I've been reading about Jonah Lehrer, the latest journalist who has committed misdeeds (see this Slate piece for more). The investigator mentioned that he had recycled blog posts and presented them as new. I assume he was a paid blogger when he wrote the original blog posts. Should we also assume that he was hired to write entirely new pieces?
I thought about my own blogging practice. I use my blogs for all sorts of purposes. I write about what I'm thinking, and some of it is topical. I write about holidays of all sorts. I write down ideas for future pieces of writing. I puzzle over revision of creative pieces.
I also recycle my own writing. I repost poems, almost always telling readers where they're from. I take chunks of one piece of writing and put them into other pieces of writing. If I'm busy, I'll rerun a post from a past year.
Often, I've used a blog piece as a starting point for new writing. I almost never can take a blog piece and just recycle it. But I don't see a problem with repurposing it.
Of course, if someone hired me and specified that my thoughts must be completely new and original, then I wouldn't do that. I'd do some searches on my blog, just to make sure I wasn't unconsciously revisiting a topic I'd already written about.
I'd also ponder whether or not it's actually possible to write something new and original these days. I try to keep track of where I've seen various ideas. I try to give credit where credit is due. It was easier to keep track of my reading back when all my reading was non-electronic.
I've also been thinking about this blog post over at Historiann's blog. She's been pondering the question of whether or not blog posts can be repurposed into a book. She concludes that it's a tough-to-impossible task:
"In the main, my problems with the book-to-blog concept revolve around the fact that blogs are a particular genre of communication that I don’t think translate particularly well to other media, and maybe to print media in particular:
--Blogs are not just about the blog author’s ideas, they’re about her audience’s reaction to her ideas and the interplay between and among the author and commenters. How would a book capture the freshness of an ongoing conversation or debate? (Even if it published the comments on each post, I don’t think it would! If yesterday’s news is tomorrow’s fish-and-chip papers, then maybe it’s OK for old blog conversations to go down the memory hole.)
--What about the links to other blog posts or articles? What about the images that accompany most blog posts?
--Blogs are not peer-reviewed or edited, and many books-from-blogs appear never to have been edited or revised for clarity."
That's just a partial list, and I encourage you to read not only her thoughts, but the comments. Very intriguing.
I agree with her points, yet I want to believe that I can take selected blog posts and transform them into a book that would work well. It's the revision I need to pay attention to.
That's my project for autumn: to continue looking through my blog posts and collecting what I've already written about work and spirituality--the places where the two meet. I've seen plenty of memoirs about work and plenty about being a spiritual person, but hardly any that mention the spiritual person in the workplace. I can't be the only one longing for such a narrative.
Transforming blog posts into a narrative--that will be the focus of my revision.
And tomorrow, since I will be neck deep in retreat planning, I will be presenting a published poem and pointing readers to the original blog post where I explain how I came to write the poem--the poem which wouldn't exist without the blog writings of others that inspired it.
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