Blog writing is an art. Stay with me for a minute—it’s true! In its best iterations, blog writing balances a bit of the personal with a bit of the public, a bit of the closed with a bit of the open, a bit of the crosslinkedly referential with a bit of (or better, a lot of) originality.
Even though blogging always seems just about to go completely out of style, blogs have been around for a couple of decades. And they're still going strong.
That's partly because the best blogs share analogue ancestry with universally familiar forms of writing, especially old-timey diaries and commonplace books (those scrapbook ledgers The Atlantic once called “Tumblrs of an Earlier Era”).
It's also because blogs that are both artfully personal and usefully public, referentially aware and inventively original will always find eager readers.
Creating this kind of balanced blog is hard, though. And today’s guides spend a whole lot of time advocating a content-rich, social-media-driven, imminently scale-able approach.
That works for some, but to do more than saturate, to be a blog-writing artist and eventual influencer, we advocate approaching blogging as an art, specifically the art of bricolage.
Bricolage means creating something new with whatever is at hand. The bricoleur (described by anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss in The Savage Mind) is someone who “shapes the beautiful and useful out of the dump heap of human life.”
The blog-writing bricoleur uses the tools from the collective online dump heap—the rich content, the labyrinthine links, the trending tweets—to create a story that both imitates and initiates.
Jason Kottke is a bricoleur, and so is Tina Roth Eisenberg, and so is Austin Kleon.
And—lest the lineage feel too scant—so, too, is William Shakespeare.
According to a February report in the New York Times, the plagiarism software WCopyfind helped scholars discover new sources—especially George Noth’s unpublished manuscript--for many of Shakespeare's plays.
He would have received an F for plagiarism, but by building out his “mental landscape” with the relevant content all around him, Shakespeare “stole like an artist,” helping to substantiate the bricoleur tradition that reaches its (potential) apotheosis in the internet age.
Shakespeare, the forefather of so much in the English writing, was also, in creating something newly brilliant from derivation, a bricoleur.
So if you’re starting a new blog, dusting off an old one, or looking for fresh inspiration for a blog already well-run, consider the strong (and Shakespearean) tradition of bricolage. Look at what's already-out-there old and make it new.
English PhD, former arts administrator, obsessive cook, native East Coaster, and mom to two rabblerousers.
English PhD, former high school teacher, obsessive organizer, native Midwesterner, and mom to three troublemakers.