A Blog Around The Clock

Andrew Sullivan on blogging

Andrew Sullivan, who blogs on the vastly popular Daily Dish (one of the few sane conservatives out there and very informative and entertaining to read) just published a long essay in The Atlantic – Why I Blog? Worth your time and effort to read – just a short excerpt:

From the first few days of using the form, I was hooked. The simple experience of being able to directly broadcast my own words to readers was an exhilarating literary liberation. Unlike the current generation of writers, who have only ever blogged, I knew firsthand what the alternative meant. I’d edited a weekly print magazine, The New Republic, for five years, and written countless columns and essays for a variety of traditional outlets. And in all this, I’d often chafed, as most writers do, at the endless delays, revisions, office politics, editorial fights, and last-minute cuts for space that dead-tree publishing entails. Blogging–even to an audience of a few hundred in the early days–was intoxicatingly free in comparison. Like taking a narcotic.

It was obvious from the start that it was revolutionary. Every writer since the printing press has longed for a means to publish himself and reach–instantly–any reader on Earth. Every professional writer has paid some dues waiting for an editor’s nod, or enduring a publisher’s incompetence, or being ground to literary dust by a legion of fact-checkers and copy editors. If you added up the time a writer once had to spend finding an outlet, impressing editors, sucking up to proprietors, and proofreading edits, you’d find another lifetime buried in the interstices. But with one click of the Publish Now button, all these troubles evaporated.

Alas, as I soon discovered, this sudden freedom from above was immediately replaced by insurrection from below. Within minutes of my posting something, even in the earliest days, readers responded. E-mail seemed to unleash their inner beast. They were more brutal than any editor, more persnickety than any copy editor, and more emotionally unstable than any colleague.

Again, it’s hard to overrate how different this is. Writers can be sensitive, vain souls, requiring gentle nurturing from editors, and oddly susceptible to the blows delivered by reviewers. They survive, for the most part, but the thinness of their skins is legendary. Moreover, before the blogosphere, reporters and columnists were largely shielded from this kind of direct hazing. Yes, letters to the editor would arrive in due course and subscriptions would be canceled. But reporters and columnists tended to operate in a relative sanctuary, answerable mainly to their editors, not readers. For a long time, columns were essentially monologues published to applause, muffled murmurs, silence, or a distant heckle. I’d gotten blowback from pieces before–but in an amorphous, time-delayed, distant way. Now the feedback was instant, personal, and brutal.

Read the whole thing….

Just a note that, after a few months of blogging in relative obscurity, it was a simultaneous link by Cory Doctorow and Andrew Sullivan that exposed my science blogging to a broader audience, which soon led to invitation to Scienceblogs.com, which led to a job with PLoS…so I owe the guy at least a link every now and then…. ?


  1. #1 Henry
    October 16, 2008

    Thanks for pointing me to that essay, Bora – really, very interesting indeed.

  2. #2 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    October 16, 2008

    I just happened to be thinking on this subject the other day. Weird coincidence.

    I had always wanted to have an audience for my writing besides my mother and various friends, and considered how much trouble it would be to go through the process of mimeographing and distribution to get to 300 or 400 people per day. Think of how expensive that would have been for all of the people now blogging.

    I’m still waiting for it to lead to something big, though.

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