Blog News

1. Comments are still disabled though I am thinking of enabling them again.

2. There are now several extra pages - Poetry Index, Travel, Education, Childish Things - accessible at the top of the page. They index entires before October 2013.

3. I will, in the next few weeks, be adding new pages with other indexes.

Friday, 4 April 2008

Why am I doing this?

The new term is upon us – upon me, I suppose I mean – and I should be sitting here working on my schemes of work instead of which I'm doing this. It's just displacement activity because I lack the will to do what I have to do.

Anyway I want to get all self-referential for a minute and blog about blogs. We've been talking about them at wordcraft and one of my friends there has set up a blog just because we told her how easy it was. What though, she would like to know, is the actual point of doing so? Is it just therapy to put your thoughts down somewhere? Is it because, of all the millions of blogs out there, you are sure that people will somehow find and love yours? Is it to get something off your chest, she asks, or perhaps to get lots of comments or to connect to others?

I'm sure (I hope!) that she won't mind me saying that her new blog is on a subject that could probably be described as a minority interest. An extremely minority interest. It's about the word "epicaricacy" and while this may have generated tons of word craft discussion (such as here and here and here and at least a couple dozen other places) it's doubtful that many people would want to read a whole blog about it.

But the question of what blogs are for is interesting though it's really just the modern variation on the question that every writer in the history of literature has asked himself at some time or other: "Why do I do this?"

Take me. I write poetry, travel journals and occasional essays. Nowadays I get the odd poem stuck in obscure local writers' magazines; some of my journals made the local newspaper; I enter (but so far never win) story and poetry competitions and I perform poetry from time to time at City Voices, a monthly Wolverhampton storytellers' evening. So I have a small audience. For most of my writing life though my audience has been me. Even now probably ninety percent of everything I ever write is still never seen by anyone else. Would I like to be famous (preferably NOT posthumously)? Damn right, I would. Do I think there's much likelihood of it? Nope. Wouldn't bet my loose change on it. So why do I do it?

I have my own pet theories about why people write and they apply equally to blogs. I think it almost always starts out as a kind of therapy. People write to get something out of their system. This is why there is so much self-absorbed twaddle kicking around on the internet. If you write self-absorbed twaddle don't feel offended. I'm about to show you some of mine. People's first fumblings in writing are almost always "me obsessed" and about themselves and their inner turmoil. Let's throw in something of mine just to show you what I mean. I apologise in advance for how bad it is. I was either exactly fourteen or exactly fifteen when I wrote it.

31,536,000 Seconds

Don't wait for life because no one's coming
Don't dream too much when you're still running
Don't try too hard, don't try at all
No one will catch you when you fall.
Happy Birthday! Birthday dreams.
Happy Birthday! Birthday screams.
Happy Birthday! Birthday wishes.
Happy Birthday! Misery's kisses.
Try not to think, you'll hurt yourself.
It's easy to believe you're someone else
But the mirror still reflects your face
It's easier to just leave the race.
If you should hear the serpent's song
Though you know the tune don't sing along
The future good they said was coming
Was just the sound of dead men humming.
If you look up to the waning moon
And reflect on the fabric of the dreamer's loom
Try not to be bitter when you find out
That what you took for a victory was really a rout.
Dream alone to keep from the vision's harm.
Do not be fooled by the other dreamer's charm
Though you made it past another year.
There's a lot of future for you to fear.

Right . As you can see it's mostly gibberish but the tone is very clear. Teen angst. No friends. Unhappiness. Loneliness. It's rubbish from start to finish, of course, but that wasn't the point. Like all teenagers I did feel all those things and that poem and a thousand others like it (now mostly lost for ever, thank goodness) were therapy. Getting it out of my system. It could just as easily have been written ten minutes ago by some teenage kid (boy or girl) who dresses in black and spends a lot of time alone in the bedroom listening to doom-laden gothic metal. (And even at 51, I'm rather partial to that kind of stuff myself. May I recommend Within Temptation?)

That's how it starts and for many that's how it ends. Others though, like me, move on to the other stage – compulsion. As your writing gets better you start to write about other stuff and come to realise that with or without the personal angst the act of writing, of writing anything, is actually something you enjoy. By now it's too late to back out. You now write because you have to. The switch in your psyche has been flipped and it's locked on the new setting. You can no more not write than you can not breathe. That's how it is for me. I've been writing stuff for nearly forty years and there's no way I could possibly stop now. This new blog may well die a death as my other one did but it doesn't mean that I won't write. It means that I'll write something else, somewhere else.

What, then, is the answer to the original question? What is the point of blogs. There are two answers depending on how long you've been doing it. They are either there to ease your own troubled mind or there because if you didn't write that, you'd write something else.

And it doesn't matter if no one comments on it. It doesn't matter if no one likes it. It doesn't even matter if no one reads it. What matters is that you wrote it.

And now, because I can't just let that crappy poem stand as the only one in this blog. Here's another one, more recent, less narcissistic and, in my view, considerably better.

It has absolutely no connection with what is written above. It was written after a visit to the cemeteries and museum at Gallipoli.

In Gallipoli Museum

I saw two letters, under glass
In a room of weapons
Uniforms and photographs
And more.
I saw the fragments of the shells,
Mounted, captioned
Memorabilia of hell
And war.
The letters drew me to the day
- The calm between the storms -
When two men had tried to say,
"Goodbye!"
With words that might console
If grimmer tidings came
And their name was on the roll
Of those to die.
Transcribed afresh and copied clean
Where faded ink on yellow page
Might be no more than simply seen,
And yet not read.
Each wrote of optimistic times,
Comforted his family far away
Tonight on opposing battle lines,

Tomorrow dead.


Next time: more selections from Samuel Johnson.

2 comments:

Cat said...

My blogs are mostly so I have an easy way of keeping a record of things. One is a record of my knitting and family things, and the other is a record of the books I read. There is sometimes some cathartic bitching, but mostly it's just a way to keep track of things I've done, for myself and my mother - lol.

Kalleh said...

Hmmm, my Blog is strangely similar looking to yours, Bob!

I always like a good challenge! I had planned a conference once for 200 and wanted 100 rooms blocked at the hotel for our registrants. My boss would only allow 30 because we'd have to pay for any that were taken, and she didn't think we'd have that many registrants. CHALLENGE! I emailed colleagues and developed other creative PR so we'd attract registrants. Ha! We filled up more than a month in advance, with huge waiting lists being formed. Of course there weren't enough hotel rooms so people doubled and tripled up and some had to pay large fees. I met that challenge. Now Bob says I can't keep up a Blog on something so unimportant as one word. Perhaps. We'll see. But I can be creative, after all.

You've challenged me, Bob!