What If Orwell Was a Blogger?

There are some people who can’t help but write. These people all have their own styles, their own intentions, their own “demons” (which Orwell mentions in his essay “Why I Write”) that keep them going, and they’re all addicted. Despite the change in medium over the years, writing remains one of the best ways to get an opinion, get your views, your personality, out to the masses.

Didion, Orwell, and Andrew Sullivan all can not stop writing. All three are concerned with getting their views out there, whether it’s a novel that takes a year to develop, a newspaper article that goes through several painstaking rounds of edits, or a blog in which you just spat words of passion and fury onto a screen.

In their respective “Why I Write/Blog” pieces, they talk about something that keeps them going—for Didion it’s opening access to her brain, for Orwell it’s political purpose, and for Sullivan the thrill of prescience.   That’s great, everyone has his or her own reason for writing. But what sets the type of deliberate writing that Orwell did apart from Sullivan’s miscellaneous postings on the World Wide Web every few hours, is the ‘unfinished’ nature of the blog.

In my opinion, neither Didion or Orwell would be very good bloggers. Didion has a more “get it all on the paper” style, which might seem like it’s good for blogging, but as Sullivan puts it, blogging is superficial—readers don’t really have the patience to take an everyday circumstance and wonder what might have been, what could have been, and for the author gradually get his/her point out halfway through the fifth chapter through some symbol that the teacher pointed out.

Orwell, on the other hand, wants to get a viewpoint out there, and put some political purpose in his writing. But as a novelist, Orwell always got the last say. When posting a blog, you’re not finishing an argument—rather if you’re doing a good job, you’re probably starting one.   You’ve got to respond to comments, interact with your readers and other bloggers. You can have political purpose in a blog, but people won’t take the time to soak it up and think about your ideas for a few days like they would when reading a book. Rather they’ll probably write an illogical angry argument strewn with grammatical errors within minutes of your posting.

As for me, now I’m a veteran blogger, but I still don’t think I’ve gotten the full blog experience.   I appreciate the comments I get every week from my blog group members Kit and Annika, but the blogs we’re writing are mostly reflective, and don’t elicit a ton of heated debates in the comments section.   Posting something controversial, that everyone in the world has access to, and being ready to respond to the haters, is what blogging is all about.   I am excited to see where my fitness blog takes me, as I think that could be a forum for some great (and maybe contentious) conversation.

One question I have, that occurred to me when reading Sullivan’s essay, is about the hyperlink. Does it limit creativity? I know it’s a great way to support your ideas, but does tethering your words to someone else’s work hamper the creative process that is so essential to writing? I can’t answer this one, but I’d love to see what Didion and Orwell thought about that aspect of blogging, and if they would like it.

Going forward, I want to be fearless in publishing my own viewpoints and ideas. Getting them out there to a large audience is possible in today’s digital age, and I have confidence that my ideas are meaningful and have a place in society. So, as Orwell said, I’m going to write with ‘political purpose’ in the broadest sense of the term, and I’m going to do it in a creative way that shows my personality in full force. That’s the only way people will listen.   I think that blogs, and short online articles is the #1 way to get my views to reach others my own age.

However, connecting with young readers online has two sides, and can mean you lose a shot at getting the last say in an argument if you don’t play your cards right. Learning how to respond to online criticism in an intelligent and thoughtful way will be a very important skill for me to develop as I mature.

So far in the Minor in Writing, I’ve learned how to capture a young audience in several different ways, and I plan on continuing the use of multimodality in my personal writing, because I think it’s such a great way to connect with the reader.

2 thoughts to “What If Orwell Was a Blogger?”

  1. Cole, I love the major question that you pose in your title, and in the opening of this particular blog post. I never even thought about it–if they were bloggers. I agree with you , though, I think they wouldn’t be great bloggers. Their styles seem so specific to the novel that I’m not sure I can picture it as “superficial” of “stream-of-consciousness. However, I trust that they might be able to adapt with a little bit of research into blogging. Also, I like the question you pose, “Does [the hyperlink] limit creativity? I know it’s a great way to support your ideas, but does tethering your words to someone else’s work hamper the creative process that is so essential to writing?” I never thought about that. You know, there’s definitely something weak about putting a different source just one click away from your own work, but at the same time it might be no different from a footnote or endnote or works cited. I guess it’s how you frame the hyperlink that makes the difference. Are you putting hyperlinks in your re-mediation project? Just Wondering!

  2. Hi Cole,
    You bring up such an interesting topic here, by contrasting the voices and modes of the three writers we read. I see where you are coming from when you say that Orwell would not make a great blogger… as opposed to bloggers like Sullivan, he is not creating / engaging in direct conversation through his writing but rather creating something for others to read with the hope of convincing them of something. It is so interesting to think about the similarities and differences between the mediums of blogs and novels. In a broad sense, all writing is a conversation – intended for others, to communicate ideas – but rarely are novels written in direct response to each other. Hmm you are making me think a lot about this… I will definitely come back to this idea later when I have more time to think.

    And I think that for your project you need hyperlinks.. they are convenient tools, and I don’t think they undermine the creativity of your own work.

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