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.