I am not part of the technology-savvy generation. I was sick that day.
For those who don’t know, I am twenty-four years old. I am smack in the middle of the digital revolution. I am the exact correct age to have started an internet company eight years ago, from scratch, and played a lot of Guitar Hero in the conference room with my buddies while laughing about our 401(k)s right up until the moment we sold the whole shebang to Google, whereupon we began to laugh about our freshly-acquired personal islands and what we were going to name them.
I have not done any of this. I bought my first iPod last year and I’ve never played an Xbox. I am, in fact, not certain that I have capitalized the correct random letters in either of those references. I handwrite letters, people. I still write in cursive. In a Moleskine notebook. Hemingway and I would have gotten along great, excepting the whole ‘I have a uterus’ problem.
The end result of this is that I know how to write. I know how to fashion a sentence and spell properly. I am a skilled enough grammarian to screw with the rules of grammar in an ironic fashion when I feel like it, and well enough versed in the definition of ‘irony’ to know that those kids bringing Converse All-Stars back are not, in fact, being ironic. I’m a pretty good writer.
I’m discovering, as I tool around the blogosphere, that I am not a terribly good blogger. I’m new. I’m a little bit in awe. But I am a bright cookie, and there are some things going on here that I’m pretty sure I could do, if I were paying a little more attention. For example:
Bloggers know how offer useful information.
I’ve started to click on funny people who comment on blogs I’m reading, and I wind up at places like IttyBiz, who actually made me laugh Mike’s Light Hard Lemonade out of my nose (it’s only in my house because a friend of mine brought it over, and since she brought it over, I have to drink it, or other people will find out that it is in my house and shun me forever), and Write From Home, whose hostess I would sincerely like to ask to marry me because her glasses and her writing make me happy in nearly equal quantities. These women are hilarious. But every single post, even the Mike-snorting one, is somehow pertinent to freelancing, writing, or running an at-home business.
Their blogs are on-topic, effortlessly organized, and useful. Not always to ME, and I’d like to speak with all of them about that, because I think we can all agree that all blog posts everywhere should always pertain immediately to me and the particular problem that I’m having that day, but they are useful. My posts? Not so much. My posts are simply spewing whatever is troubling me online so that other people have to deal with it, and I can finish writing up case studies for a marketing firm in Oakland.
Potential solution: I could figure out how to solve the thing that is troubling me, and explain to other people how I have solved it. A twofold accomplishment, that. I will no longer have a problem, and my post will be useful to others.
Potential problem with the potential solution: All of my problems will be solved. And then what will I tell my therapist?
Bloggers know SEO. And understand keywords. And statistics on their visitors, and tracking, and other things that appear to me to be MAGIC, because how the hell else did you know I whispered two of the four words in the title of your last post into the bottom of my coffee cup? HOW DID YOU KNOW?
Bloggers evidently understand all kinds of things that I have only been aware of peripherally up until this point. I know what SEO stands for, and I understand that, theoretically, when you have harnessed its power, you can make people find you even when they were secretly trying to find how to cattle brand children (that was the IttyBiz post that made me snort Mike’s, in case anyone was wondering). When I contemplate the sheer mass of things that bloggers understand that I do not, I pray deep in my dark little soul that they will only use this power for good. And by ‘good,’ I mean, ‘my benefit.’
Now, I’m slowly learning what some of these things are, but I am a long highway and a few bank jobs from being able to put them to any kind of legitimate use. Which is frustrating to me, since if there is anything I enjoy doing, it’s screwing around online looking for information on a topic I would be ashamed to broach to my fellow graduates of the University of Chicago. I have been online, at four in the morning, hunting for the year when Leonardo DiCaprio went from lanky pretty-boy to goateed beefcake, just because I couldn’t remember, and I had to know. Right that second. I’m sure that information would be useful to someone. I’m sure ‘celebrities who took a year off and came back looking studly’ is a blog post for a blog out there somewhere in the giant sphere, but I don’t know where it is. Why? Because I don’t get SEO, that’s why.
Just so all the University of Chicago graduates out there understand that I did not bribe my way into my education, I have also been up at four in the morning looking for who said that philosophers were defined as before and after Hegel. See? Completely legitimate.
Potential solution: I can go read all the extraordinarily useful blog posts on SEO.
Potential problem with potential solution: I am out of Mike’s Light Hard Lemonade, and I don’t have anything else to shoot out of my nose while I read. Also, I believe ‘browsing posts’ technically qualifies as ‘the antithesis of completing money-paying work.’
Potential solution to the potential problem for the potential solution: I live behind a liquor store. And I could call it ‘research.’
Bloggers know how to categorize.
Who came up with the whole ‘7 Habits of Successful Toilet-Cleaning’ craze? I want his name. I know it was a guy, because most girls I know actually hate the number 7, for reasons we discuss in depth at our semi-annual How to Make Men Suffer meeting. (Get with me on this one, Lori.) Even if it isn’t seven reasons, it’s five distinct categories, it’s eight precise paragraphs, it’s a six-series on Writing as The Art of War (I am looking at YOU, Men with Pens, though I continue to nurse a massive crush on you and it was a damned good series).
Now, I can categorize. I know how. But categorization is something that I generally do only when somebody pays me. Or when it involves my sock drawer. Because I can’t stand it when the big fluffy ones are in with the summer socks, because then I wind up wearing summer socks to bed and then my feet get bloody cold.
See that? Right there? That was me, digressing. That is what I do. My thoughts do not flow in a logical, ordered sequence. Bloggers can do this, and they can apparently do it without thinking about it too terribly hard, because rates for blogging are among the lowest I have yet seen for writers, and bloggers take them willingly. I can only assume that this is because bloggers find blogging EASIER than other kinds of writing.
Which means they must be able to naturally switch on the part of their brain that organizes socks and apply it to writing. I cannot do this. Socks remain socks. Online rambling remains online rambling. And the twain have never yet met.
Potential solution: Approach all posts as if writing short essay. With abbreviated paragraphs and no footnotes and no Shakespearian references.
Potential problem with the potential solution: No Shakespearian references?
Potential solution to the potential problem to the potential solution: Well, maybe just a few Shake – no, screw it, I’ll go get my graduate degree and write theses instead. And then I will bang those theses to the doors of churches, because Martin Luther had a great idea there.
Conclusion: Blogging. It’s way harder than it looks. But it brings you things like this. And this. And especially this. And, as I’ve recently noticed, bloggers are an encouraging and community-oriented lot. Which must make it all okay.