Sunday, February 01, 2009

the Emperor's new clothes...

It's Super Bowl Sunday and there was a time I'd have been blogging about that. I have one child in Las Vegas attending the game, and I'm going to a Super Bowl party here in Dallas later this afternoon myself. But that's not what I'm writing about today. Instead, I'm taking a few minutes to write about writing, or rather, about blogging.

I started blogging in the now-fabled AOL Land of Blog. This was a community of bloggers who came together on AOL several years ago in a sort of blogging Camelot. Many of those writers, now here on blogger because AOL closed its doors, still bemoan the loss of that community. I'm not one of them. I understand their sense of loss, but I understand it as someone who observed that community from the outside looking in, with my face pressed up against the glass, as it were, not from a sense of ever for a moment being inside that warm, fuzzy cocoon. I started blogging on AOL in June 2005, but I happily migrated to Blogger a few months later, in November 2005, when there was a great brouhaha about the ads, and many members of the AOL community left. For what it's worth, there were always ads visible on my AOL site, so I didn't really understand what all the fuss was about. I've been a fan of many of those AOL writers, and some of those writers became fans of mine, but I was never a part of that community. It seemed to me to be a gated community, and I know I'm not the only one who felt that way, because other bloggers have written me about it.

Why do we do this anyway? Why blog? Of course, everyone has their own reasons. Early on I wrote a post about this, about how blogging can be a way of feeling connected to the rest of the world and conquering the sense of isolation that afflicts everyone, in varying degrees, from time to time. I still think that's true, but somehow, as time went by, I found myself getting caught up in who was reading me; how many comments I was getting; who was leaving comments, etc., etc. This was not a healthy thing for me, because as I got caught up in those observations, I began writing less. My younger brother, Dave, one of my most faithful readers, immediately noticed and complained to me. I made a half hearted attempt to write more, but as my focus was still off, it didn't really work. The gadgets now available to us, of which I don't hesitate to avail myself (sitemeter, who links to me, followers, etc.) make it easy to succumb to this sort of self-absorption, at least, that's what it amounted to for me.

But then one day last December I went into my blog, and clicking on the linked bloggers in my sidebar and reading the blogs of others, I suddenly realized that the blogger whose writing I admire most receives almost no comments, and I don't know how many followers he has, as he doesn't post that info on his blog. And I thought of Emily Dickinson, and I also thought of Justin Hall. Without Justin, would any of us be blogging? A couple of light years ago in Chicago, A and I lived in a coach house on the near north side, on State Street. There we shared a yard with Justin's parents, who lived in the row house in front of us and with whom we were good friends. I remember the day Justin was born. When he was a little guy, he and Alex sometimes played together, and I have a pic of the two of them, arms around each other's shoulders, wearing cowboy hats and smiling for the camera. I discovered and read Justin's original blog a few years ago when I googled my own name and came across a link to something I'd written in a condolence note to his mother on the death of his father. My note had ended up being been read at his father's eulogy, and Justin had posted the eulogy on his original blog, which he started in 1994, when he was 19. It was an online diary, with no place for comments. Writing online a few days ago about his original blog, Justin said: "When I started writing I wanted to find a place for myself in the world. I wanted a mate, I wanted to work with passionate people, I wanted to explore computers and publishing. Those things have come to pass, I need to find new things to write about."

Well said.

Me too. I need to find new things to write about, and although I love reading the comments people make, I need to write without caring whether anyone reads me or not. And to that end, in January I applied seat of pants to seat of chair and posted 34 entries in 31 days.

It's a start...


Chris said...

I did not read this post;)

Nor did I comment.

This is a mirage.

I went through the very same blogexistential crisis for all of 2008. That's why I pulled the plug, burned the bridge and started over. I'm enjoying it once again. FWIW, I always thought you were part of my community, so now I guess I was on the outside of the gated community too, ha ha.

emmapeelDallas said...

LOL! I made some friends there, and I'm happy about that, but there always seemed to me to be some cliques to which I'd never be privy, which ended up being fine with me. At first I thought it was just me, but a number of bloggers eventually wrote me about the same phenomenon. No matter how often they'd leave (favorable) comments on certain blogs, those bloggers would not return the favor, i.e., visit the blog of the commenter and leave a comment. We sort of got a kick out of it, to tell the truth. This wonderful community, yada yada long as you lived inside the fence! I'm more of an open community sort of person myself. So have you started a new blog? Is it open to the unwashed public like moi?

emmapeelDallas said...

p.s. - OK, I found you!

Harry Finch said...

Thanks for the kind words. I should say something else but I don't know what it is. Blogging does not improve one's social skills.