On Blogging

I wanted to write a post called “Take Care of Yourself,” because that’s exactly what I haven’t been doing lately. But Terri Windling wrote a wonderful post called “Reflections on Blogging,” which was a response to an interview conducted with Rima Staines on the John Barleycorn website. You can look at the interview with Rima here: “Around the table with . . . Rima Staines.” I’ve been blogging for a long time now, in various forms, but I’ve only been doing it consistently since the middle of November. (Consistently, for me, means every day. Someone else will surely have a different definition.)

And so I thought I would write about blogging, about why I do it and what it means to me.

It was the middle of November, after several weeks during which all I had wanted to do was lie on the bed and stare up at the ceiling. There I was, staring up at the ceiling, and part of me said, what now? And another part of me answered, now you remake your life.

And I got up. I spent most of that night and the next day designing this website. That’s when I started blogging consistently. I think that, at its simplest, it was a way of saying several things: I am a writer. I am still here. I’m going to be fine. (Even when I wasn’t sure myself that I was going to be.) It was a way of reaching out, not to anyone I knew, but to all the people I didn’t know.

Since then, I’ve insisted on posting very day. When I miss a day, I post twice the next day. There are several reasons. First, it’s a way of writing consistently. It means that every day, I sit down and write. And I get the instant gratification of seeing that my writing is read. If you want to believe you’re a writer, you have to write. You have to convince yourself by actually writing. Otherwise, you begin to doubt yourself. You begin to think, I haven’t written since – whenever you last wrote. And you begin to think, perhaps I’m not a writer after all. At least, that’s the way I respond. This is one way to convince myself I’m a writer. And with that conviction, I will be. (The difficulty, of course, is that with the schedule I have right now, I don’t have the time or energy to work on stories every day. I get stories written, but they happen in bursts, when I can focus on them completely. So I certainly am writing fiction as well, but it’s happening differently. If I could work on fiction every day, I would. Also, when I write stories, I often don’t know when they will be published or how many people will read them. Here, I know.)

Also, and this is a separate reason, it seems to keep me from falling into sadness or darkness, I think because I feel as though I’m connecting. And I feel as though I’m being brave, because there is something brave about writing so directly, without the intermediary of an editor, a publisher. I write it, you read it. And when I write something, it leaves me – so I write the sadness, the darkness, and then it’s gone, it’s out there rather than here with me.

Do you want the statistics? Now remember, I am not John Scalzi, nor was meant to be. But since I created this website in the middle of November, I’ve written over 100 posts and received over 300 comments. Sometime tomorrow, it will have received over 20,000 hits. I think that’s pretty good, for three months!

This is a particularly personal post, and I was thinking about that: writing so personally. At Boskone, as I was walking through the dealers’ area, I met a writer I always love talking to but rarely get to see, and she mentioned how difficult it could be, writing through depression. For a moment I wondered why, and then I remembered that I had written a number of posts about Depression, Anxiety, and Insomnia. It reminded me of what Hawthorne had said about autobiographical writing at the beginning of “The Custom-House”:

“The truth seems to be, however, that when he casts his leaves forth upon the wind, the author addresses, not the many who will fling aside his volume, or never take it up, but the few who will understand him better than most of his schoolmates or lifemates. Some authors, indeed, do far more than this, and indulge themselves in such confidential depths of revelation as could fittingly be addressed only and exclusively to the one heart and mind of perfect sympathy; as if the printed book, thrown at large on the wide world, were certain to find out the divided segment of the writer’s own nature, and complete his circle of existence by bringing him into communion with it. It is scarcely decorous, however, to speak all, even where we speak impersonally. But, as thoughts are frozen and utterance benumbed, unless the speaker stand in some true relation with his audience, it may be pardonable to imagine that a friend, a kind and apprehensive, though not the closest friend, is listening to our talk; and then, a native reserve being thawed by this genial consciousness, we may prate of the circumstances that lie around us, and even of ourself, but still keep the inmost Me behind its veil.”

I don’t think I’m indulging in “such confidential depths of revelation as could fittingly be addressed only and exclusively to the one heart and mind of perfect sympathy.” I don’t quite go that far! (Although it is a lovely idea, isn’t it? The one heart and mind, the perfect sympathy.) Rather, I address what I write here to what I assume are hearts and minds of partial sympathy. I assume that you will read and understand, that we are in some way deeply and fundamentally alike, because otherwise why would you come here? I assume that we have something in common, although you may well disagree with any specific thing I say. (After all, that’s what comments are for.) So I think, and hope, that we do stand in some true relation to one another, that there is something authentic about this, me writing, you reading and perhaps commenting. That this blogging, which can seem like a strange activity, has a purpose and a reward.

That is why I prate of the circumstances that lie around me, and even of myself, although I do keep the inmost Me behind a veil, not because I intend to, but because that Me is behind a veil to me too. There are parts of myself I do not understand, and I suspect that I reveal them as much in my writing as anywhere.

I have now written over 1000 words, so I’m going to stop.

But you know what I think? I think that if Hawthorne were alive now, he would be blogging. He would want that connection too.

