As a professional journalist, I write about specific topics. Sometimes it’s a topic I’ve chosen and pitched to a publication. Sometimes it’s assigned by an editor. But either way, I have to follow that particular publication’s model, in terms of the angle on the topic as well as the tone and style of the writing. I also have to follow the directions of that particular editor, from which aspects of the story to emphasize to little copy-editing nits like whether to use the serial comma.
But with a blog, there is no editor. One of the joys of blogging is that I can write about anything I want, in any way I want to. No one tells me how to dot my I’s, cross my T’s or place my commas. That’s a great freedom. Freedom to show what a great writer I am. And freedom to display to the world my stupid mistakes.
We writers tend to be egotistical. That means we almost always think we have something worthwhile to say and know the best way to say it. We’re also rather solitary, introspective creatures, so we live in our heads to a large extent. We can easily convince ourselves that our way of looking at something is the only way or the best way, that everyone knows what we know, or for that matter that our readers care about what we care about. When I write about that little white house down the road, for example, it’s easy to forget that most of my readers don’t know I live in the D.C. area and am thus alluding to the residence of the president of the United States.
Of course, blogging is supposed to be a two-way channel, so readers can politely point out my errors, or loudly disagree with my point of view, or heckle me and throw rotten fruit. But at least initially I’d like to walk onto the stage without my slip showing.
I was feeling a little naked out here until a colleague of mine suggested we edit each other’s blogs. It’s a great arrangement. I can still write whatever I want, in any way I want. But my editor points out what works and what doesn’t, at least from his point of view. He helps make my blog better, because he gives me a second perspective that doesn’t come from inside my head (and sometimes even catches my spelling errors). The best part is I can still do things my way, if I insist (no serial commas), but the edit process stops me long enough to check myself in the mirror to make sure I’m not going to make a complete fool of myself.