12 May 2006

Blogging balance

One reason I started this blog was to get a better feel for blogging. I've recently run several articles about chess blogs on About Chess. While the main page of About Chess is created using blog technology -- the tool is called WordPress -- there are so many additional functions available to create the site that I don't think of it as a blog. I wouldn't be surprised if not many other people thought of it as a blog either. I haven't seen it listed on anyone's blogroll.

There are at least two skills required to create a blog. The first is a deep interest in the subject of the blog. The second is writing ability.

Since I'm talking about chess blogs, chess is obviously the subject. A blogger doesn't have to be a good chess player to have a good chess blog. There are some very good chess blogs written by novice players who are just starting to learn the game. More important than chess knowledge is a passion for the game. Beginners can have just as much passion as an experienced player and may have even more. All experienced players undoubtedly had the passion in the past, but it tends to fade with age and when the peak in ability is reached.

The ability to write well is in many ways incompatible with the ability to play chess. Chess is a game of logic based on well defined rules. The object is to win. Writing is an art with some rules, but these are secondary to the imagination required to construct sentences and paragraphs that no one else has ever constructed. The object is to make them interesting.

Yes, I know that chess can also be an art. Composers of studies and problems require great imagination and players like Alekhine, Tal, and Shirov are often branded as artists of the chessboard. Only great players become chess artists, while all writers are artists, although usually not great artists.

There is one point that chess and writing have in common. Both can be done without any formal training. While a lack of training limits the height that a chess player or a writer can attain, it doesn't limit the enjoyment. Not having any formal training in either discipline myself, I suspect that there is at least one area where training might confer a big advantage in writing: speed.

Anyone who has to write professionally knows that writing is not easy work. The rules of grammar, punctuation, and spelling must be respected. Ideas must be clearly stated and unambiguous. The construction must be orderly and fit into some framework that makes sense and propels the reader forward. The obstacles are many. Do I use this word or that word? What's the word that means this? Have I used this word too frequently? This sentence construction? Does this paragraph make a logical unit? How do I start? Finish? Does the whole thing make sense?

I'm not a fast writer and it can take 30 to 60 minutes to finish a single blog post. Concentration is required, which means that nothing else gets done at the same time. This is the first thing I've learned in the short time I've been blogging. The frequency of the posts is critical. Blog too long or too often and important tasks elsewhere are left undone. Blog too short or too infrequently and you might as well not do it.

What's the right balance? I don't know because I haven't discovered it yet. A post like this every day isn't feasible. There isn't enough time.

1 comment:

Pawnsensei said...

Very intriguing. I've always had a hard time writing. I tend to agonize a long time over one word or sentence.