Sunday, August 21, 2011

An unfaithful blogger

Force of habit and I flick on the central heating even when it’s no longer necessary, Not today at least, not today when the temperature will reach 19 degrees C, if the pundits are correct, and the sun shines brightly.

Today I will write to time. I have almost no time spare. Job after job presents itself to me but I must get on and make the most of it and still find time for writing, for practice, which in some ways is how I view my blog.

I write with the greatest energy first thing in the morning. As the day progresses my energy fades. Is this the case for you?

Once when I was younger I imagined myself to be a writer who pounded the key board into the wee hours of the morning but not today. Today I can only vegetate late at night in front of a BBC DVD or some such other entertainment, my escape from the demands and excesses of my life.

To avoid the spectre of words only, I include here a picture of a much younger self, one who never dreamed of being in charge of a computer.


My younger self here used to think that I'd like to be dead by the time I hit sixty. No more ghastly old age for me, I thought then. I've since changed my mind. Charging up to sixty, these days I think of this age as still young enough to enjoy.

One of my daughters talked to me last night about my blog. I trembled inside. Daughters can be critical about such things. She’d been reading my blog lately, she said and she was amazed at some of the comments, the things that people focussed on in their comments.

She did not complain about my posts. This daughter has a fine and logical mind. She would probably look for the central theme or argument in whatever I have written and probably want to concentrate on that, whereas bloggers, she observes, myself included, often get distracted by what to her seems like a sort of trivial digression from the piece or something to the side.

I do it myself, whatever reverberates for me, I tend to respond to something small that may not relate to the central point of the post.

My daughter is impressed, she says, by the fact that I try to respond to everyone’s comments however slight. I’m not so impressed myself. In fact, lately I fear I’ve been a faithless blogger. I have managed a post once a week and I have managed to respond to comments but beyond that I have scarcely been out visiting in weeks.

This appals me. My inner critic says it’s not good enough. I take the view that if you enjoy people’s visits you must reciprocate and visit in turn. But I have become such a home body of late, not quite a recluse but when another daughter asked me if I could drop her off to Melbourne university today for its open day at 10 in the morning, my heart shuddered.

She had planned to take the train. She ought to take the train, but if I drive her - she’s not yet in possession of a drivers’ licence herself yet, not yet eighteen, nor has she enough practice hours clocked on – then she will have extra time to get all the millions of things she needs to get done, including her sleep.

So of course I will oblige, for which reason I am writing here to time, and trying at the same time to apologise to one and all for my slackness of late in not visiting as often as I would have liked.

My homebody tendencies are related to some extent to the fact that I’m on the final run with my thesis. I have an end date, a date planned for submission, 28 October, some seven or so weeks away and I have so much to do to get the thing into shape.

At times when I would normally go out to visit blog friends, I am frantic trying to correct typos, restructure whole chapters or just generally get on the defensive.

One of my supervisors reckons now is the time to get on the defensive. To cover every little possibility where an unknown examiner might quibble with what I have to say.

Not only do I have to clarify my argument, I must also say something about what might be obvious to someone else but is not so to me, namely why I have chosen NOT to explore so and so’s ideas in this area or why I have elected to follow the course I have chosen.

It’s hideous stuff, not my style at all, but it’s what academics must do, I gather. Fortunately, I have no intention or need to become an academic. I enjoy dabbling in academia but I am no where near rigorous enough. Besides I hate intellectual arguing. I prefer to speculate, to play around with thoughts, to explore foreign territories or to revisit the familiar but I have no wish to hammer home a point anywhere.

My supervisor, one of them, at least – I’m lucky, I have two of the best – also remarks on how I write with conviction when it comes to the sections on infant development and the like, areas in which she feels more cynical, whereas when I write about the writings of someone like Helen Garner, or the Brett sisters, Doris and Lily or Ann Patchett and Lucy Grealy, all writers whose work I explore to some extent in my thesis, I am full of words like ‘perhaps’ or ‘maybe’. In other words, she says, I write speculatively.

