Monday, May 5, 2008

To blog or not to blog

Paul writes: "There is a book festival taking place in my part of London, so I'm attending some talks on writing. At the first one, the speaker mentioned "displacement activities" that writers fall into to avoid writing. She reckons blogging is one of them. Is blogging detrimental to writing?" I can almost see the teams lining up for the negative and affirmative, a la high school debating style.

Firstly, what is a displacement activity? Is it really relevant to use it in terms of blogging and writing?

Wikipaedia describes a displacement activity as:

  • an activity that is the result of two contradicting instincts in a particular situation. (Birds, for example, may peck at grass when uncertain whether to attack or flee from an opponent; a human may scratch his/her head when they do not know which of two options to choose from),

  • often involves actions to bring comfort such as scratching, drinking or feeding.

A simpler description is just something that we do when we should be doing something else - (does this just make displacement activity a fancy pseudo-psychological term for procrastination?) Some of the displacement activities listed at The Sanctury are:

  • tidying up (yep - it was always really obvious when Dave was procrastinating from writing his Master's thesis - the townhouse would be SPOTLESS - he'd even mop the white tiles!)
  • cook
  • go to the shops (I'm a sucker for this one!)
  • alphabetise stuff
  • make music compilations (the above two make me think of High Fidelity)
  • lose your keys (there is a great story in one of my Goddess books about a woman who lost her keys to avoid having to go to one of the rituals - she didn't even realise that she'd self sabotaged at the time!)

From the purely instinctive definition - suggesting that blogging is the result of two contradictionary instincts seems to be a bit absurd - or is it? I have experienced displacement activites such as these, when I've been writing uni assignments or doing editing work. When I couldn't decide what to write at uni and the intellectual brakes crashed on, I used to take myself off to the fridge for Tim Tams. In our townhouse this meant going downstairs ... and the process of going down the stairs, munching on the Tim Tam and coming back up the stairs was enough to clear my mind and set a writing course again. Mind you it's not good for your health to be eating 11 Tim Tams in the space of a few hours (nor the wallet when your living on Austudy).

In terms of using blogging as a distraction from writing - well isn't that an oxymoron. After all, blogging is writing ... or are we now talking about 'real' writing and 'pretend' writing - like we were discussing last week with books - 'literature' vs popular books. To me, any writing is better than no writing ... and this is where my own personal experience kicks in.

Prior to January last year (when I first signed up for My Space) I had done no regular creative writing since high school (that's around 15 years). There were sporadic bursts throughout that time - but I just didn't write every day, or even a few times a week. I did keep a journal for many years but as of 1997 even that went by the wayside, and then finally personal correspondence. It was a symptom of being in a destructive relationship.

In 2000 I took two creative writing courses, but that couldn't inspire me into writing on a regular basis. During the end of 2001 I wrote quite a bit, but that soon dropped off to nothing, over shadowed by uni, then pregnancy, motherhood ... which brings me back to January last year.

I'm not sure why I signed up for MySpace. No one else I knew had a My Space account - it was probably the beginning of breaking out of the jail cell of early motherhood, as I quested to rediscover myself. This was when I was first exposed to blogging ... and well I started writing. I wrote a little bit, then I wrote some more ... a few extended autobiographical essays such as 'To all the shoes I've loved before'. I started hanging out quite a bit on Mystic Medusa's blog, where I met Dan and Catherine.

It was through Dan that I found out about Write Stuff and started to do Friday Fiction. Then Dan asked who wanted to do the Artist Way with her. We blogged our experiences in a private blog, I got a Blogger account and began to put my Friday Fiction up, then my experiences of doing the Artist Way. I got a kick out of having people read my work and it inspired to write.

Every proponent of writing, every 'how to write' book specifies two simple points - write and read. Is that not what blogging is - the ability to exercise both of these necessary elements of being a writer. If I hadn't blogged in the beginning, I would never have made it to the point that I am now.

I would argue that if blogging is considered a displacement activity - then so is reading. And like everything - it's a matter of moderation. You dont blog to the point where you spend no time doing creative writing (or whatever the writing is that you do), just as you dont read to the point where there is no time to write - nor write to the point where you no longer have a life to creatively fund your writing.

I've found that articles (because I write non fiction as well as fiction) have sprouted from something that I have blogged about - there are currently two blog entries that are awaiting recreation as magazine articles. Without blogging they would never have seen the light of day.

As I've just commited to 90 days of blogging every day, to support my creative recovery - I guess I'm subjective in believing that blogging is not detrimental to writing. I'd like to think that there are plenty more things detrimental to writing ... such as watching TV, holding down a full time job and being in unsupportive relationships. I'd be interested in knowing what other displacement activities were spoken of Paul.

I know that since taking up writing as a career - I've all but given up drinking alcohol (just a tipple here and there now), almost kicked my addiction to being busy, stopped investing in others and started to invest in myself.

I'd say it was more apt to look at how writing as a displacement activity - and the manner in which, if you're serious, writing assists in removing all those toxic activities that hold you back from reaching your creative potential. But that, perhaps, is a whole new set of discussions points!


Paul said...

I'm not going to spoil it by posting my thoughts here (you'll read more when the blog post goes up!) suffice to say there are a lot of common points of agreement here - I did not agree with the speaker, and even she brought up an example of a writer who blogs and finds it beneficial.

More to come soon - heading to another talk tomorrow, hopefully will have the blog post written before then, but we'll see!

d sinclair said...

seeings as my blogging IS my writing I'm going to say viva la displacement activities... may I always be displaced. Who needs any other place? Not me, I like the place I'm in with my writing...