I once knew a woman, a seasoned professional writer, who told me that there is a huge difference between writing and blogging. As this woman was a pompous ass who thought she was the greatest person who ever put pen to paper (she wasn't), I didn't put much stock in her opinion.
But after 48 hours immersed in all things blogging, I wonder if blogging really does differ from writing. For sure, bloggers are a subset of writers. Obviously whether you write novels or blog posts, you are writing, at least in the very basic definition of the word.
Somehow, though, to be a blogger means doing so much more than just writing. You have to be some sort of social media whiz. You have to tweet and network and know your Klout score.
Not to say that professional non-blogging writers don't do their fair share of social media whoring. In today's world, everybody's networking online. But what I'm saying is, in my two days at BlogHer I've come to feel like it means something different to be a blogger than to just write stuff online. And I find that something different to be vaguely annoying.
And after yesterday morning, I was ready to get all self-righteous and declare that I wanted no part of the blogging world. While I love some of my fellow bloggers, especially the Chicago ones, I just find myself feeling a little uneasy about the whole social media world.
Yesterday morning at breakfast, for example, I heard a woman say, "I don't need to go to that session on social media. I already have 8,000 followers on Twitter." Later this same woman commented on how everybody at such-and-such a conference recognized her particular avatar logo. Well, la-di-frickin-da.
Then at the expo, I overheard a woman, in full New York chain smoker accent, say, "Oh gawd, my Klout score went down one point." She said it in the same tone as somebody might use when complaining about the heat, as though a lowered Klout score was just another commonplace daily inconvenience. She went on to say that her friend's Klout score dropped significantly because that friend took a few days off of the Internet while she cared for her ailing mother.
To which I say, man, fuck Klout. The fact that you can't stay influential in social media if you aren't online constantly, that's why the Internet exhausts me.
It was in this state of exhaustion that I went up to my hotel room yesterday afternoon and resolutely determined that I'm in the blogging world for the love of writing and nothing else.
Now, quite frankly, that kind of self-righteous resolution can make you just as obnoxious as the self-promoting types that you're rebelling against. It's like those high school kids who think they're cool for trying to be different and alternative, even though they're exactly like all the other kids who are different and alternative.
I think I'm different because I'm in it for the love of writing, and everyone else feels exactly the same way.
But there it is. I can't network and I can't self-promote. I want the human connection, not the business connection.
And then, just when I was totally disgusted about blogging and bloggers and everything that includes the word blog, I went to the Community Keynote. The Community Keynote is an annual BlogHer tradition in which bloggers submit posts in advance, and then those chosen as the "best of" in particular categories get to read their posts out loud in a collective keynote speaker event.
And wow, the passion that came out in those posts. The humor, the pain, the emotion, the ohmygosh me too. I cried an embarrassing level of tears at that thing. And that's coming from somebody who has only cried at one movie, ever.
Just like that, my faith in blogging was renewed. This is why we need blogs. This is why we need a large and anonymous and far-reaching Internet, to share our feelings and discover that they are other people's feelings, too. Not to give us a numerical score about how influential we are because we can tweet and retweet a bunch of pointless blather.
After the speeches I had dinner with two real and authentic women, and I realized that maybe the superficial networkers are the exception in the blogging world, not the norm. Maybe bloggers are real people. Maybe I'm a blogger after all.
I carried my renewed blogger badge, figuratively and literally, to the annual Sparklecorn party last night at the convention center. Here were thousands of bloggers, drinking and dancing and letting loose. Nobody was exchanging business cards. And if people were talking about their Klout scores, you couldn't hear it over the loud music. This was fun. This was community.
But this morning, in the haze of post-party exhaustion, I started to get a little bit disillusioned about the world of social media again. I was sitting at breakfast, listening to everyone talk in their networking voices. You know what I mean? That voice that's just a little more high-pitched and perky than your normal voice? I couldn't take it anymore. I wanted to go home and be with my real community again. I couldn't hear one more person introduce herself as, "Hi, I'm Actual Given Name, Blog Name." Look, people, don't act like your blog name is interchangeable with the name your parents thought long and hard about before they gave it to you.
No more blogging, no more networking. Please just make it all stop.
However, since I was trying to have a good attitude and make the most of my expensive conference ticket, I forced myself to attend one session. It was called "How to Pitch Freelance Editorial Work."
Now, here's the thing. Remember how recently I started doing freelance editorial work? As in, working as an editor, editing things? Yeah. So, here was a session that might actually be useful to me professionally, like to make money and stuff.
Except, did you know that freelance editorial work refers to freelance writing? Why the hell didn't they say freelance writing in the title?
So, very quickly I was annoyed and frustrated. But I figured since, you know, I think I'm such a big writer and stuff, I should listen to what they had to say.
It was nothing new. It was basically how to pitch an article to a publication. Make sure it grabs the editor! Make it short and catchy! Explain why you have something unique to offer!
Oh, and by the way, you'll probably get rejected.
And even if you do sell an article, the pay isn't very good anyway.
Bah. Maybe I'm not really cut out to be a writer, either. Apparently I'm just a schlub who doesn't fit into any category.
And I'm okay with that.