“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”
? Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath
Had Sylvia Plath been alive today, she would have definitely felt more at home now than in the 1960s. The world today, belongs to the writers. Everyone writes because everything in life is writable!!! While some achieve the ultimate dream of getting published and accoladed for their work, there are countless others who are also living their dream by writing journals, blogs and soulful posts on various social networking sites. Close to 90,000 books get published every year in India, the United States sees around 300,000 books being churned out yearly. Even though books constitute a sizeable percentage of writing, thanks to technological progression and the increase in virtual platforms, written expression is multiplying at a phenomenal rate. Twitter is flooded with an average of 140 million tweets a day and Facebook as of March 2015, has over 1.44 billion monthly active users. Blogging services like Tumblr, Medium, Blogger, Technorati and WordPress see an increase in number of users everyday.
Colombo hosted a very unique lit fest, “Annasi & Kadalagotu Lit Fest” this April. Annasi is the Sinhala term for pineapple and Kadalagotu is the humble chickpea. The aim of this festival was to reach out and make literature accessible to the common man. One of the sessions I attended was on Blogging. The guest bloggers were passionate bloggers in Sinhala and English and the session was quite electrifying, with discussions on the criticism bloggers face, the lack of recognition, legitimacy of blogs and blog plagiarism. The session was enough to make me wonder on the importance of writing on virtual platforms and whether blogs qualified as ‘LITERATURE’. How gratifying is the virtual world???? The more I googled, the more involved I became.
Preeti Singh, my partner in The Good Book Corner is an avid blogger and a published author . Her blog ‘preetiwhines’ gives a peek into what’s happening in her life and many can relate to what she writes. Blogging, for Preeti, was a way to develop her voice and refine her writing. As to the future of blogs, Preeti says,“I think with more people wanting to write, blogs can only become bigger. Not in this fashion though. Now newspapers and online portals also assign blogs to people – HuffPost does that – you have the freedom to write your blog, it gets edited and cleaned up and posted on their site. The other place that is becoming popular is Medium – a blog community by the same people who started blogger….in the future such collaborations will become big, and might compete with online news”.
When I asked her whether blogs qualified as literature, she clarified, “technically no…though of course when you hit the button, you are ‘published’! Yet, loads of blogs have been converted into books, or have developed stories that became novels, food and travel memoirs”. Preeti’s book ‘Unravel’ was released in 2014 and when asked as to what was more satisfying……. “Blogging satisfies my need to vent and have something out there….and publishing is a longer deal”.
Arpita Bhawal has also blogged passionately and is the author of ‘Vices of Eden’. She was a guest columnist with an afternoon daily in Hyderabad and started blogging because she wanted her articles to be available online even after the newspaper was trashed. According to Arpita, “I wouldn’t say that blogs qualify as literature, because “literature” in my view is a more structured, lengthy and fictional form of writing, with a story that gives the entire picture. Literature as we have learned is not just a musing or a brief opinion; it is a detailed, conclusive and definitive point of view of the writer on the subject (fiction or otherwise). Blogs qualify not as literature unless they are strung together to give them a theme, name, purpose and story. Literature is storytelling while blogs are incident – instance telling”. As to what is more satisfying- blogging or getting published, Arpita feels, “Blogging is like popping the cherry on the cake in your mouth for a quick taste of what the cake would be like. It is instant gratification. But publishing a book is like creating a child or giving birth to an invention that can impact or even change the world. I find publishing a book is far more satisfying only because the journey of the writer during the creation of that book is as enriching as the experience the reader gets from reading something totally new or relevant or fantastic. Imagination gets its full glory in a book unlike blogging”.
Bob McKerrow ‘Wayfarer’, another well known blogger, feels that any story, poem, article or photographic essay written or spoken, is literature, though quality, is another thing!!! He is a humanitarian, mountaineer, polar traveler, writer and poet and work for the Red Cross. “I am a good story teller. In 2007 my communication guy in Indonesia said “ Why don’t you tell your stories to a wider audience and he helped me set up a blog. Blogging and blogs are changing and will continue to change. I don’t see Web Logs as such, but more as a repository where I can put my travels, writings, lessons that other people can access quickly through google or other search engines. I have done and seen things few others have, so I feel it a civic duty to share as in many cases, through my blogs, people find a relative, a friend, a place or something that has a huge impact on their lives”, says Bob, when asked about the future of blogging.
Like Preeti and Arpita, Bob too feels that publishing a book is more satisfying. “Nothing beats the feel of a book. Holding it, smelling it, caressing it and looking at the quality of the paper, the print, the maps, photos. And then, reading the content. Then putting it in your library and taking it out from time to time to read. Blogging can never compare to that”, he iterates.
Literature, generally defined as any form of writing( though in times long gone by, oral forms were included), enjoys the status of being grand. When judged as an influencing piece of grandiose writing, most books find their way into this elite category. The commonality being, that these pieces of writing stay for generations, much after the author is no more. They influence and inspire and become talking points amongst literati, centuries later. While blogs don’t enjoy permanence, many blog writers are working on making their blogs more long lasting. In an attempt to be attain posterity, blogs are being edited, sequenced and given semblance before being published. Many of the upcoming writers today, started by writing their own little journals and feeding their precious blogs. They influence, inspire and strike a chord with their readers, just like books.
I am not really a blogger and I am yet to publish my books, but I write! I have written since the day I discovered the alphabet. From scribbling my name on coloured pieces of paper to writing down teenage poetry as a way of venting out, writing has always been a part of my life. 2007 was the year I discovered Facebook and there was no looking back. I have always been expressive, and with Facebook my expressions found words and I could share them with the people who mattered. My posts told my stories and there was no inhibition as the people who were on my friends list were those who knew me well – that I have always been an open book. Writing on this virtual platform gave me the confidence to reach out to a wider audience and it was in 2012 that my first article got published online. The world wide web has been my space and I am also working on getting two of my manuscripts published.
While the future is unclear and blogs are not always seen as anything short of the bloggers’ rantings, for now let us give them the importance they deserve. It is after all the ‘Art of Writing’ that is clearly the winner. So, write on!!!