Okay, so I just realized it has been more than two weeks since I last posted here. That’s twenty days without a single thought passing through my head. Right? Well, not quite. In fact, I’ve had a whole bunch of thoughts going through my mind. Thoughts about work, about language, about parenting, about <gasp> politics. But none have made it here. Why?
That’s a little complicated to explain, but I think the answer says a bit about me, and a bit more about the medium.
About me — every day, just as I settle down to the keyboard to post something here, a pesky little editor lurks just over my shoulder, a mean spirited imp who has an opinion about everything from subject matter to semi-colons, from metaphors to metonymy. And he’s not the least bit shy about sharing his opinions, especially when he’s really got his game on. Lately, he’s been playing like an MVP. He doesn’t even wait for words to form before he starts whispering in my ear.
“Why would anyone care about that?”
“Don’t you have anything worthwhile to say?”
“Shut up already and go mow the lawn, doofus.”
As I mentioned he’s a pretty mean-spirited guy.
I know everyone has one of these companions. Some of them are worse than others. For the most part, mine’s been largely vanquished. Writing professionally for a couple of decades will do that. But here on this blog, he’s found new ground. And that leads me to a bit about the medium.
If you give me an assignment — something you need written — I’m on it. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a clear or complicated, long or short, studious or silly. It doesn’t even matter that much if YOU understand what you want to say. I’ll write it because you need it. That’s what I do.
But a lot of new media doesn’t fit that bill for me. Take this blog, for example. No one tells me what subjects to focus on, what each post should say, what absolutely positively needs to be said. It’s a soapbox, really. The same holds true for my Twitter account. It’s there, waiting for me to feed it. There’s no assignment, no task to complete. Just the soapbox, waiting for me to step up and have my say. But just because I can have a say, should I?
Consider something as simple as a Facebook update. Do you think twice before you fill in that box? Do you wonder if it’s pertinent enough or witty enough or important enough? Sometimes the answer to that question is simple and you post away. But when it’s not, do you point your browser elsewhere?
Clearly there are those who deserve a say, and there’s ample evidence of these new methods of having it are working and working well. If you are a public figure, or the least bit concerned about public perceptions, the climate of the blogosphere is critical. And I’m sure most of you already know that the story of the plane in the Hudson was broken by a Twitter feed. What’s more, I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say that the ability to capitalize on new media played a key role in electing our president.
But when it’s all said and done, I think striking this balance between what we can say and what we need to say remains an unresolved issue for many of us, even though my annoying pal says “What a load of hooey.”