Among the advice currently given to authors is the admonition to have a web presence, including a blog. My first reaction was the same as my reaction in graduate school when we were told that if we wanted to have an academic career we had to start publishing at least two papers a year in the right sort of journals. That advice made me uncomfortable, not because I have any trouble writing, but because I wasn't sure I had anything to say yet. In a similar vein, talk about authors having blogs as part of a multifaceted marketing effort leaves me cold because, at best, those giving the advice assume that the substance of the blog can be left as an exercise for the writer.

I've watched the blogs kept by a handful of writers for a while now as part of an effort to decide what, if anything, I wanted to do. Some authors use their blogs primarily to chronicle their glorious career. Since blogs constantly demand new content, the better ones discuss matters pertinent to the writer and so sometimes they talk about their craft.

I've appreciated and enjoyed some of the material I've come across, but overall I still have a vaguely uncomfortable feeling about the whole business of authors blogging. Then I found the "Less is More" quasi-manifesto on the Editorial Ass(istant) Blog, which catalyzed my thinking.

The Editorial Ass(istant) summarized her discussion with the following:
"We, as industry professionals in our various roles, need to start paying closer attention to content--both its integrity and its quality. We have an incentive to return art and meaning to what we do and to rise above the bad trends that have come to dominate the industry. We need to focus on projects that we can go to the wall for, again and again and again."

Earlier, she discusses the ways in which the publishing industry focuses on quantity: Editors often have yearly quotas and find themselves acquiring books to fill a slot in their line-up. Because of the numbers, no one has time to give a book the attention it needs to raise its quality.

In order to focus on the quality and integrity of a thing it needs to have some intrinsic worth. In philosophic terms, it must, in some sense, be an end in and of itself. Quality becomes accidental, or at best conditional, when the thing is merely an means to some other end. When editors are filling their quotas, it's not difficult to see how a book is just a means to an end. When authors promote themselves as a brand, it's easy to see how a particular book is just a means to an end. (For example, we don't even have to mention the title when we talk about the latest {insert famous author} book.)

But the books I love are the ones that, for one reason or another, I find significant in and of themselves. Because of their integrity, they become more than the sum of the words assembled by the author. On a philosophic level, in order for a made thing to have integrity, it must, at some level, exist for its own sake.

While considering these ideas, I realized that I did have something to say that could be appropriately said in a blog: I want to talk about quality and integrity, particularly as it applies to writing. Which is not to say I won't also use this medium to tell readers about my activities, but that's secondary. This blog exists to explore quality and integrity in the kind of making that we call writing.

Image: A. Norppa, Wikimedia Commons