I suspect this will not do. But I cannot write with any confidence – even including about a text – in relation to another person unless they tell me clearly what they think, and even then, I cannot be confident that what I have heard is accurate. I cannot be sure of anything.

But developmental theory, which I suppose after all these years of practising, sits in my blood and bones in a way that offers me confidence, whereas to someone else it might all sound speculative and foreign.

I do not think these things in absolutes, but more intuitively. I suppose that applies to anything I read. If it makes sense and fits in somehow with my world view and experience I’m likely to take it on board, but not as gospel truth, not any more.

No more gospel truths for me, everything in moderation, with a grain of salt as they say, everything held with conviction at times, but also held lightly.

Life’s too short to get into arguments, except perhaps when it involves life or death. And I’m not talking pro or anti abortion and such like here. I’m talking love and hate. Read that as you will.

My time is up.

40 comments:

Linda said...

Your young girl self is all legs and so cute!

Since there are no gospel truths, words such as 'perhaps' or 'maybe' with regard to how others perceive things seem to me to be quite correct. I don't see this as writing in a speculative manner because it seems you are referring to what others think who may, or may not, be correct. Perhaps in academic writing as with a thesis, these people are known as authorities in your area and so should be accepted as speaking some sort of truth. I should think not.

who said...

I'm sure your friends who blog will understand you've been busy and I often wish here in the United States we had more places a person could travel by train, like to the coast for half day events.

I like the theme you wrote to, time. Time today, as in right now, this day, at this time, is also the theme of a local radio program. Time that falls into place and becomes synchronized is always good times times ten

River said...

I haven't been around the blogworld as much as before either. For entirely different reasons of course, no thesis for me, but I understand well the attractions of couch, coffee and dvd's. And a good book or three.

Ellen said...

I can relate you your lack of time. Much has been on my plate this summer...never planned but it happens. Reading all the blogs I thoroughly enjoy doing, I am woefully behind by weeks and at this point even a month. I read two, comment on two and then I miss the next 7. I just have made peace with that.

Writing? Hit or miss. I haven't the flow for a bit. Too much on the plate with my mom and that saga. A beloved pet passed away....now summer is almost gone, school to begin for my son and I am not ready. NO. I haven't enjoyed our pool, nor even attempted a little tan.

I think I will just keep trying and one bright sunny day I will have it work out. I know it will....

Glenn Ingersoll said...

My essays tend to be full of questions.

I do my LuvSet writing just before bedtime, usually. My head is too foggy in the morning to write.

Windsmoke. said...

When you've completed your thesis we'll all still be here waiting for you. You're forgiven for your slackness its understandable now that you've explained why :-).

Christine said...

I was there for the beginning and now am seeing the end of the thesis. Oh! How I know about this last drag to the end and the number of times I pulled down one book or another from the State Library's reading room shelves just to ensure that I had mentioned one author and another. Then there was checking every comma and full-stop; and for the hundreth time spelling 'lady's maid' wrong. (My supervisor still speaks to me but it was a close run thing). Good luck with it and see you on the other side.

Rachel Fenton said...

Your daughter's right - I just read the thread and we're all focusing on one tiny point.

It's difficult to keep many plated spinning and no one (certainly not me) expects tit for tat blogging. I'd ratehr people engaged in meaningful comment/debate as and when they felt inclined to - and time is a major factor. I have too little time to blog politely myself. I often read blogs and would like to comment but to do so would eat into my own writing time.

I wish you lots of luck with your thesis - and lots of self-acceptance.

Jim Murdoch said...

In the past I have generally been able to focus best early in the morning and all my working life I’ve made a habit of turning up as early as possible, 7.00 or 7.30 usually. As far as writing goes I’ve written when I had time but often I’d wake up in the early hours - frequently not long after falling asleep – and work for a couple of hours. It’s no wonder I had as many breakdowns as I did; I was perpetually running on empty. These days my routine has changed completely. I sleep all night generally apart from the occasional trip to the bathroom but that’s all it is, a quick pee and back to bed. Mornings are my worst time. It doesn’t matter how much sleep I still look like the night’s given me a going doing, I generally get to my computer by 9.00. Mornings are devoted to e-mails, blogs and Facebook. At the moment I’m building up to the release of my first e-books and trying to be everyone’s best friend; it’s hard work when you’re an antisocial bugger like me. Lunch is at noon during which we watch some god-awful American sitcom generally and then I can work on articles or reviews until 4:30 usually. That’s the time my head is clearest these days but by the time Carrie’s finished her nap I’m not fit for anything else. On a good day I’ll spend another hour mopping up stuff after tea but by 6:30 I’m done and it’s TV until 11:00 and bed. And then it all begins again. So I’m also a homebody. And happy to be one.

