“Writing is a way of talking without being interrupted.” ~ Jules Renard, Journal, 10 April 1895

  

A Writer Writes About Blogging

The following is taken from an Atlantic article written by Andrew Sullivan (The Daily Dish) in 2008. I thought it worth reprinting as Sullivan’s article provides a keen description of the blogger’s reasons for doing what he or she does as well as a cogent analysis of the genre. For the complete article, click on the Atlantic link. Enjoy.

Why I Blog

For centuries, writers have experimented with forms that evoke the imperfection of thought, the inconstancy of human affairs, and the chastening passage of time. But as blogging evolves as a literary form, it is generating a new and quintessentially postmodern idiom that’s enabling writers to express themselves in ways that have never been seen or understood before. Its truths are provisional, and its ethos collective and messy. Yet the interaction it enables between writer and reader is unprecedented, visceral, and sometimes brutal. And make no mistake: it heralds a golden era for journalism.

The word blog is a conflation of two words: Web and log. It contains in its four letters a concise and accurate self-description: it is a log of thoughts and writing posted publicly on the World Wide Web. In the monosyllabic vernacular of the Internet, Web log soon became the word blog.

This form of instant and global self-publishing, made possible by technology widely available only for the past decade or so, allows for no retroactive editing (apart from fixing minor typos or small glitches) and removes from the act of writing any considered or lengthy review. It is the spontaneous expression of instant thought—impermanent beyond even the ephemera of daily journalism. It is accountable in immediate and unavoidable ways to readers and other bloggers, and linked via hypertext to continuously multiplying references and sources. Unlike any single piece of print journalism, its borders are extremely porous and its truth inherently transitory. The consequences of this for the act of writing are still sinking in.

A [ship’s] log provided as accurate an account as could be gleaned in real time . . . 

As you read a log, you have the curious sense of moving backward in time as you move forward in pages—the opposite of a book. As you piece together a narrative that was never intended as one, it seems—and is—more truthful. Logs, in this sense, were a form of human self-correction. They amended for hindsight, for the ways in which human beings order and tidy and construct the story of their lives as they look back on them. Logs require a letting-go of narrative because they do not allow for a knowledge of the ending. So they have plot as well as dramatic irony—the reader will know the ending before the writer did.

Anyone who has blogged his thoughts for an extended time will recognize this world. We bloggers have scant opportunity to collect our thoughts, to wait until events have settled and a clear pattern emerges. We blog now—as news reaches us, as facts emerge. This is partly true for all journalism, which is, as its etymology suggests, daily writing, always subject to subsequent revision. And a good columnist will adjust position and judgment and even political loyalty over time, depending on events. But a blog is not so much daily writing as hourly writing. And with that level of timeliness, the provisionality of every word is even more pressing—and the risk of error or the thrill of prescience that much greater.Click here to find out more!

No columnist or reporter or novelist will have his minute shifts or constant small contradictions exposed as mercilessly as a blogger’s are. A columnist can ignore or duck a subject less noticeably than a blogger committing thoughts to pixels several times a day. A reporter can wait—must wait—until every source has confirmed. A novelist can spend months or years before committing words to the world. For bloggers, the deadline is always now. Blogging is therefore to writing what extreme sports are to athletics: more free-form, more accident-prone, less formal, more alive. It is, in many ways, writing out loud.

You end up writing about yourself, since you are a relatively fixed point in this constant interaction with the ideas and facts of the exterior world. And in this sense, the historic form closest to blogs is the diary. But with this difference: a diary is almost always a private matter. Its raw honesty, its dedication to marking life as it happens and remembering life as it was, makes it a terrestrial log. A few diaries are meant to be read by others, of course, just as correspondence could be—but usually posthumously, or as a way to compile facts for a more considered autobiographical rendering. But a blog, unlike a diary, is instantly public. It transforms this most personal and retrospective of forms into a painfully public and immediate one. It combines the confessional genre with the log form and exposes the author in a manner no author has ever been exposed before.

. . . It was obvious from the start that it was revolutionary. Every writer since the printing press has longed for a means to publish himself and reach—instantly—any reader on Earth. Every professional writer has paid some dues waiting for an editor’s nod, or enduring a publisher’s incompetence, or being ground to literary dust by a legion of fact-checkers and copy editors. If you added up the time a writer once had to spend finding an outlet, impressing editors, sucking up to proprietors, and proofreading edits, you’d find another lifetime buried in the interstices. But with one click of the Publish Now button, all these troubles evaporated.

