Saturday, January 29, 2011

Blogging for writers

Is blogging a serious form of publishing for writers? That's the question I kept asking the National Writing Centre in Wales. And more pointedly I asked, 'Why don't you run a course on blogging?'  Blogs have encouraged millions of people to share their voice - I challenged them to name another development that has created so many new writers.

But are they proper writers, was the concern? Is blogging really a serious form, or is it just social networking in fancy format? And aren't most blogs, well a bit rubbish, if you want me to be frank? There's some truth in those objections, I'd reply, but then many writers' circles are as much about socialising as the quality of the output. And yes, there is plenty of rubbish; but there's quality too. I listed a dozen or so blogs that I follow and asked the director of the centre to check them out.

It's interesting that the Open College Of The Arts encourages its students to create a blog as part of their 'learning journal'. Blogging, they've realised  is good a way of sharing thoughts and work in progress, and the idea has been embraced most fully by visual arts students. Every so often the college promotes a student blog, and last week Gareth Dent, its Chief Executive wrote an article on blogging that referred to me and the Bike Shed.

The reason for the mention, is that the director at the National Writing Centre listened; so much so that they asked me to run a residential course on blogging for writers. It takes place next October and my co-tutor is the widely acclaimed travel writer, Rory Maclean. I met Rory some years ago on one of his courses on writing from life; he's one of the best tutors I've worked with - and of course, he writes a quality blog, all about Berlin where he lives. Also exciting, is that Fiona Robyn will be coming; she's a prolific blogger who recently published her novel THAW, as a daily blog, to coincide with its print publication.

And if you've never been to the National Writing Centre - because of course, you're all now desperate to go - then you should. It is based at Ty Newydd,  Lloyd George's last home on the edge of Snowdonia. It runs along the same lines as the Arvon Foundation, and this year's programme is impressive. Apart from my ground breaking offering (did I really just say that) there are courses by the Poet Laureate, Carol Anne Duffy and a list of other esteemed writers.

Those of you who read the Bike Shed regularly will know I am passionate about blogging. Part of the appeal is that blogging isn't precious: it can mix a little social networking with some decent writing; it can be good without being perfect; it's exciting and instant and it appeals to people who might not have the time or opportunity, to write a book.

But there is room to improve the quality or writing too. The course will be looking at how we might do that. If you'd like to create more engaging work, experiment a little, take feedback from a group of other writers, or just have the space to write a dozen new posts, then it should have something for you. I can promise you it will be fun; and hey, you get to meet me...  On second thoughts, that's maybe not the best of selling points.

So 24 - 29 October, put it in your diaries, and maybe see you there. I hope so.


  1. I think any kind of writing is as good and as valid as the writer chooses to make it. I take my blog writing just as seriously as I take my novel writing. Different disciplines, different crafts, but both valid.

  2. Blogging has, for me, replaced fictional writing. I seem to have lost my imagination when it comes to stories, ideas have gone, none replacing them, nothing excites that side of my writing interest. But blogging does. I enjoy prattling about this and that, and OK, so it's not an intellectual blog, I am not that sort of person, not clever enough. But I have opinions, and views, and a blog is somewhere to deposit them, perhaps arouse passions in readers thereof. Of course, one always hopes there will be readers! I wonder what ANDREW MARR would make of the idea of a course in blogging? I can hear the hoots of derision from here! (You need to have read a posting of mine earlier this month, or heard what AM had to say about blogging to understand my last comment!)
    Well done you... goodness, you are popular at the moment!

  3. Now, this is very interesting. I've read a couple of things recently asking if bloggers are writers, and where the line is between the two. I don't know, but I do not for one second consider myself to be a writer even though I write a blog and have done for the past 3 years.

    I began the blog purely as an online journal, having kept handwritten ones for years. I get a bit intimidated when people start talking about writing workshops for bloggers, and then there are a few creative writing tasks on blogs and so on. I always imagine I'd be laughed at if I considered taking part.

    I'm not a writer, I'm very clear about that. There are lots of bloggers around who are either ex-journalists or are serious 'writers' who are working on a book, etc. A writer who also blogs said to me last year that 'everyone has at least one book in them', but the only way that would happen is if I ate one. I have no books in me, not a single one. I just blog for fun and as an outlet for the thoughts I don't get to share in my everyday life.