Carrie is off to the States on Tuesday which will mean I’ll be on my tod for three weeks. As always I have mixed feelings about her going but I have a ton of work planned for when she’s away including reading a 1050-page book which is 600 pages longer than the longest book I have ever read in my life. I’ll also be starting all my e-book promotion. Anyone who says being a writer is an easy job needs their head seeing to.

I need to see my daughter while Carrie’s away. We’ll do lunch. Probably in a nice place near Queen Street Station in Glasgow that’s easy for her to get to. I’ve not seen her since June when we did all the birthdays: mine is in May, Carrie’s in June and hers in July and we’ve agreed to amalgamate them from now on; it’s a time thing. When she first moved out I could count on seeing here at least every three weeks but now it’s more like every three months not that we ever have a great deal to talk about. I mean what do I do every day? But we can find enough to prattle away about for an hour over lunch easily enough. But as much as I love her a part of me still can’t be bothered because by the time I get there and get back that’ll be five hours out of my day. But I need the break and it’ll be good for me. I don’t go out enough.

To respond to your daughter’s point though: it’s purely a matter of time. I could write a three-thousand word reply to every blog you write but that would be burdensome to you and to me. You get more real comments than most bloggers and so, by the time we’ve all had our says, most everything will have been covered and so I pick the bits I think I can say something meaningful about and leave the rest to others. And I have no problems going off on a tangent because that’s what happens in conversations. We’ve spoken before about your determination to respond personally to each individual comment. It’s commendable and I suppose, as long as you only post once a week, doable. But it is also a burden. The bible talks about loads and burdens. Until someone pointed it out to me I thought they were synonymous but there are subtle differences: loads are what we have to carry and cannot release to anyone else; burdens are those extra things that will ultimately, if nothing is done, wear us down. Like you I imagine I’m a terrible one for not being able to see what is a load and what a burden. It’s why I’m a bad boss because I hate delegating: no one ever treats the work with the same level of importance as I would.

And here I am reaching the end of my 4096 characters and I’ve not even mentioned your thesis. Ah well. C'est la vie.

cheshire wife said...

Blogging is a hobby and should be fun. Once you feel that you have to visit/post it becomes a yet another chore in our already busy lives. Less is more. It should always be about quality.

The Weaver of Grass said...

I try to write most days on my blog Elizabeth and I do it mainly as a way of communicating with the outside world (as I live in an isolated place) and as a discipline to make me write. Like you I find it best to write in the mornings as my ability fades as the day goes on. As for answering all the comments I get, I find it better and more enjoyable to go to everyone's blog and make a comment on that - it is a matter of choice I don't think it matters as long as I keep in contact. I have met quite a few bloggers and the friendships have been so good.alogri

Anthony Duce said...

Loved your writing here. I do my journaling early in the morning too. it’s in the evening when tired, and trying to avoid surrendering to the tube, when I post some of what did in between writing and the morning and reviewing what’s submitted by others and you. It’s nice to hear there is an end date established. Just think of the time waiting for you.

Christine said...

To Add....Blogging is like talking to a group of people. Everyone has their own take and bit to say.

Elisabeth said...

One of my supervisors says I'm now meant to be an 'expert' on my topic, Linda, so you're right, maybe I am supposed to speak with conviction and no more maybes.

I still prefer to qualify my perspectives, but even in fiction such qualifications can slow down the writing, therefore I must tidy up some of my doubts.

Thanks, Linda.

Elisabeth said...

As you say, Who, time that falls into place feels like good time, but I stress a lot has to do with the feel.