Alas, as I soon discovered, this sudden freedom from above was immediately replaced by insurrection from below. Within minutes of my posting something, even in the earliest days, readers responded. E-mail seemed to unleash their inner beast. They were more brutal than any editor, more persnickety than any copy editor, and more emotionally unstable than any colleague.

Again, it’s hard to overrate how different this is. Writers can be sensitive, vain souls, requiring gentle nurturing from editors, and oddly susceptible to the blows delivered by reviewers. They survive, for the most part, but the thinness of their skins is legendary. Moreover, before the blogosphere, reporters and columnists were largely shielded from this kind of direct hazing. Yes, letters to the editor would arrive in due course and subscriptions would be canceled. But reporters and columnists tended to operate in a relative sanctuary, answerable mainly to their editors, not readers. For a long time, columns were essentially monologues published to applause, muffled murmurs, silence, or a distant heckle. I’d gotten blowback from pieces before—but in an amorphous, time-delayed, distant way. Now the feedback was instant, personal, and brutal.

More later. Peace.

Axe Mormon Commercial, just because

“All I am is the trick of words writing themselves.” ~ Anne Sexton

 

 

“It is impossible to talk or to write without apparently throwing oneself helplessly open.” ~ Herman Melville
Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Okay, I know. I’ve been cheating by plugging in short little posts the past few days, and back-dating them to fill in the blank spaces that were formed by a lack of Internet access. But really, even if I had been able to access the Internet, it just wasn’t in me—the introspection, the soul-searching, the creating. I mean, if I just wrote to fill some space on the page, then it wouldn’t really matter how much of myself I invest, but that’s not how or why I write. Sure, the small blurbs serve a purpose, a sort of checking-in note that I’m still around but have nothing to say, but mostly, I have to delve into myself if I am going to write a real post. Long way of saying I write, therefore I am.

Today is our anniversary—nine years. It’s funny, but it seems that we have been together so much longer. It’s hard to think of a time when Corey was not in my life, and that’s a good thing. We made no plans to go out tonight as Corey had originally been scheduled to work, but his shift was cancelled. It’s been like that all week. He went in on Monday only to work for two hours. He probably spent half of what he earned for those two hours in gas, but the ship pulled out. That’s just how it goes.

Last week he met with someone from the last maritime school that he attended who gave him the names of three places to contact about jobs. They may or may not be hiring, but hey, it’s worth a shot. Still no word from Vane Brothers. I’m beginning to think that that particular job will never become a reality, unfortunately.

So it’s been a bad week for Corey emotionally and for me physically (still with the whole chills thing), which doesn’t make for the best circumstances in which to celebrate our anniversary. That’s okay, though, as we’ll celebrate later.

“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” ~ Jawaharal Nehru
Ruins at Tulum, Mexico

For our honeymoon, we actually stayed in Puerto Aventuras, which is about 45 miles from Cancun. We didn’t know this when we booked our hotel, but it turned out to be better, not as crowded or commercial. Puerto Aventuras is a collection of hotels, villas, and homes right on the beach, and it is strategically located near Tulum, Playa del Carmen, and other places to see in the area.

We stayed in a small hotel that provided breakfast and lunch, neither of which were great, but hey, it worked for us. The hotel provided bicycles for the short ride into the main part where the shops and restaurants were located. I just remember riding back one night, and it was so dark—no streetlights. The other thing we had to remember when bike riding was to watch out for speed bumps—large coils of rope that were placed along the narrow roads.

Each room had a small porch with a hammock. It was very comfortable. Somewhere in all of the boxes are our pictures from our Mexican honeymoon. As with most other things, I have yet to organize the pictures and put them into albums.  One day, perhaps.

I remember that we came back from our honeymoon very, very tanned. And cold. When we left Mexico, the temperature was hovering around 110°, but when we arrived in Norfolk, it was in the 60’s. That was a bit of a shock as we had spent a week wearing as little as possible only to need jackets and long pants when we returned. I would love to return to Mexico for a stay one day, and it’s easy enough to get package rates on accommodations, but the airfare is outrageous, which is one of the reasons why we like cruises so much.

“Marriage is not a ritual or an end. It is a long, intricate, intimate dance together and nothing matters more than your own sense of balance and your choice of partner.” ~ Amy Bloom
 

Sunset Over Cancun, Mexico

If I had to pinpoint the one thing I like the most about being married to Corey it’s that we enjoy doing things together. We truly like spending time with each other, seeing new things, going to new places. That’s why we’ve always had so much fun, no matter where we’ve gone, whether it was a plane trip to Mexico or a few hours down the road to Chincoteague. I think that at heart, we are both loners, people who do not crave the company of large groups of people; we are individuals who are comfortable being alone. That we are comfortable in our solitude makes us equally comfortable together.

