Writers versus Bloggers

I recently attended a blogging conference in Sydney, during which I learned many things, mostly that I seem to be breaking a lot of the unbreakable rules of blogging*.

But over the three days, as I spoke with different people, with a range of blogs and diverse stories, the main thing that crystallised was that there seemed to be two distinct groups.

The distinction was not one I had put on them. It seemed to be self-assigned, with no discomfiture nor judgement. And I’m not saying that people could not fit into both categories, it’s just that people seemed to want to choose to be one or the other.

People were either bloggers or writers.

People who referred to themselves as bloggers often said they were not writers, although they obviously possessed the necessary skills to run a blog. Bloggers tended to be more professional, had bigger numbers of followers, were more likely to monetise their blogs and make money from sponsored posts, advertising or selling products.

Their blogs were pretty phenomenal. Bloggers seem to treat their blogs as a virtual workplace. They’re organised. They utilise multiple social media platforms. They schedule posts. They know cool stuff about blogs and how they work.

Then there were the writers. All the writers I met had blogs obviously, because this was a blogging conference. But the writers also did other writerly things, in addition to their blogs: they wrote children’s stories, or eBooks, or feature articles, or poems. They published on multiple platforms, including good old fashioned print. Their blogs were merely one of many mediums to get their words out to the wider world.

Writers seemed eager to make sure they said they were writers.

I am a writer. It’s on my business card, so I must be. In fact, in every single bio that I have ever sent out attached to a blog post, review, article or story pitch, I always write ‘Shannon Meyerkort is a writer…’. Sometimes I am also a blogger and sometimes an author, but I always say I am a writer.

Until I heard others do it too, I hadn’t really realised I was doing it.

Are the two mutually exclusive? Or are bloggers a subset of writers? Are writers (me included) claiming to be better than bloggers because we seek to share our words on more platforms, or does that just make us greedy and unfocussed? Are bloggers suggesting that by not being a writer they are more resolute and professional?

I’m not suggesting that bloggers don’t have superb writing skills, nor am I suggesting that writers lack professionalism, but there must be a line in the sand that writers and bloggers draw, and then choose a side. Go and visit your favourite blogs now: look at the ‘about me’ page and the tagline: are they calling themselves a writer or a blogger?

What side are you on? And why?


*But that’s okay, because I’m a writer, not a blogger, right?

Machiavellian Bastards

In the not so distant past I attended the ‘Writing Dramatic Dialogue’ class run by author John Harman. I had hoped that it would help me limber up my writing muscles: what I didn’t realise is that it would give me licence to kill – in the literary sense that is.

John started by telling us:

‘You sit in a room by yourself, making up words for people who don’t exist. It’s madness.  They can put you away for that.  You either get paid or put away.’

 And towards the end of the day he admitted:

 ‘Writers are allowed to steal anything. If it is nailed down, get a crowbar. There is no copyright on lines of dialogue or ideas.  You can steal anything.’

 No wonder no one’s Mum wants them to be a writer when they grow up – it’s nothing to do with hanging on the fringe of dubious society or the non-existent pay cheques.  Writers wind up being thieving mad people.  Personally, I cannot wait.

After a second workshop by John Harman, I was able to extend the notion that writers are ‘thieves and mad people’ to include the proposition that writers are also promiscuous Machiavellian bastards who can defy the laws of physics.  Cool hey.

He told us:

Figure out the worst thing possible you can do to your hero, and do it. Show them you are a bastard as an author.  You’re meant to be.  You are God. You have become Machiavellian.

 John was explaining the concept of chiasmus, the Greek word for cross, where the story reverses on itself.  Such as ‘what matters is not the men in my life, but the life in my men’ or ‘You do not live to eat, you eat to live’. He told us that we must constantly be looking for ways to reverse the story and, if possible, torture our protagonist by putting them in situations that would put them under complete and utter duress.

His complaint about first time writers was that we are all too nice to our heroes, and very rarely want to hurt them.  Imagine how lame ‘Romeo and Juliet’ would have been had Shakespeare decided to let them live happily ever after.  Why is this story one of the greatest of all time?  Chiasmus.  The story starts with our protagonists alive but apart, and finishes with them dead but together.  Neat.

Then we were told:

Writers are promiscuous.  We are writing one story but we keep thinking about another.

 Finally he concluded:

 Writers are not subject to the laws of gravity.  If you are an architect you must start with the foundations or your building will fall down. A writer can start anywhere: the middle, beginning or end.

 I think the key though, is that writers need to actually start. And once they start (as is particularly true in my case), they need to continue.