It seems, at least as far as I can tell, time is to some extent a construction, and we therefore we experience it differently depending on what we are doing and on our mood states.

There are the good times and bad, slow times when we're bored and the exhausted times when we wish things would slow down, alongside the times when things feels so good time passes all too quickly.

Thanks, Dusty Who.

Elisabeth said...

A good book or three sounds like an excellent reason to limit one's time in the blogosphere, River. It requires a different type of reading and experience and it's one that ought not be given up even for the joys of blogging.

Thanks, River.

Elisabeth said...

I'm with you, Ellen. These days I scroll through my regular blog friends and find time to comment on one or two but then, like you, I miss the next seven and wish I had more time to get to everyone.

It's just so hard. Therefore I rely on serendipity and hope that the ones that must be read fall into my line of vision one way or another. Even so I know I miss stuff that I'd find irresistible if only I had the time.

Thanks, Ellen.

Elisabeth said...

You're the reverse of me Glenn - you're foggy in the morning post dreaming in the night. I'm foggy at night out of exhaustion but still like you, loaded with questions.

Questions are a wonderful way of expressing our doubts and uncertainty. Without them how ever would we learn new things?

Thanks, Glenn.

Elisabeth said...

Thanks for your understanding, Windsmoke. Not long now, I'll finish my thesis and be back to haunt my favorite stomping grounds, including yours.

Elisabeth said...

I still remember that first chat about the possibility of doing this thesis, Christine, when you well away with yours. I remember it well and I'm grateful for your support and direction then. Without your help then that first step along the way might never have happened.

You led me to supervisor number one, and how fortunate I've been. I don't think we'll get so close to not speaking, at least I hope not, but we have had our challenges.

Thanks for your good wishes for the home straight, Christine. I can even begin to smile these days thinking about getting there.

Elisabeth said...

Self-acceptance is a good aim, Rachel, and thanks for wishing it upon me. Lord knows how much
Catholic guilt runs deep, but I think I'm getting there.

I agree with you, we ought not get into tit for tat blogging and that we might best indulge in conversations that are meaningful to us rather than feeling a sense of obligation.

Still for me the sense of wanting to respond to those who respond to me is still very strong, and it does not simply derive from guilt. I'd like to think it's something more noble than that - a sense of friendship and good will, perhaps.

Thanks, Rachel, for your thoughts here, and for good wishes with my thesis.

Elisabeth said...

Your comments tend to be blog posts in their own right, Jim, and I relish them. Admittedly I also feel I need to respond in depth to you, but hopefully not as a burden. Thanks for that distinction between burden and load. No one liners or monosyllabic rumbles to you.

Reading this post and your habits and home body tendencies reminds me - and not for the first time, as you'd know - of Gerald Murnane.

He and I still write letters by snail mail. This way we have the advantage of writing the ten thousand word mini essays to which you refer, and also because basically we write only for each other, however much GM puts everything into his archives for posterity. And one day, in fifty years time after hid death or thereabouts some 'Future creature' As GM refers to her - always a she - will delve into our correspondence perhaps, and many of our secrets will be out.

I rather enjoy this aspect of our correspondence. I think the same can be said of the blogging world, but here the communications are so much more numerous and to some extent more superficial as a rule.

How can we have an intimate conversation when the audience is looking on, unless of course we perform as actors to some extent?

As for Carrie's going away and your mixed feelings, I too feel mixed when I'm left alone for a while. Such joy - I'll get so much work done, I think - but also a touch of sadness - I'll miss them.

There's always blogging of course these days to fill in some of the loneliness.

I think blogging is a way to keep loneliness at bay. In a sense, if we want it, we never have to be alone.

This response to your comment is getting maudlin, and madly off the track. I wouldn't want that, however much I like to digress.
Thanks, Jim.

Elisabeth said...

You're right of course, cheshire wife, blogging should be fun and not a chore or a 'burden' as Jim above clarifies. But sometimes it becomes a heavier load and pulls at my desire to be a sort of superwoman who can cover more ground than is possible.

I suppose we all need to respect our limits, otherwise as you suggest, things can become meaningless.


