On Writing Professionally

There’s some form of mystic associated with writing professionally that, in some ways, I don’t understand.

It doesn’t exist with, say, web development — there are scores of web page designers and developers who would be appalled at having to do what they do as a hobby, as a job, day in and day out. In addition, there are those who garden, cook, drive, sew and care for children who wouldn’t even consider doing the same for a buck.

But writing, well, writing professionally somehow imbues the written word with a higher degree of importance than the word that’s given freely. Even if the written word is included in the biggest jumble of disorganized crap that ever existed on any planet in the universe, and the freely given word is the epitome of elegance, grace, and clarity.

Perhaps the reason for this mystic is that if one is paid for the word, one is somehow supposed to be more proficient with the use of the word. I write this word — apple — and I am not paid for it. Therefore, the value of –apple — is worth less than the word — Apple — as long as it is followed by OS X and I’ve convinced some editor somewhere that it is worthy of inclusion within their magazine, eZine, book, or other forms of publication.

It is true that when one is paid for an act, one improves over time. Based on this we can conclude that when we pay for an action, we should be able to expect more from that action. This works for sex — why not writing?

The act of writing professionally. The publication process.

As an example of the publication process, take a look at the following sentence:

My recommendation would be that you flibit the gidbet and then flummer the dummer.

One publication prefers that writers not use the familiar, so can the professional writer remove all familiar references?

Okay, how’s this:

It is accepted practice to flibit the gidget and then flummer the dummer.

Another publication prefers the familiar form, and also prefers witty repartee with the reader. Can the professional writer please adjust accordingly?

Okay, how’s this:

My recommendation would be that you flibit the gidbet and then flummer the dummer, and you’ll be kicking ass at that point.

A third publication hastens to add that words such as “ass” might be offensive to some readers. Please edit this remark.

Okay. Is the following acceptable:

My recommendation would be that you flibit the gidbet and then flummer the dummer, and you’ll be much happier with the results.

There’s another publication. This one likes to have notes, sidebars, and annotations.

Okay. Then how the hell is this:

My recommendation (being aware that I have enormous experience with this) would be that you flibit the gidbet (see for more info) and then flummer the dummer, (see sidebar A1), and you’ll be happier with the results (happier: increased sense of well being).

Are these examples of writing somehow worth more than the unpaid version of the same, such as one could find at a weblog?

Weblog version:

To hell with the gidbet, who cares about the flummer, go get a beer, and screw it all until tomorrow.

I think not.

(Legal Disclaimer: The publications referred to in this document are entirely fictional. Any similarity to an existing publication is purely coincidental.)


So long, and thanks for all the posts

Recovered from the Wayback Machine

What a marvelous party this has been, and what wonderful people I’ve met, but it’s time, and past, for me to move on. This posting will be Burningbird’s last.

I wasn’t sure how to close the weblog down. Should I just quit abruptly? Spelling out “GOOD-BYE” with no hint of why I’m leaving? However, as tempting as it was to play woman of mystery, I’ve never been one for brevity and I wasn’t about to change my style here at the end.

I started this weblog for two reasons: writing and community. Twisting time into a moebius strip and coming full circle, these are also the reasons why I’m closing it down.

If you’ve been reading Burningbird for some time, then you know I love to write. To compliment this, I also love reading and I’ve met some potentially great writers among those webloggers I’ve been honored to call “friend”.

Potentially great writers. I say this not to insult the writer but because I’m finding that the characteristics of weblogging that allow us to meet great writers are also the characteristics that prevents the writers from showing their full potential in their weblogs.

It’s so seductively easy to write to a weblog. Open a tool, type in some words, push a button and “Hey now”, you’re a published writer. Yet writing is more than putting words out for others to read – it’s also a process of thinking about what you want to write, researching your subject, working with the words, writing and re-writing the same phrase over and over again. It’s effort that takes time – lots of time – and involves change. And, above all, it’s a very personal process.

The very nature of weblogging is that we post regularly, we don’t pull the postings, and we do only minor edits. If we pull postings we leave broken links from other weblogs, or comments that are left orphaned. If we edit, we’re breaking trust with those who’ve commented on the original writing. Weblogging is writing that’s been externalized.

