Blogging Insights — What to Read?

For this week’s Blogging Insights prompt, Dr. Tanya has given us a quote about writing and asked us for our reaction to the quote.

The quote is from American novelist, short story writer, and journalist, Annie Proulx.

“Reading is the finest teacher of how to write.”

Dr. Tanya admits that this quote is a universal truth. After all, even as children, we learn how to read before we learn how to write. But she wants to dive deeper. She wants to know what to read and how to read. She asks, “Is ‘free reading’ helpful like ‘free writing’? Or should your reading be purposeful? Is reading books about writing helpful?

Dr. Tanya prefaced her deeper dive questions by saying, “As an aspiring writer….” Left me preface my response by saying that I’m not an aspiring writer. I am a retiree who enjoys writing and who keeps himself out of trouble by blogging.

That said, other than my prompt posts, I write mostly flash fiction. The kinds of books I generally prefer to read are fiction: novels and short stories. I suppose that is purposeful reading. But I mostly read to be entertained and as an escape from the harsh reality of life, rather than as a tool to help me write better.

Finally, do I think reading books about writing books is helpful? Not to me! Reading such books make me focus too much on mechanics. For example, Stephen King’s book, “On Writing,” caused me to break out in hives every time an adverb popped into my head. I decided, as much as I admire Stephen King as a novelist, to go ahead and ignore his anti-adverb stance and liberally sprinkle my writing with adverbs.

Take that, Stephen King!

Blogging Insights — The Keys to Good Writing

For this week’s Blogging Insights prompt, Dr. Tanya has given us a quote about writing and asked us for our reaction to the quote.

The quote is from English novelist P. D. James. She said:

“Learn to write by doing it. Read widely and wisely. Increase your word power. Find your individual voice through practicing constantly. Go through the world with your eyes and ears open and learn to express that experience in words.

There’s not much to argue about with this quote. It makes a lot of sense. Dr. Tanya said that she considers the first to bits of advice — write by doing it and reading wisely — to be the best. I agree. But as a casual blogger, not a professional writer, I’d say keeping your eyes and ears open and learning to express in words what you see, hear, and perhaps most important, feel, are the keys to setting your writing up to be something special.

Blogging Insights — Who Do I Write For?

For this week’s Blogging Insights prompt, Dr. Tanya has given us a quote about writing and asked us for our reaction to the quote.

The quote is from Cyril Connolly, who was an English literary critic and writer. He said…

“Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.

My initial reaction to this quote is whatever floats your boat. If you don’t care about attracting a large public following and want to blog for your own satisfaction and fulfillment, good for you. You do you. If your goal is to amass a huge following, and that means catering to your public, that’s cool to. I personally believe you can attract a following and be true to yourself at the same time.

I started blogging in 2005 because I felt compelled to write and someone suggested that I start a blog for my writing. It started out mostly as a personal journal where I posted about whatever was on my mind. Most of my early posts were long, meandering posts and I wasn’t really expecting others to be interested. I was writing exclusively for myself and there literally was no public reading my blog. Not even members of my own family.

In July of 2013, I moved my blog to WordPress. By then I had learned to write shorter, less meandering posts. I also started experimenting with flash fiction and responding to WordPress and a few other bloggers’ prompts. And I was thrilled when other people started reading my posts, commenting on my posts, and following my blog.

My writing has continued to evolve. I respond to more prompts from WordPress and from other bloggers. I now host a handful of prompts myself. I continue to write relatively short posts (possibly due to writing on an iPhone), and I’ve tried, for my own mental health and wellbeing, to be a little less political.

But through it all, I still write for myself. Yes, my blog has lots of followers. Yes, my posts get a decent number of views, likes, and comments daily. And that’s great. But even if it went back to what is was like when I first started blogging and I had no “public,” I would continue to write. After all, my most important member of the public is me, and if I feel a sense of pride and accomplishment when I write and re-read my posts, I can say that I haven’t sacrificed myself solely to generate a larger public following. With my blog, what you read is who I am.

So back to Cyril Connolly’s quote, I don’t think writing for the public and writing for yourself are — or need to be — mutually exclusive.

Blogging Insights — What I Like to Write

For this week’s Blogging Insights prompt, Dr. Tanya has asked us…

What type of writing do you enjoy the most?

My blog contains four types of writing: flash fiction, non-fiction, writing prompts, and “poetry.” The last category, “poetry,” represents a tiny fraction of my posts. And I put poetry in quotes because my “poetry” is mostly short prose where I randomly insert line breaks, capitalize the first word of the next line, minimize other punctuation, and rarely rhyme. So to call my alleged “poetry” poetry is a stretch.

My prompts are mostly for other bloggers. I don’t typically respond to my own prompts. I have one daily prompt that I host and a handful of weekly prompts, so that adds up to about 12 posts per week. So my prompts account for about 1/3 of my post each week.

The other two thirds is probably split evenly between flash fiction and non-fiction. My flash fiction posts are often in response to photo or word or music prompts from other bloggers and I enjoy writing them because it gives me an opportunity to use my imagination and to weave stories around pictures and words.

My non-fiction posts are often rants about politics, society, technology, religion, and various other things that are bubbling around inside my brain. Writing such posts can be cathartic, but they can also kick my blood pressure up a notch or two. On the other hand, I enjoy responding to Q&A prompts (like this one) and to music posts like Jim Adams’ Song Lyric Sunday prompt.

My non-fiction posts can also be about what’s going on in my life, and for the past three months, that’s been mostly about falling off a ladder, fracturing my hip, busting my right arm at the shoulder, and my rehabilitation struggles, which I’m sure my readers are tired of reading.

So, having just read what I’ve written so far, I’d say my short answer to Dr. Tanya’s question is that the type of writing I enjoy the most is flash fiction.

AI — Agree to Disagree

I read a post that a blogger had linked back to one of my one-word (FOWC with Fandango) prompts. As I was reading the linked post, it occurred to me that the post could have been created by an AI chatbot.

I have an app on my iPhone, an AI detector, that claims to be able to accurately assess whether the text in question was produced by a human or was generated by a chatbot. I cut and pasted the text from the post into the AI detector app. Here is the result:

Ah ha! Someone is producing their blog posts (or at least gone of them), using an AI ChatGPT engine.

However, anyone who does research knows that you can’t draw a conclusion from only one data point. So I ran that same text through a different AI detector app. This second app gave this result:

Uh oh. One detector unequivocally claimed that the post was 100% chatbot generated. But a different detector said it was 97% sure that the post was not produced by a chatbot. There was only one course of action to take: try a few more AI detector apps.

Here are the results of two more reviews of the same text by AI detectors:

100% chatbot from a third AI detector app and 83.8% human from a fourth. Seriously?

My conclusion is that not only do AI-text generators have a ways to go in their evolution, apparently so do AI-text generator detectors!