Saturday, October 24, 2009

Checking my public

I have become a blog fanatic. In a short space of time, I have gone from someone who occasionally checks her blog site and maybe trawls through the sites of a few others, to one who cannot leave it alone.

My husband calls it ‘checking my public’.

I find there is something compelling and yet so utterly excruciating in this business of blog writing. I hope for a response and I try to respond to the entries that resonate for me. While all the time I sense a great weight of potential criticism hovering there.

I say to myself the blog world is not real, it is virtual. Therefore I need not take it as seriously as I might take the events and people from the real world. But no, I find blogging has more of a hold over me than that.

I have a way of defending myself with the people I encounter in the real world, but not in this virtual blog world. Besides I never know who’s watching, who’s listening or worse still whether anyone is listening at all.

Can you imagine it? Here I am writing away to some imagined audience and it all turns out to be an illusion. There is no one there.

When I check other people’s blogs I am seduced by the conventions that say, if this person’s profile reveals that many others have preceded me here then I can only assume this person is worthwhile to visit. This person has something to say.

To me this is the power of the sheep - one follows the other. Of course I have to make allowances for those newly arrived bloggers who could not hope to build up a following in a short space of time. It’s like trying to develop some sense of fame within a box.

I read websites like those of Weaver in Wensleydale and she’s full of good will for her friends real and virtual. I’m drawn to her, the beauty of her poetry and the warmth of her photos. It all seems lovely. Then I look at other sites that convey a more grim message. The artist Momo Luna's preoccupation with death, or at least with representations of death.

I look for the more literary sites, but they can be disappointing, too much talk about publishing sometimes or how to write, or how to get started. I don’t want lessons. I want 'meaningful' connections.

Jim Murdoch has written to me about these matters, about how seriously and otherwise I must take my blogging. His writing enthralls me.

Once, a blogger whom I shall not identify, sent the message that I should stop following him. I spent an entire day feeling sick about this. I could not understand why he would not want me included in his list of admirers. I could only imagine that he did not like my words, if indeed he had looked at them.

It reminds me of going to a party, where there is a large gathering of strangers gathered together in various rooms. I walk from one room to the next looking for a familiar face. There is no one there whom I recognise, so I decide to try to move in with a group of people talking in the kitchen.

What makes me choose this group over all others? Could it be some flicker of movement from one or two members in the group that suggests to me, maybe they’ll let me in. Maybe they can stand the arrival of a visitor.

All of this puts me in mind of the business of asylum seekers. It’s probably far too strong and overstated an analogy to say I am like an asylum seeker here. I should not insult genuine asylum seekers by comparing their pain in trying to find a home to mine in trying to join the blog community, when I am not sure that I will be welcome.

Though most people who write blogs I imagine are people who welcome new visitors. Some make that clear. Still some seem to operate as closed shops.

I must now remind myself as Jim's writes in his comment on Autobiographers (and Bloggers) lead perilous lives: 'I treat [blogging] like a business and comments are water cooler moments when the odd bit of my private life peeks through. Other than that it's a business, one that doesn't pay very well, but a business nevertheless.'

I love the expression 'water cooler moments'. I'm afraid my life is full of such water cooler moments and I use them regularly, too regularly perhaps. For me it is not a business, but I haven't yet worked out what it is.

I must work on the boundary between my narrative self and myself. Sometimes they seem to blend, or at least it might read that way.

I know that every time I sit down to write, I step out of myself and the words on the page become fictions.
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