Thursday, December 08, 2005

Writing and magic

In today's final excerpt from his book Writing with Power, Peter Elbow talks about writing "magic," the notion that when you work on a piece of writing, sometimes something "else" takes over, imbuing your words with an almost supernatural power. Maybe you find a new idea popping up out of nowhere, or maybe you find yourself writing with an eloquence you never knew you possessed. Or maybe the wall of writer's block suddenly crumbles as you find your writing taking on a life of its own, words effortlessly bubbling from your fingertips.

I hope you've experienced at least an occasional moment of magic over the course of the semester, even if that "magic" simply consisted of you pulling an idea for a blog entry out of your posterior under the duress of a writing deadline!

In commemoration of today's final required blog entry, I want you to look back at what you've blogged these past three months, starting with your first hesitant posting and then covering the range of entries you've published since September. In looking back at these posts, what sort of "magic" do you see? What (if anything) have you learned from your experience writing & publishing frequent online posts? Looking over what you've written, is there anything about the writing or your experience of writing that surprises you? These are the questions I'd like you to address in your final required in-class blog entry. From here, it's up to you to decide whether you want to continue this crazy writing experiment: I hope, though, that some of you will have found yourself bitten by the "blog-bug" and will continue writing in this online forum...

(If you need additional proof that blogging is here to stay, consider the fact that "blog" was named one of the Merriam-Webster Words of the Year for 2004. That's a pretty impressive accomplishment for a funny-sounding four letter word!)

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

"The end is near" best o' blogs...

Yes, it's true: the end is near. Here are the winners from this week's Tuesday blog round-up (even though we know, of course, "there are no losers" and "it's an honor to be nominated"):


Finding your voice

"Voice" is the intangible personality or presence that gives power to a piece of writing. Voice is what makes your writing sound like "you" and no one else, and it is the quality or tone that either grabs a reader's attention or leaves a reader cold. Writing without voice sounds dry and detached; writing with voice sounds alive and engaging as if the words themselves have reached out and touched you.

One way to find your own voice is by writing frequently: this is one of the potential benefits of blogging. By writing (and sharing your writing) frequently, you can, over time, discover the "true voice" that lurks behind your words.

Detecting your own voice, however, can be difficult. We're sometimes too close to our writing to judge it objectively, and we sometimes can't tell whether a particular piece will speak powerfully to readers. This is why getting feedback on our writing is so helpful. Often our readers can find our voice more accurately than we ourselves can.

Today I'd like you to work with a partner to help one another find your blogging voice. In pairs or groups of three, I want you to read someone else's ENTIRE blog from the most recent posts to the very first one. (To do this, you'll have to use the archive links in the blog's sidebar.) As you're reading, I want you to right-click and open in a new window the permalink to a handful of entries (between 1 and 3) that you think demonstrate the strongest voice. In other words, as you are reading, make note of
  • the blog's best entry
  • the blog's most powerful entry
  • the blog's most genuine or "real" entry

When you've determined (and right-clicked) the handful of entries you think are the best, most powerful, or most "real," post a comment on the blog's MOST RECENT entry. In this comment, copy and past the permalinks to the handful of entries you selected, and tell the writer why you think these entries are particularly note worthy. Then, I want you to tell the writer how you would describe their voice: what sort of authorial tone or "personality" do they present to their readers? (For example, do they have a humorous voice, a trustworthy voice, a sarcastic voice, a witty voice, a confessional voice, a conversational voice, etc.)