living in the shallows, or the importance of blogging judiciously

Walking past the city square last week I noticed the message someone had scribbled in white chalk on one of the grey granite blocks defining the square’s boundary: ‘be yourself – everyone else is taken’. Mulling over that gem of urban wisdom as I made my way to flinders street station, I started thinking about the importance of finding your own ‘voice’ when writing.

That led me to thinking about how difficult it is for a writer’s voice to be heard in an era of undifferentiated publishing. We are all authors now, as our blogs, tweets and status updates may reach thousands of readers. We are always ‘on’ – and increasingly on edge, it seems.

Like a body-boarder standing in the shallows, we are waiting for our wave. The wave that will lift our blog up on a glorious ride. As the energy of a new blog post dissipates all too soon, we wade back out again behind our iPads, scanning the waves for those about to crest. But the water is too crowded and we are all vying for the same wave. Maybe the answer is to turn your back on the spectators on their beach towels and to go further out to sea where you may find deeper swells, less foam, greater mystery.

In blogging, as in life, we may need silence. Silence can be the gift that makes us turn inward; it helps to ground us. It provides us with space for asking some fundamental questions: am I writing the way I had envisaged it, with care? Am I making every word count or am I re-hashing my posts, poaching myself? Am I sacrificing quality for quantity, choosing output over impact?

I am including the photo below because it symbolises so starkly quality standing out from the background chatter that surrounds us.

graffiti, hosiers lane, melbourne (image: ozengo, purplezengoat 2012)

My aim in sharing these thoughts is not to set myself up as an arbiter of quality writing, far from it. I am a beginner, with much to learn. My aim is not to pontificate but to encourage you to develop, and remain true to your own voice. Like you, I am learning to distinguish between the desire to share that grows within and the urge to publish that comes from without. The former benefits from silence and reflection, qualities that are anathema to the latter. The first is part of your voice; the latter mere noise. The difference between the two is quality; and quality takes time.

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