And once the words are out and the writing is finished, no matter how terrific the post is, it’s slowly pushed down a page and hidden among other postings and blogrolls and blogstickers and other graphics until it eventually falls off the bottom of the page, never to surface again unless some strange person puts a bizarre request into Google that leads to one of our archives.

Truly great writing must be allowed to persist through time and if there’s one characteristic common to all weblogs, it’s impermanence.

There’s no reason why the weblogger can’t write for other publications – many do. I do. However, I’m finding that, for me personally, my weblog has become a creative relief valve, something that’s not as positive as it may sound.

Writing is as much a discipline and an overcoming of inertia as it is a product of creativity and skill – you need a build-up of creative energies to start a work and see it through to the end. Since I started weblogging, I’ve found it difficult to focus on my books and my articles, and it shows. In the last year I may have written more than at any other time in my life, but I have the least to show for my effort. No articles, and only one book finished.

What a twistie – to continue writing I must stop writing.

Stop writing to the weblog. So much harder than it sounds because through weblogging I’ve met incredible people from all corners of the world. Not writing to the weblog means I’m also leaving this very special community.

And this leads to another twistie for you – to become part of a community I must leave a community.

In the last six months, I’ve kept myself wrapped in amber. Closed, static, sitting in a chair with computer on my lap, connected to the real world through your eyes, hearing your song, living in your dreams. I’ve managed to avoid dealing with the world and issues in my life that need resolving by folding myself into the community of wonderful people I’ve met here.

My weblog has become more than my avatar, it’s become me.

I need to walk among forest paths with thoughts other than “I must remember to post this”. I need to meet people and look into their eyes, and to laugh and hear something other than the echo of my own laughter back. And I must stop using this weblog as a surrogate for life and the only way I can do this is to quit cold turkey. Walk away, and not look back.

Walking away – this is going to be one of the hardest things I’ve ever done because I’ve come to like and respect, and even love, the members of my virtual neighborhood. You.

I have no regrets leaving the artificial world of weblogging – the Daypop and Blogdex ratings, the arguments of “webloggers as journalists”, the occasional and unthinking nastiness, the obsession with outlines and links and Google and quizzes and memes of the minute.

But I do regret leaving you.

So long my friends. And thanks for all the posts.

Political Weblogging

The CC wants you

I got to thinking about the Citizen Corps and TIPS and realized that there was something missing – there wasn’t anyone to watch the webloggers.

The truck drivers watch the freeways, the train conductors are watching the rails, the utility workers are watching the electric meters, and the postal service is watching practically everyone else while misdelivering mail, but there’s this huge gap of uncovered and potentially dangerous territory – the weblogs.

And there are so many in the weblogging world that would be so good at this type of patriotic duty. After all, they’re the ones who have already rooted out the terrorist sympathizers and the anti-Semitics and other traitors among the weblogs. Now they can do what comes naturally under official sanction.

Since the government is only providing stickers for cars, I figure the only thing missing is to provide a sticker for the weblogs of the “patriotic Americans”. Well, delay no longer – your weblog sticker is here! Feel free to copy it and display it proudly on your weblog.

And be sure to link the graphic to the CC weblog division – RATS.


Send a message to Dubya that you’re behind him, all the way.

(After all, someone has to clean up the shit.)


Little brother is watching you

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

I don’t know what the fuss is about with this Operation TIPS. Personally, I think it’s a great idea myself.

Think about it – all those unamerican people grouped into one organization, easily tracked, as well as highly visible with little stickers in their window. It’s never been easier to spot and know the enemy.

Great idea. The Bush administration should come up with more like that.

Legal, Laws, and Regs

More on TIPS

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

The Washington Post has an article on TIPS that cuts through the hyperbole to the heart of the issue, and the ultimate cause for concern:

Public vigilance is a good thing, and so is encouraging citizens to alert authorities to terrorist activity. It makes sense to educate people who work at potential targets or at places where lethal cargo may be smuggled. But having the government recruit informants among letter carriers and utility workers — people who enter the homes of Americans for reasons unrelated to law enforcement — is an entirely different matter. Americans should not be subjecting themselves to law enforcement scrutiny merely by having cable lines installed, mail delivered or meters read. Police cannot routinely enter people’s houses without either permission or a warrant. They should not be using utility workers to conduct surveillance they could not lawfully conduct themselves.

Short, but extremely well written article.

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