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14 thoughts on “On Blogging

  1. There’s another way to remind yourself you’re a writer: that book up on your shelf with your name on it. ;)

    Great post, as usual, Dora.

  2. *hugs Theodora*

    Just wondering–since I also had a post-a-day policy in my blog *before*–whether you have problems coming up with topics for each day. I eventually went with a theme for each day but I’m just wondering if you ever have problems coming up with blog entries for each day.

  3. I can relate to a great deal of what you are saying – the desire for community, wanting to write and get that instant feedback, to discover what is received, enjoyed, and understood, and to work on saying much in as few words as possible. I’ve struggled with being “too real” and then sometimes feeling fakey when I hide what’s really on my mind. It’s an interesting balancing act and I’m enjoying reading your thoughts.

  4. Hawthorne would absolutely be blogging now. So would Thoreau. (The last time I read Walden, in grad school, it felt so much like a blog that I couldn’t stop thinking of it that way.)

  5. I’ve been lurking for a little while, avidly devouring all of your blog posts. Thought it was about time I actually commented :)

    Just…thank you, for sharing yourself. It really is about the sense of community, about all of us being connected through this invisible web.

  6. This certainly resonates with my own situation. If a day goes by when I do not write, I feel less confident, a bit sadder. The practice itself, the discipline, gives me something, and I often work through issues in my mind (from prosaic to profound) in the act. But I often feel bad I am not writing something potentially “salable.” It has to do with expectations; regardless of how good or useful and pleasurable the writing is, I sometimes berate myself if it is not something I could sell. This then makes me sad because, while I would like my writing to give my some such benefit, that is not why I write. Which seems naive I suppose, as I hear that authors have to write to sell, and intend to do so, to succeed. But, in the end, that is not why I write. I write because without it I lose myself and fall into that darkness that you’re talking about, a shrouded, frozen cocoon of separation and sightlessness.

    So I write.

  7. I am following Terri’s ‘moveable feast’ as it flits about the web (and adding my own thoughts)! This part of the Hawthorne quote caught me eye, “…we may prate of the circumstances that lie around us, and even of ourself, but still keep the inmost Me behind its veil.” I was intrigued by a comment left by Shane Odom on Terri’s post, regarding blogging as creating ‘faerie glamour’, an idealised view of the blogger’s life. It started me thinking about how much a blogger reveals, or does not reveal, and what readers might imagine to fill in the gaps.

    BTW, I loved your interpretation of Terri’s wonderful poem ‘Night Journey’. Beautiful!

  8. I’m trailing in Terri’s wake, as well.

    Thank you for this marvelous post.

    I’ve gone so far, in the past, as to blog anonymously, as if to magically summon that “perfect sympathy.” As if the universe would come and be my friend, if I dared it to.

  9. Ah, yes, that sense of connection. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’d like to be understood, and I’d hope my thoughts and ideas and experiences were interesting to at least a few others, even if we never meet.

    I enjoy personal posts like this one because they offer a little glimpse behind the curtain, just enough to suggest vulnerability and commonality as human beings. Thanks for writing it.

  10. thanks – this is something I needed to read today.
    Like Shveta I too am wondering about the sense of connection – added to social anxiety and the feeling of being a very ordinary woman who occasionally has extraordinary insights (well — for me they are extraordinary!!!)

    I know I’m mixing blogs here and paraphrasing – but Terri quoted something about how do you know others aren’t as gobsmacked as you are about the miracles of everyday life and the beauty micro and macro.
    I feel that if we could openly share that wonder and gratitude we couldn’t get angry or revengeful very easily. I think I hurt when I can’t – and perhaps that’s why I lashed out some earlier in life – because I couldn’t share. hmmmm… ?!

  11. And isn’t that moment wonderful, when you realize that at some point that you can’t quite exactly say, you canceled your reservation at the Black Lodge, paid the bill, and walked out the door into the sunlight?

  12. Lots of truths here – I just got back into my painting studio after many months of no heat… I think I started to forget myself. It was a slow forgetting, day by day, a little less of the soul-stuff making itself visible to me in a tangible yet imaginal way ( well, maybe that IS soul-stuff – imaginal…) – even though I told myself I was keeping up the practice by drawing, writing, blogging, still, some eroding was taking place at my shores. When I finally got back into my creative space – both physical and psychic – instantly I reclaimed something that had been banished. So, I very much resonate with the need to do our work regularly – stirring the cauldron, I call it. And much more in this post, thank you!

    I’m looking ahead at the crossroads, wondering when the next path to the feast will emerge from the mists!

  13. I wrote this post and received all these comments at a time when I was working full-out, on a long piece of academic writing (120 pages!) that I absolutely needed to get done by a deadline, so I never responded to all of these wonderful comments. But I wanted to thank you all for sharing your ideas and insights. Part of the connecting is listening to you all talk back, and engaging in a conversation. Which I wasn’t able to do at the time: I’m so sorry about that! But I suppose that’s part of a writer’s life as well? Having times when one just sort of falls down, can’t get something done or can’t respond. That’s all part of the record as well, although I sometimes wish it weren’t . . .

    But I get so much inspiration from listening to you all, and hearing about all of your experiences . . . :)

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