I’ve been thinking lately about the way that blogging and internet culture have changed my writing style and writing styles in general. I also recently saw an article that stated that the sitcom is experiencing a bit of a revival due to the “documentary-style” of shooting and editing that became popular on shows like The Office and Arrested Development. I was then able to put two and two together to see how these two things are related and I felt…not unsmrt.
Many moons ago when I was in high school, I kept a journal every day. My innermost thoughts, the days events, whatever I wanted to write about. It was written just for me. Pure and simple record keeping. Very quotidian. I liked writing and I suppose on some level I considered it an exercise but it was never work, it was just part of me, something I did. As I have always had dreams of becoming a published author (and I’ve had a few things published!) I know I thought that, should I become famous enough, a Fitzgerald or Hemingway, perhaps someday the journals themselves would be published. But I never wrote them for anyone but myself.
I don’t keep a journal anymore but I have this blog, started as a way to chronicle the adventures of buying a house. A topic that would have been an excellent journal entry back in the dark and dim days before the internet made everyone’s innermost thoughts public fodder. But it’s different from a journal entry in most every way in that as I type these words, any words, I type them with the conscious thought that I have an audience. It’s a miniscule audience, but as I was an only child and had no snooping siblings, it’s way more traffic than my journal ever got. It changes the way I write. It changes the syntax. I often refer to the audience outright. It changes the content of the story, because what do I really want to share with my legions of (4) fans and whomever happens to land here in such a desperate search for info on microexpressions or Sonic that they click through 100 pages of Google search? It changes the entire mindset of the process of writing because no longer am I sitting down to write a story, I’m sitting down to share a story. Before if I wrote something I later didn’t like, I could choose not to share it. Now if I write something that later I don’t like (this piece, perhaps), too bad.
The acknowledgement of the audience is the same mindset behind the documentary-style sitcoms. The idea that the characters in the show know they are being filmed gives a connection to the production of the show instead of just the story. Just as I might talk directly to you, loyal readers, these shows perform for you, loyal viewers. It minimizes the chances you will be swept up into fantasy story land and tries instead to become a part of your reality. Encouraging interaction with the story in this way is what leads to so many ridiculous web extras and delusional Facebook status updates thinking I want to know the latest news on fictional couple Jim & Pam’s fictional baby.
Social media aside, does the acknowledgement of the audience make the writing or the storytelling any better? Well, The Office was once a great series, as well as Arrested Development (though for all the mention this show gets of being “documentary-style” it hardly ever acknowledged the camera, and there were no confessionals.) But now it’s a gimmick. A crutch. The Office or whoever started it had nice creative reasons for it, but when it worked everyone else jumped on the bandwagon for no reason other than hoping it would work for them too. Like any other storytelling device, it can work, but the story still has to be good.
As for my writing… Knowing there’s the potential for an audience encourages me to write more than I probably would otherwise. However, I often resent how restrained I feel by privacy and security issues. If I told you where I work, I might be better able to illustrate my points, but I might get fired. And I’m perfectly able of pissing off people in person but doing it via a blog, however inter-e-connected we may be, still seems so…impersonal. So in that writing is writing is writing, I guess I’m going to have to declare the blog a good influence. And in fact, I think I have to declare documentary-style a good influence for TV as well, if only because it caused the demise of the laugh track.