The Columbia Spectator hosted a panel about about Careers In Journalism as part of a conference they were having over the weekend. I was on it and I got this mug!  Being on this panel was a rewarding experience (not fiscally. Though, it is a good mug.)  The Q&A portion of any panel is thinly disguised versions of the question “Do people really get paid a living wage to write things, and how can I make absolutely sure that I become one of them?”  so it was nice that, at this panel, no one had to pretend they were asking about anything else.  Also, it’s a good question.  (I wish I knew the answer.)
I also had the unprecedented experience of agreeing with almost everything my fellow panelists Joe Coscarelli, Megan Greenwell, Margaret Sullivan and Joy Resmovits said. But I had one minor dissenting opinion and it has been bothering me ever since.  It was during the part of the panel where we were talking about how you should never write for free except when you should, and Megan Greenwell said something about Tumblr and how you should use it as a scratchpad — I’m paraphrasing, of course, but I think someone could have interpreted what she said to mean that she thinks you should make a clear distinction between your official writing — which you get paid for — and your half-formed tumblthoughts, which you don’t, so anything goes.
I sat there wanting to say, “No! Please don’t interpret this as a dispensation to just scribble whatever, whenever on your tumblr and hit ‘Create post.’  Everything we publish, even if we only publish it ourselves, can have consequences and re(blog)percussions we can’t forsee.  Polish all your writing that’s publicly available, even if it’s just something you’re writing ‘for yourself.’ Scribble in a notebook!”
But then I realized I don’t really believe that, either.  I spoke to a nonfiction-writing workshop a few weeks ago, and they asked me whether I thought they should start blogs. And to them I said, “No fucking way! Unless it’s the only way you can get yourself to write, in which case definitely yes.”  If the idea of an audience reading your work is what enables you to extract something from yourself, anything goes.
I guess there are no hard and fast rules about this stuff.  Okay, one: respect your audience enough to read your post over a few times, possibly out loud, and spellcheck.  Oh and don’t preachily offer unsolicited advice, oops. 

The Columbia Spectator hosted a panel about about Careers In Journalism as part of a conference they were having over the weekend. I was on it and I got this mug!  Being on this panel was a rewarding experience (not fiscally. Though, it is a good mug.)  The Q&A portion of any panel is thinly disguised versions of the question “Do people really get paid a living wage to write things, and how can I make absolutely sure that I become one of them?”  so it was nice that, at this panel, no one had to pretend they were asking about anything else.  Also, it’s a good question.  (I wish I knew the answer.)

I also had the unprecedented experience of agreeing with almost everything my fellow panelists Joe Coscarelli, Megan Greenwell, Margaret Sullivan and Joy Resmovits said. But I had one minor dissenting opinion and it has been bothering me ever since.  It was during the part of the panel where we were talking about how you should never write for free except when you should, and Megan Greenwell said something about Tumblr and how you should use it as a scratchpad — I’m paraphrasing, of course, but I think someone could have interpreted what she said to mean that she thinks you should make a clear distinction between your official writing — which you get paid for — and your half-formed tumblthoughts, which you don’t, so anything goes.

I sat there wanting to say, “No! Please don’t interpret this as a dispensation to just scribble whatever, whenever on your tumblr and hit ‘Create post.’  Everything we publish, even if we only publish it ourselves, can have consequences and re(blog)percussions we can’t forsee.  Polish all your writing that’s publicly available, even if it’s just something you’re writing ‘for yourself.’ Scribble in a notebook!”

But then I realized I don’t really believe that, either.  I spoke to a nonfiction-writing workshop a few weeks ago, and they asked me whether I thought they should start blogs. And to them I said, “No fucking way! Unless it’s the only way you can get yourself to write, in which case definitely yes.”  If the idea of an audience reading your work is what enables you to extract something from yourself, anything goes.

I guess there are no hard and fast rules about this stuff.  Okay, one: respect your audience enough to read your post over a few times, possibly out loud, and spellcheck.  Oh and don’t preachily offer unsolicited advice, oops. 

Thus a funny person, alive to the wisdom of building [his] brand, calcifies into a humorist, or a clever person into a witticist. It can be very amusing, Dickensian, when a fictional avatar has a narrow, caricatured personality: the girl who says, exclusively, shit girls say, or the tween hobo or out-of-touch masculine blowhard who is always true to type. It’s a lot less funny when a real person, supposedly the many-sided hero of his own life, decides to say only one sort of thing, and say it all the time.

how should a person be (on twitter)?  I think we’re all still figuring it out.   Lately I have begun to suspect that in order to be heard — really heard, permanently heard, MEGA-heard — a person might, paradoxically, need to micro-stfu.

At least I might. 

blogcriture feminine

I got this book on word origins (“Word Origins”) at Housingworks.  It was originally published in 1950 so it’s full of charming anachronisms.  Like any book about etymology or semiotics it makes you temporarily hyper-aware of your word choices and their various resonances.  “Charming” for example would have been a dangerous insult in 14th-century England, when it still carried its original sense of “the Latin carmen, ‘song,’ usually a wicked chant or incantation of magic power like that of the notorious Lorelei.”

The entry on charm is in the chapter titled “Romantic Stories of Words About Women.”  From the introduction to this chapter. we learn that women “have a most legitimate vocabulary that is all their own.  A dress is ‘adorable,’ a room is ‘sweet,’ a baby ‘precious,’ ‘cunning,’ ‘darling.’” 

We also learn that “because most women boil at a lower temperature than men, and perhaps because they are not so sharply disciplined in the accuracy of business they are given to the use of hyperbole, a Greek word that literally means ‘throw over or beyond’ and hence ‘overshoot the mark.’”  The author seems not to suspect that he himself might be indulging in a bit of hyperbole.  

This attitude of course is archaic  except it’s hard to deny that some people “write like girls.”  A former editor of mine will either deny or produce IM transcripts to verify that he once backhandedly-complimented me and Doree on how infrequently we “wrote like girls.”  By telling me this I think he meant to call my attention to how often we, in fact, did write like girls.  Filed under “writing like girls” = an overreliance on modifiers like “really” “very” “just” and “kind of.”    Anything that makes you seem actually just really kind of unsure of yourself, you know what I mean?  Extraneous adverbs and adjectives are also girly, as are chatty asides and euphemisms. You can write about getting a tampon stuck inside you for a week all you want as long as you come right out and say it and don’t write around it like a girl.

I also wonder whether anyone will ever bother to study this period of rapid linguistic and stylistic growth and change (besides Virginia Heffernan) or whether we’ll all just write tossed-off Tumblr posts about it that end with vague copout endings like “well, something to think about.”  Well, something to think about.