let me start by questioning the premise of the WordPress challenge. Most bloggers accept, as an article of faith, that we ought to post more often, ideally at least once a day. (Many people subscribe to the same theory about sex. That is, the more the merrier! And hey, doesn’t everybody do it at least once a day??)

Why? Where is it written that MORE, or MORE OFTEN, is better?

As a career journalist (both reporter and editor), I know from experience and observation that all writers have limits.

To be sure, the late, great Washington Post sports editor Shirley Povich wrote his sports column at least six days a week for years. But columnists usually write perhaps three columns a week, and no more.

William Shakespeare wrote an amazing number of plays and sonnets, back in the day. (But we don’t know very much about the life of Shakespeare. Were the works of Shakespeare all written by William Shakespeare? Or by four other playwrights using the same name?)

Cal Ripken, Shirley Povich, and William Shakespeare were uniquely gifted in their fields. But the WordPress challenge urges every blogger to post daily, if possible. Whereas Ripken, Povich, and presumably Shakespeare, devoted their lives to their professions, most bloggers are part-time amateurs. And before blogging, professional writers were backed up by editors and proofreaders. Bloggers are backed up by spellcheck, if we remember to use it.

So now we have this inferiority complex. Whatever it is we’re doing, we aren’t doing it OFTEN ENOUGH, which translates to the slogan of the assembly line: “Work faster.”

Work faster! (Is that the best you can do?) Work faster, work faster, work faster. Faster and faster!

Capitalism and the Protestant work ethic are relentless in their demand for more production, faster. We have become a society of guilt-ridden and exhausted drones. That’s in our work life. Blogging, for almost all of us, is a hobby, a leisure activity, an avocation. We want to get some satisfaction from blogging. Pushing ourselves to post every single day turns blogging into a discipline, like meditating every day, or going to the gym every day.

Discipline is good for you. But dare I say it: Blogging is supposed to be fun!

In addition to draining the fun out of blogging, the post-every-day work ethic will also drain the quality out of writing. Good writers know that writing takes some time (although miracles happen on deadline). Nearly every written page benefits from being set aside, to be reconsidered later. Nearly every page improves in the rewriting.

There, that’s almost enough. With a few more keystrokes, I’ll have 500 words. I have proven once again that any journeyman reporter can produce drivel on demand, every day if necessary.

Posting every day is not necessarily good for bloggers, or for their craft. Just my opinion.

— John Hayden

*Cal Ripken is the retired Baltimore Orioles shortstop, the “Ironman” who broke Lou Gerhig’s record of consecutive baseball games played. You could look it up.

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10 Comments

Filed under Blogging

10 responses to “PostaDay2011 Raises A Philosophical Question: Is More Always Better?

  1. This is a well written and thought provoking article. I’m pretty new to blogging and made posting daily one of my New Years resolutions. However, I was warned that I might overwhelm my readers. Then again, it is their choice to read my blog or not. I have to admit that some of the posts to the blogs I subscribe to sit in my inbox unread. I agree that writing improves with time and revision, but this encourages my creativity, motivates me to keep writing, makes me think critically each day and can be used as a form of free writing. There are certainly advantages and disadvantages to posting once a day.

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  2. Hello,
    I agree with you, even though I also accepted the weekly challenge. I’ve noticed in my blog that the essays I’ve worked harder on compared to the posts I wrote from my dashboard without setting it aside for later are not as well received. I find that odd. I wonder if people like things short and fast? I agreed with myself that in this challenge, I will not post for the sake of posting. I’ve done that a few times and did not like the posts.

    Nice blog you have!

    With well wishes in the New Year,
    dogkisses

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  3. You’re right, Haley. I was a bit too critical. Pressing ourselves to write everyday will also have many benefits.

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  4. Thank you, Dogkisses. You have identified one of the great paradoxes of life and writing.

    Many years ago, in my first job as a reporter on a morning paper, I used to speed back to the newsroom about 10:15 p.m., light a cigarette, and start pounding out the night’s story with an 11 p.m. deadline.

    One time, when I had been laboring on and off for a week over some trivial feature story, my editor told me: “You know, the stories you pound out on deadline without rereading them are usually better than the ones that take you all week.”

    That is often so true, and I can’t explain it.

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  5. At one point on this blog, probably for a year, I posted daily. Not always long articles, but a compilation of quotes, videos and thoughts.
    I think the key for any blogger is to be consistent. Readers who come to a blog and find old, stale material may not come back.
    I’ve always posted on a regular schedule until this last month or so…and with 3 blogs I fear that I’ve overextended. I’m trying to decide how to go about this for this year, it probably won’t be every day but at least several days in a week. As a writing exercise it’s a good idea, but not if it’s drivel!
    Can’t wait to see how you do with this!

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  6. Thanks for your reply John. I love the wonderful image you give with that one night in your career. That must have been great fun.

    I received my 2010 stats from WordPress in the mail today. The top post was one that I wrote on a grocery bag with a pencil. I was washing dishes when suddenly I was struck with words. I couldn’t find writing paper and had to finish those dishes so I quickly wrote it on the paper bag before forgetting.

    PS Did you give up the cigarettes? I smoke and am trying to figure how I can write without this terrible habit.

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  7. Hi Walker, and Happy New Year! I can relate to your blogging conundrum. I’ve been juggling two blogs for more than a year, and not doing justice to either. I’m going to make a choice to focus my efforts on one blog, but can’t decide which one. Look forward to reading your posts in the new year.

    Hi Dogkisses. Once again, you’ve identified a key to writing. Always have a pen and paper handy to write down those fleeting thoughts or observations. That’s why reporters always carry notebooks. The telling details that bring a story to life can be found in your notebook, even if it’s written on a napkin or a grocery bag.

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  8. Back (way back) in the day, I wrote in my college newspaper, “there is something about a printer’s devil that forces clarity out of people.” (Does anyone remember what a printer’s devil is or rather was?) You have touched on an old rant of mine about the confluence of art and commerce, to wit, that when you know you must produce something or starve, what you produce is often sound and from the deep well. When you are arting for art’s sake sometimes there is an F in front of it.

    Blogging is vanity but it you substitute “lose all your homies” for “starve,” and there is an argument for that need for a tribe being as keen as the need for food, you might have an argument for… well, weekly if not daily.

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  9. @ Sledpress. I confess, I’ve forgotten. What was a printer’s devil? I remember what a hellbox was. (A pica stick remains a pica stick, even in the age of word processing and pagination.)

    “What you produce is often sound and from the deep well.” So, so true.

    I couldn’t agree more that blogging is vanity. You make a profound case in defense of those of us in the blogging class.

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    • Sorry to be late. Busy week.

      The printer’s devil was the urchin who tugged at your sleeve for copy because the printer was ready to set it in tintype and start churning out the edition.

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