On the road and in the blogosphere, I can’t forget my moral compass.

February 23, 2011

To write or not to write…

As most of you know, I’ve been traveling. Right now, I’m in sunny Los Angeles and before that I was in sunny Palm Springs. Beautiful places, no question, especially where I’ve been hanging. Yet, when it comes to writing for this blog the possible topics are limited. Bountiful sunshine is not a subject. It’s not like anyone wants to read about my hikes in the mountains or the many wonderful dinners I’ve had. (Last night salt-roasted Branzino and Broccoli Rapini. Yum!) As gratifying as all that has been it is boring subject matter -for this blog anyway. A tweet sure. But to go on is journaling and, as valuable as journaling may be to a writer, it’s deadly dull for readers.

I want to write stories I would want to read. And unless one is very good at writing or famous or both, journaling falls flat. In my opinion, bloggers that ruminate are talking to themselves. Perhaps if one decides to come clean about a murder or scintillating peccadillo….

That is not to say I haven’t found any interesting stories during my trip. Despite not smoking it, I was pretty excited about my encounters with medical marijuana. But for the most part those stories were either too personal (aka boring) or off limits because they involved subject matter I was not at liberty to discuss.

And so we come (finally) to the interesting part about this post: the mighty pull to write about stuff even though you know you shouldn’t. For example, today I was privy to a juicy conversation involving the production of a new TV pilot created by my friend and host in Los Angeles. I would love nothing more than to tell you about it. But I won’t because it’s not my place to do so. I have to temper my desire to not be boring with my desire to have good friends that trust me. Likewise, when I wrote about the controversial topic of medical marijuana I was careful not to mention the good people who had it. Those friendships are more important to me than a good story.

If you think these are easy decisions to make then you are likely not a writer. Writers want a story. Whatever the topic, we want to create buzz. The urge to discover, expose and reveal is damn near primordial. Especially when the topic falls into a sweet spot -for me advertising and popular culture. But lest I forget, I am not a journalist. Blogging does not give me license to trample private property. Peeking I will do. Flirting with danger and dark places is a character defect of mine. But if the story isn’t fiction than I must respect the rules of common sense. Yes, it’s tricky. The rules are unwritten. Thankfully, I am not navigating in the dark. I do have a moral compass, albeit damaged. So, while I know it is the M.O. of many bloggers (you know who you are), I do not wake up in the morning wondering whom or what I can reveal and expose. Better to be dull on occasion, than a dick even once.


3 Responses to “On the road and in the blogosphere, I can’t forget my moral compass.”

  1. Hi Steffan,

    As a writer, (and copywriter – where’s that line drawn exactly…?) I completely understand where you’re coming from. I think that only if you’re a writer do you ‘get’ the urge to write: some days it’s nearly visceral, and regardless of what anyone might say, either positively or negatively, only you know whether it’s good, and if you’ve managed to scratch back that itch for another day.

    As a somewhat nascent blogger, I’ve bumped up against your situation – it’s nice (and self-serving) to scratch the writing itch, but I find that when I go too long and deep (even when warranted by subject) even I don’t want to go back and proof the draft, much less read it for enjoyment.

    When this is the case it either sits in my drafts pile or I publish it under the category tag ‘first draft theater’ and walk away. At least I’ve managed to hold back the sea with a broom for another day – the audience’s take is what it is.

    Recently, however, I’ve been working on a different approach in my posts that I suspect comes from my working on finishing up a novel (which is a whole different beast and mindset from my day job as a paid writer).

    What is it? Dialogue.

    I tried it a few weeks back on a short post called ‘Explaining Branding to a Six Year Old” (http://lawrencemannino.com/?p=482). It seemed natural and easy to write and apparently read that way too, because even though I don’t get a ton of on-blog comments, there’s a steady stream of folks who comment either via IM or email, and apparently at first glance this post seemed less daunting and more accessible.

    In short, dialogue worked, and the post was widely read and well received (which I think generally applies to my hope for most of the things I write). I used it again in a more recent post with a similar response.

    So what’s the point? Well, maybe try dialogue, sure, but in a larger sense, try different approaches. I find that when working as a blogger, or a measured Social Media user, one can quickly become inhibited whether by the form of the medium or the content of the message. We start to think about the repercussions of our words, and we get tight.

    And when that happens I think it’s important to remember the point of blogging, or social media – it’s supposed to be casual, ephemeral even. So maybe take a deep breath and throw something against the wall to see if it sticks. Sure, be mindful of the content ( I completely agree with your contention that blogging does not give you the license to be a dick), but beyond that, maybe the point is to remember to have fun.

    I always figured that, unless I was completely inappropriate and off base, if someone didn’t like me or want to work with me because of something I’d written – either in haste or simply to start a conversation or explore a point publicly, then, well, maybe that’s a reverse filter of sorts, and I might not want to work with them either.

    “Man,” he says, suddenly realizing just how much he’s written, “That’s a lot of crap that no one’s gonna read!”


  2. SRP said

    Maybe not all the rules are “unwritten.”
    Here’s ten good ones:

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