The last post on this blog appeared on April 30th, 14 days ago. [The one announcing temporary retirement doesn't count.] After three and a bit years of fairly regular entries, I needed to sit back, take stock and weigh up the pros and cons of this rather time-consuming pastime. I know I'm not the only blogger who questions their need to impart to a more or less indifferent readership their innermost thoughts - never mind about the outermost trivia of our daily lives. which, surely, even the most dedicated egomaniac cannot imagine to be of interest to others outside the circle of their own families and close friends. Why do we blog? Because we can? Are bloggers the mountaineers who, when asked why they climb Mount Everest, say, 'because it's there'? And when we say that 'we make friends', or that 'we start a conversation', or that 'we exchange views' and that 'we learn from each other', how much of that is true? And if it is true, does it whet our appetite to pursue these interactions with persons of flesh and blood rather than virtual acquaintances? I fully realise that contact with the outside world is a boon for the house-bound and ill, that those of us who find it difficult to make friends in real life find like-minded souls, who pound their keyboards and send messages, sometimes meaningless, sometimes supportive, informative and interesting, back and forth in the ether. Blogging must answer a need in all of us, otherwise we wouldn't bother. Personally, I like the idea of being connected; the fact that it is at a distance and at a time of my choosing, makes it even better. I certainly have made friends; at least I hope so.
During the last 14 days I read far more than I've done for quite a while, gardened, had friends to dinner and went out to them for meals, joined meetings of the writing and poetry groups, actually watched the whole of 'Homeland' series one (please tell me there is another one), and am well into the first series of 'The Bridge' on TV, and had long conversations with Beloved over breakfast and dinner. Even though I have done little serious writing, I spent a lot of time thinking about my memoir, adding and discarding and sorting out ideas. I could do all that because I had no blog to 'service'. That's how it feels to me at times: I have to service my blog, or else I'm lacking in duty, disappointing all those who are breathlessly awaiting my next set of polished words [yeah, right], and heaven forbid, I might lose followers. Idiot woman - talking to myself here - when did you forget that you can never please all of the people all of the time? And that not pleasing yourself makes you far less likely to genuinely please anyone else. Pious frauds, who sacrifice themselves in the service of others - and make damn sure that these others know about it - are the most loathsome creatures.
In part it was Jocelyn's ( O Mighty Crisis ) post entitled How Do You Wander Into That Room Of Your Own' which precipitated both the temporary withdrawal and this rant. Jocelyn isn't actually querying the validity of blogging, she is asking some very reasonable questions, which made me realise that my attitude towards blogging has become slightly obsessive. (Can anything be 'slightly' obsessive? Or is it like being 'slightly' dead ?) Go and read Jocelyn's post; in fact, read her blog, it's good, and for those of you who need to chuckle at all times, it's also mainly funny. Also, it's a touch more demanding than most. I do, however, wish to quibble with the title of the relevant post: Virginia Woolf's Room Of One's Own was a very private place, exactly the opposite to the open door policy of the web where anyone can enter at the click of a mouse; where lack of privacy is positively virtuous, the first law of the triple w. Staying with Jocelyn, I pondered the following questions:
Why do I write blog posts? Because I have a blog. Why did I start a blog? Because I thought it might amuse me. I also thought I could write a sort of personal history which would be of interest to my children. I was wrong about the latter, my children either never read my blog (too busy - yeah, right), or lost interest and only catch up very occasionally. Fair enough. I also admit that the personal history posts are few and far between these days. That's where the memoir comes in, or will, if I ever get it finished. Anything I write, on the blog or elsewhere, I write for public consumption; I want somebody, anybody, to read it. It's even better when people tell me they like what I write; lots of you who read my blog say they do - very gratifying - and I also get people complimenting me on articles in local publications, and not only those who owe me dinner.
When do I write? How do I find the time? I write anytime, but particularly late at night, in my study, which is upstairs, at one end of the house. Sometimes the dog joins me, but he keeps his opinions to himself and never interrupts a thought process. Ideas float around in my head constantly, if I'm lucky I have a bit of paper handy to jot them down; many are useless on further examination, some are filed for future reference and a very few are outlined. Blogposts appear out of nowhere, although the retrieval bucket has had to be lowered much further recently, scraping the bottom of the well once or twice.
Do you choose not to write about certain subjects? On a blog? You bet! There are events, thoughts, past embarrassments and mistakes lurking in my shadows which I could never air in public. Blogging is public. I may only know a very few of you by name and will never meet most of you, but even accidental reminders of these crass stupidities cause hot flushes to rise that beat any hormonal sweats; displaying them deliberately would be credibility suicide. Using the stuff in a story is an entirely different matter. Faction is a miraculous tool for the memoirist; everybody knows that writers adjust their own lives as they go along.
I also regret that several people in Valley's End know that I write this blog. There are times when a fellow inhabitant deserves a special mention but I don't want to be unkind, at least not recognisably so. I'll do it if I can get away with it. There's always WordPress, of course.
Having had this time off I must admit that I missed sitting bent over the computer, writing posts, checking blogs, reading comments, commenting myself. All things being equal, I'll still be here another three years from now, churning out deathless prose. Perhaps not obsessively, perhaps not as often, perhaps a little more measured. Stay tuned.
If anybody is still reading this, I'd like to point you in the direction of Arlee Bird, a man with oodles of followers, at Tossing It Out, who asked his many commenters what they did with other bloggers' long, long posts: read, skim, ignore. I couldn't be bothered to read many of the comments [it's late and I'm not that fussed], but I think a lot of bloggers are scared that they might look off-hand and uninterested, so they're kind about posts like this, which ramble on and on without having much to say for themselves. I would have given up a long time ago. We are far too kind and well-behaved in the blogland I frequent. I'm still looking for the rougher neighbourhoods.