    Does that make sense? Good luck with the weekend course, it sounds very interesting and looks like it's in a lovely place too.

  4. Congratulations on the book...I really am pleased that your writing on being a parent is being recognised.

    There does seem to be a condescension toward blogging based, I think, on the desire of those condescending to mark their territory.

    I'm sure the course you will be leading will do a lot to give bloggers participating the tools for the job, so well done for presenting such a good case to the National Writing Centre.

    Now there's one of the special facets of blogging in action...I am delighted at the success of someone I have never met physically, but whose persona is familiar to me.

  5. Well done, its nice to get some recognition.

  6. Absolutely well done!! If I lived across the pond, I would be very interested in taking this course. As "the fly" above has stated, "I am delighted at the success of someone I have never met physically but whose persona is familiar to me". Well done indeed!

  7. Congratulations, and for all sorts of reasons.

    A blog is the medium, not the message. I don't understand the existence of any controversy around the question of whether it constitutes "proper" writing or not.

    But your course sounds very serious to me.... my blog is nothing if not un-serious.

  8. Coincidentally I did two courses with the OCA. On the first one my tutor encouraged me to write a journal and I continued it as a blog after the course ended. After the second course with the same tutor I was asked to write a piece on blogging for their course programme along with an extract from my blog.
    It's very encouraging that blogging is being taken seriously enough to warrant a course on the subject.

  9. Hmm - thought provoking as ever.

    I think of blogging as free expression - just like many people paint, not all of them would consider themselves to be artists.

    Blogging is wider than that and it's interesting talking to people whom I consider to be writers that their blogging can be many things other than writing (though there's often a big dollop of that too). Instead it can be a form of recreation: the chance to do something they can't in the constraints of their 'everyday' writing and their writing muse demands it needs to be noted down. Or it might be a chance to experiment and try new things, or to keep their 'writing muscles' up to scratch.

    Many people who blog would be surprised and probably amused if someone called them a writer because for them it doesn't serve that purpose. However, I'm angry that conventional media judges blogging by writing/journalistic standards.

    And sometimes someone like me starts blogging and finds in the process they'd like to be a writer. Very much indeed.

    And then blogging can also be the place when magic happens and someone gets their dreamed of book contract. Congratulations Mark, it's very much deserved.

  10. Congratulations Mark, I have just read about your book deal.

  11. If you were on my doorstep, I'd be joining you in a flash. I started to blog because I wanted to write but very quickly felt inadequate compared to all the wonderful writers I found in blogland. You are one of these, and I think it's great that you are prepared to share your skill with others.
    Well done with the book deal!!

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  13. It is heartening that the literary world are moving forward in their attitudes. My own view of blogging has evolved over the years. For me, the richness is contained in the combination of word and image, and the salience and reach of the message. Congratulations on your achievements, Mark. Clearly your passion, talent and drive have lead you to this. What a wonderful opportunity for you and for all those who participate in your residential course. Wish I could be there! Perhaps at another residential course sometime in the future. Meanwhile, keep doing what you do. Inspirational stuff!

  14. Hi Mark - will email you again shortly, but just wanted to say here how great it is that you are running this course. I would love to attend but think it is in October half term isn't it? If I could wangle the childcare, I'd be there. Have to see.

    Also wanted to congratulate you here too for your book deal. Fabulous stuff.

    I've also just read your post on Blog2Print - something you mentioned to me at the time and which I had been wondering about every time it popped up on the computer screen! Seeing the picture you posted of the finished object and hearing how very easy it was to do, I realise I really should give it a go.

    I am planning (well, have been for ages actually!), to write something about blogging/its perception/why I do so etc. Will link it up to your post here when I do.

  15. As a very new blogger, who has never kept a journal of any kind and is definitely not a writer in the accepted sense, I do think of my blog as writing. I try hard to express the ideas I have as well as I can, for my own sake and for those who may happen to read what I write. I ceratinly love doing it and find it deeply satisfying so far.

    Thanks Fly, for pointing me in the direction of Mark's blog.