I’m going to revisit the topic of writer’s block soon, without any answers but just a continuation of my own internal struggles. But Terri Windling posted yesterday about blogging, and why she does it, and it made me think of a similar post I made a few years ago.
Because I’ve been thinking about my blog a lot lately, and how I would like to see it change and grow, I thought I’d repost it now. I’ll probably revisit this topic in the near future too.
Naturally, I’ve been thinking about blogging a lot lately.
I wrote this as the original opening paragraph for the “from the editor” letter in [the premier issue of] Artful Blogging:
Blog is an ugly word, even before you consider all the unpleasant connotations they’ve collected over the past few years. Blogs have been painted as platforms of vanity, pomposity and self-obsession, preoccupied with trivia and gossip, often with an overload of advertising disguised as useful information.
But give something ugly to an artist, and a remarkable transformation will take place.
True, but not very pleasant sounding. It was cut from the final version.
I started blogging nearly five years ago [nine, now], when I left the position of Lead StoryPlotter at Castle Marrach (it surprises me how much of my life still requires reference to that watershed experience). Consciously, I was looking for two things: something to fill the free time I’d have, and a new community of which to be a part. My first blog was at Diary-X (now defunct); I started a second blog soon after, at LiveJournal. The first was a place for longer, more thoughtful reflections on my life, my children and (sometimes) my writing. The second was a place for all the little things I didn’t want to clutter up my “real” blog with — memes and gripes and silly chatter — and the place where I found the community I was missing (though, ironically, many of that community were also CM folk).
This blog, Artifacts, was begun just over three years ago [seven, now], on my own domain, with an eye towards creating a more “professional” blog to showcase my writing and (someday) publications, and to create a depository for the random thoughts and ideas I had about two subjects that still hold the bulk of my interest: storytelling and mythopoeia.
I’ve never been a particularly faithful blogger. You can look back in the archives of this site and see months-long stretches without any updates whatsoever. Even my LiveJournal has intermittent stretches with nothing more than a random link or quote. I look back on these periods and wonder why I was so silent. Did I have nothing to say? Was my life such a wasteland of disinterest that I couldn’t come up with some something worth writing about?
Or maybe, just maybe, it was because I didn’t think anyone was paying attention, so why bother? I won’t lie to you — it matters to me that people take the time to read what I write here. If it didn’t, there’d be no point in putting it on the web.
But it’s not just a case of simple vanity, of needing people to praise my words and ideas. And it’s not about generating hits to my site and getting lots of traffic. And, really, it isn’t even about community and dialog and conversation.
What it’s really about the conscious act of creation, of setting out with deliberate intent to create something that will be seen by someone else. The expectation of an audience, of display, of public performance, changes the mindset with which we approach any undertaking. We become mindful of our efforts and begin to pay attention to what it is we’re doing. We strive to create order and beauty, to transmit not just thoughts, but experience.
Like any form of expression, there’s no right way to blog. There are conventions, though, established by those who first blazed the paths into this virtual wilderness, and we all start by emulating what we see around us. We begin with a preconception, a model, of what we think our blogs should be and attempt to fit ourselves into that mold. Because the first blogs I read regularly were thoughtful, expressive journals about life experiences and particularly motherhood, that’s what I wrote in my first blog. LiveJournal is more conversational, a place to chatter with friends and share random bits of life, without any particular care for presentation because, you know, you’re just talking, to friends. I still value the relationships I maintain through LiveJournal, but keeping a blog there never challenged me to think about what I was doing. Which led, ultimately, to the creation of Artifacts, with its more scholarly, informational tilt. A thinking blog, but so constrained by what I thought I should be posting in it that I rarely felt impelled to post at all.
It wasn’t until I started looking at artists’ blog for the magazine that I began to sense that my own blog could be something more than what I had previously imagined. I first identified it as a way to unify the compartmentilized areas of my life, a path towards creating a more wholistic sense of self. Too, I wanted to emulate the beauty of the blogs I had become immersed in, to portray the nascent, visually creative side of myself that has been slowly growing over the past year and more. I’ve been fumbling along the past few months, trying to find the balance that works for me in my blog, just as I must constantly look for balance in my life.
Why do I blog? It’s a question most bloggers ask themselves at one time or another, and probably has a thousand different answers. I realize now that the answer for me, at least, is the same as the answer for a much more universal question: Why do we tell stories?
It’s been a slow dawning, this realization, that this blog — nominally about stories — is actually a story itself. It’s not a diary, it’s not a record of how many words I’ve written or what my kids did today, or even a picture of what’s inside my head. Yes, at times, it’s each of these things, but it’s more than that too. Like stories translate human experience into something that makes sense, so am I, in this blog, trying to make sense of my own experiences. I order the diverse pieces of my life by date and title, give them category labels and thus define them, and most importantly, I craft each post — from the words I choose to where images appear — so that it conveys the experience in the way I want it to be understood and felt.
I do this, this crafting, for the audience, the blog reader, the unknown visitors who come and visit this site to see what I have written. If they weren’t there — if you weren’t there — my thoughts would come out in a tangle of careless questions and suppositions and half-formed statements, just like in my paper journal (which I have not, I confess, touched in over a year, except to dust it). A paper journal is good for dumping thoughts, it’s true, but I find being forced to organize those thoughts on the chance that someone else will read them is actually a more effective tool for making sense out of my life. Each blog post is a a little journey through my head, and as when I write a poem, I rarely know the ending before I reach it.
You see, when I craft the story of my life, I am really crafting my life itself. When I choose what thoughts and feelings and experiences to preserve and relate, I am establishing a model for what I’d like my life to be. I could choose to bitch and moan and groan about all the bad things that happen, or I might immerse myself in trivial details of day-to-day life — but where would that get me? I’d rather focus on the me I’m trying to be, the life I’d like to lead, not in a wishful thinking sort of way, but more in the mode of “practice makes perfect.”
“Give something ugly to an artist, and a remarkable transformation will take place.”
I am that transformation.