In part, I think that because we are two people who can function alone, we have taken that ability and melded it quite well into an intimate companionship, one that continues to grow and evolve as we spend time together, while at the same time allows us to maintain that perfect space alone.  By that I mean that to build a fire, the pieces of wood must be placed strategically: they must be close enough to pass along the heat, but have just a bit of distance between them to let the air in. When everything is placed in its optimum position, when the spaces of togetherness and separateness are perfect, the fire burns brighter, hotter, and longer.

That’s how I view my relationship, my marriage to Corey. 

So this year, no big celebrations, no voyages to other countries. Just us, here, together. No complaints. None at all.

More later. Peace.

Music by Bob Seger and Martina McBride, “Chances Are”

“I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.” ~ Albert Einstein

Lake scene 

“If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, then what are we to think of an empty desk?” ~ Albert Einstein 

“The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits.” ~ Albert Einstein

It has been overcast here for days, which is not exactly helping my spirits. On days like today, I wish that I were at Peaks of Otter, sitting by the lake, looking out across the mountains, sipping a cup of tea as the day moves into the gloaming. Ah well, another day.

Cluttered Office Desk
My Last Office Desk at GWU

I’m sitting here at my desk, and to the left of me, there is a stack of papers about eight inches high on my printer. I’ve just grabbed everything that was scattered across my desk and moved it to the left.  Of course, if I were to be completely truthful, I would have to admit that I have always had a cluttered desk, in every job that I have ever had. In fact, someone once bought me a desk sign that read “A Cluttered Desk is a Sign of Genius.” I wish that I knew what happened to that sign, probably lost in some clutter . . . But this is not clutter: This is mess.

To the right of my chair is the stack of shoes that I commented about last night. I’m still pondering them. To the right of the shoes are two baskets of clean clothes that Alfie has been nesting in, thereby making the top layer no longer clean and in need of a rewash. Behind the two baskets of clothes are things. I can’t be more specific because I cannot get behind the two baskets without killing myself by falling. I see a cardboard box, some bubble wrap, a bag from Target, a belt, and a shoe (which probably belongs to the pile by my feet).

Why such disarray? I don’t know about you people, but when I’m sick, as in bedridden sick, I simply cannot be bothered with the minutiae of hangers, closets, and file folders. Granted, even at the best of times, I have become very lax about such things, but the current situation has reached new heights in combustible clutter.

An upcoming trip to Ohio necessitates that I make my way through the clutter to find presents for Corey’s mom and dad that never made it into the mail. Don’t ask me when these presents were purchased because I really don’t remember. I only know that they are inside the right side of my closet, which is currently completely cutoff from human accessibility.

“Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” ~ Albert Einstein 

csi-gil-grissom
"I don't know what it is. We found it under a two-foot pile of shoes."

Now this is the bizarre way in which my mind works: What if something happened to me, say I died in my sleep or choked on a cashew, and the crime scene techs had to go through my bedroom?

I would be mortified. Of course, I would be dead, so I couldn’t actually be mortified, but I know that I’m too damned nosey to leave immediately, so I’d be hanging around in some non-corporeal form looking down at the strangers in my bedroom who would be commenting on how messy and cluttered my house is.

Just imagine for a moment:

CSI Tech 1: Omigawd. Something truly horrible must have happened in this room.

CSI Tech 2: You think?

CSI Tech 1: Well just look. Everything is torn apart, clothes everywhere, shoes! Shoes and more shoes! Do you think she may have been killed by these stilletos?

CSI Tech 2: I’m not sure. But that’s not blood. That’s red nail polish.

CSI Tech 1: I think I found something here, under this pile of jeans. It looks like a leg.

CSI Tech 2: Dear god. She was killed by denim. But it will take weeks to determine which pair of jeans actually smothered her.

CSI Tech 1: You’re forgetting the stuffed animals. It looks like they made a run for it, and she may have been caught in the stampede.

CSI Tech 2: This is definitely one for the record books: Death by denim and a large stuffed black bear. Poor woman.

CSI Tech 1: But why is she grinning?

I have actually had this conversation with Corey:

Me: If there were ever a crime committed in this house, the CSI techs would never be able to find any evidence, and they would think that I’m a really bad housekeeper.

Corey: You’d be dead. It wouldn’t matter.

Trust me when I tell you that this is not the first time that I have used that scenario as a motivator to clean my bedroom. But it is rather sad, isn’t it, that I resort to non-existent crime scene techs entering my home to make myself clean up some of the clutter?

“Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.” ~ Albert Einstein 

I comfort myself with the fact that at some point, Corey will be able to go back to work, and my bedroom will get painted, and I will be able to move the new bedroom furniture into the bedroom and out of the living room, thereby creating more drawer space for the clothes that are currently in baskets on the floor.

Truth be told, drawer and closet space does actually exist for these clothes, but it is at a premium. I long for the day when this house will finally be finished, as in, all of the renovations have been done, and then we can put it on the market and buy a home into which we can actually fit.

This was a great starter home: a three bedroom, one-bath brick ranch with a small eat-in kitchen and a nice lot. Three kids and several dogs later, the attraction has dimmed considerably, although, I still love the fact that it’s a real brick home with a yard that’s big enough so that we don’t see into our neighbor’s bedroom.

New-housing-development-774279When I was working for the real estate firm as a marketing director, I couldn’t get over the way new homes were built: brick fronts, siding around the rest, almost abutting the homes next door. Yards were non-existent.  These homes always looked unfinished somehow. And to upgrade to all brick usually meant a hefty premium of somewhere around $40k. Blew my mind, but then I got used to these new versions of the American dream and the incredibly high asking prices that people were fighting to pay.

Now, as we come out of the eastbound Hampton Tunnel, a huge billboard advertises a homesite that was initially being marketed as upscale condos in a pristine environment. The asking price for the smallest units was about $425k when the company first began to take reservations. The prices went as high as $1.2 million, depending upon view, size, etc. The billboard is advertising the units from $350k, which means that a bunch of people lost their shirts on this premium property.

I am so glad that I’m no longer trying to market new homes in this economy. I imagine that it would be tantamount to trying to sell dead people dirt, if you’ll pardon the expression.

I have no idea how much our own home’s value has decreased, but in this particular neighborhood of old brick ranches with the same basic layout, I don’t imagine that it has dropped that much. After all, our neighborhood isn’t considered up and coming, as it were.

“The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.” ~ Albert Einstein 

Have no idea how I even got onto that subject. Moving along . . .

I could have started on the piles of clothes before sitting down to write, but somehow, that didn’t seem quite as appealing. I mean, use my energy to clean? Use my energy to write? Writing wins, hands down. I’ll find my brown bra later. Not going anywhere.

So I’ve also been thinking about that long post that I lost that began my tailspin into non-productivity, which, of course, was coupled with my recent bout of illness. Upon reflection, I’m kind of glad that the post didn’t make it  onto my blog. I had spent a great deal of energy and emotion taking to task someone who had made a horribly vitriolic comment on another blog. The writer’s comment truly upset me and had me feeling dirty all over, if that makes any sense.

he man woman haters club b&wIt was the kind of comment that was so full of hatred and venom, that just the reading of it left me feeling as if I had been accosted. I penned a long, thoughtful response to this person’s comment as I believed that I needed to respond, not in kind, but with logic and facts.

And then the entire post disappeared, which has happened to me two other times. But this time, I’m glad that it disappeared because I’ve had some time to think about the situation, and I realize that by giving a forum to such bile, I was only allowing the writer to continue to have an effect on me. I realize that I tend to do that—dwell on the negative.

For example, when I used to teach at ODU and end of the semester student evaluations came in, I would always dwell on the one or two negative ones, rather than savoring the positive ones. But when I left teaching, it was the folder full of positive comments, cards, and letters from students thanking me that I took with me, so I suppose that I do eventually let go of the negative. It just takes too much time.

But getting back to the blog comment, I’m pretty happy with myself for letting it go now. That’s a good thing. Granted, I hadn’t planned to let it go, but fate stepped in, and obliterated that righteous indignation with which I often find myself coasting along. Of course, that’s not to say that I won’t want to strike back again at some time in the future because I probably will. My righteous indignation at social injustices, political deception, pretentious moral superiority, to name but a few, is not going to fade away. I would not be the person that I am if I did not stand up for that in which I believe.

“Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.” ~ Albert Einstein

Yet sometimes, discretion is the better part of valor, or at least, the road best taken. If I had posted my response, I would have been allowing an individual to continue to hold sway on my emotions, and trust me when I say that this particular individual did not deserve such power.

So, for now, I will wax about nothing in particular until the next time my ire is affronted. And maybe I’ll even put away the clean laundry so that I can get a clear path to my closet. Or perhaps, I’ll just watch NCIS or CSI, drink some tea, and ponder more of life’s minutiae.

More later. Peace.