Thoughts on genre, language, grammar, and other
rhetorical and linguistic norms
rhetorical and linguistic norms
It’s my anniversary!
No, I don’t mean my wedding anniversary (though that was just a week ago. Happy anniversary, sweetie!)
It’s my blog’s anniversary, which is either three years old or just over two years old.
I published its first post on August 19, 2015, making this blog three years old. On August 19, 2015, I published “What I Notice—and Write About,” laying out the reason for the weird title Genre-Colored Glasses and the topics I expected to write about—things like how genres affect us, how language makes a difference, how to teach writing in ways that show people the choices they can make, and fairness and equity. Truth, justice, and the American grammar joke. I love grammar jokes, especially the groaners.
The difference a comma can make:
I warned you—groaners. But punctuation saves lives!
So that was my first post, describing my blog and its focus, with one bad grammar joke attached.
And then . . . I didn’t publish another post for over nine months. Apparently, this baby needed time to develop.
I lost my nerve, in part. What if no one was interested? What if nobody read it? This was a new genre itself for me. I was good at writing academic stuff, I thought, but I might be really bad at writing for a broader audience. What if I’m a bad parent? What if my blog is terrible? What if I expect everyone to admire an ugly baby? (I love Seinfeld references, too)
I drafted several new posts, but I didn’t hit Publish on any of them until nine months later—May 30, 2016. Then I read an article in The New York Times on “The Psychology of Genre: Why we don’t like what we struggle to categorize,” by Tom Vanderbilt. That piece was full of great research on why brains like to categorize, so I could tell others about someone else’s research and add my comments. A lot like what I already knew how to write, but more fun.
I decided it was a perfect way to finally birth my blog. The Psychology of Genre. And so I hit Publish
Following advice I’d read from other bloggers, I also committed to publishing a post every week for the next six months. Give this baby six months to grow. I didn’t tell anyone else, though, just myself. Much too scary before the end of the second trimester. Instead I just started making myself write and publish. Every Monday, I had to publish a blog post. And I did. For the required six months.
And then for the next twenty months.
Writing the blog had become such a part of my life I didn’t even notice when the six months had passed. By then it had become so much fun that I didn’t even consider stopping.
Of course, some weeks were harder than others. Some weeks I struggled—to find a relevant topic, to put words together other than academese “blah, blah, blah,” and to find the time. Other weeks were easier. Something had happened in the world—we heard about “alternative truth,” or a passenger was dragged from a plane to “re-accommodate” him, or a boy killed himself after his girlfriend told him to, or a gunman killed others who fit a category. Words matter. Maybe this blog mattered
More fun topics showed up other weeks. Holidays! Thanks-giving is the only federal holiday that’s a verb! What makes Labor Day about labor? How do Mother’s Day cards limit how we view mothers? What are the lyrics to “The Twelve Genres of Christmas”? (That last one was not my finest hour.)
And TV genres, music genres, POTUS tweets, syllabuses, apologies, inaugural addresses, insults, and condolences. Dumpster fires, pronouns, locker room talk, good sentences, and “they.” Even one on “An Academic Learns to Blog,” if you want to read some lessons I’d learned after my first three months.
Now, twenty-six months later, I’m still here and my blog still lives. The topics may have expanded a bit, but I still love writing about the ways language and genres shape what we do, what we think to do, but not necessarily what we can do. I still notice the everyday ways language affects us in ways others may not notice. I don’t know that this blog matters, beyond my enjoyment of it, but I know that words matter, and I can keep pointing them out.
So I guess I’m a blogger now. Maybe even one who gets to offer advice. If you’re blogging or want to blog or, like I was, have been scared to blog but still want to, here are 5 tips I learned from birthing my own blog:
In blog years, my 2- or 3-year-old blog must be a teenager, so maybe it’s time to loosen the reins a little bit. I may let it stay out a little later some weeks—coming out on Tuesday instead of Monday, and maybe even not showing up every single week. I’m sure our relationship will continue to change as we both grow older.
What I hope doesn’t change is you, dear readers, and your support for this baby as it’s grown. Before I stretch the metaphor way too far, I’ll just stop to thank those of you who have been reading my blog for one week or a hundred weeks.
To longer-term readers, happy family reunion! To new readers, welcome to the family. I hope we keep growing together.