Thanks, Cheshire Wife

Elisabeth said...

Pat, you're one of my first blog friends over the past few years. I love to visit your blog to read about your life and now to read that it feels secluded surprise me because it rarely sounds that way. More often it sounds full to bursting, your life that is.

I agree with you that it's good to keep in contact however sporadic. We do the best we can.

Thanks, Pat-Weaver.

Elisabeth said...

I am thinking of the time ahead that's waiting, anthony, once i finish this thesis but already I can see it filling with other writing. But I wouldn't want the writing to stop, any more I imagine than you'd want your painting to stop.

The difference being that post thesis it might feel a little more like it's mine to choose, my writing that is and I wont' be writing as much to someone else's requirements. Not that I do that much of the time in my thesis anyhow. It is a so-called 'creative' PhD in large part and is meant to reflect that.

Thanks, Anthony

Rachel Cotterill said...

And now I feel that if I comment on the bloggy habit of commenting on a side-note, I'll be falling into the very same.... how terribly self-referential... :)

Robert the Skeptic said...

I am finding that my blogging, and my following of others blogs, is becoming a task. Tasks I have a tendency to put off or avoid completely. This is sad because I really enjoy seeing into the minds others choose to reveal to us.

Still, now different tasks compete for my time. I fear that my blog will become mediocre, or worse. I am not that happy with my most recent post but feel compelled to put it out there. Which is the better thing to do, I wonder?

Elizabeth said...

As a person "guilty" of the short and digressive blog comment, I have to respond to your daughter's comment and to your own reservations that, at least for me, blog comments are not isolated but are rather part of the continuum of the blog and the community that grows up around it. I believe that when someone visits my blog, reads what I have to say and chooses to make their mark by commenting, however trivial or brief, some sort of interaction occurs. The depth of that interaction is more or less -- but over time it's always more. I think of those comments as coming from living, breathing souls who know a part of myself, that part that I've chosen to share. I generally reciprocate to keep that sharing going and sometimes, the exchange is remarkable.

Maggie May said...

I can remember when I was very little, having a fear of death and I can remember praying to God, "Please let me live until I'm 50!" That seemed a very old age to get to. Now I'm nearing 70 and I still don't feel ready to go!

I think that time changes dramatically when you get older.
It is good to receive comments but I think it needs to be reciprocated in order to keep the flow going.

Thank you for your comment on my blog. I am always pleased to receive them and to meet new (to me) people.
maggie X

Nuts in May

Elisabeth said...

We're all self-referential, Rachel. It's in the nature of being human. I fear I may have scared people off with my daughter's observation.

I don't think she was so much taken up with the fact of self referentiality as with the obscure focus that some people though not everyone - takes.

So please don't hesitate to put in your two bob's worth, however it falls.

Thanks, Rachel.

Elisabeth said...

I couldn't agree with you more, Elizabeth : 'blog comments,' as you say, 'are not isolated but are rather part of the continuum of the blog and the community that grows up around it.'

I enjoy being part of that community. My daughter who does not herself blog, but only visits occasionally, has less understanding of this and therefore is free to make such comments.

When you're part of a conversation you're less likely to 'criticise' the little asides some of us make. It's all part of the flow.

Thanks, Eli
zabeth.

Elisabeth said...

My ninety one year old mother is not ready to go either, Maggie May. I imagine now from my age, that as long as your quality of life is reasonable both emotionally and physically then you might not want to go quite yet.

I don't, though from time of time, I try to imagine what it might be like when my time comes.

It's good to see you here, Maggie May. Thanks.

Antares Cryptos said...

Posted a comment, but don't think I was logged in.

I apologize, but disagree with your daughter, commenting on everything that a post may evoke, would be another post in itself.

Fellow bloggers know this is impossible, and respond to what is the most common thread.

I consider blogging a hobby and a form of communication, should be neither chore nor burden, but we all have time constraints.

Elisabeth said...

You're right, Antares, to comment on every aspect of a post would most likely entail another post.

And yes, blogging ought not be a chore or burden, though even our most pleasurable hobbies can have their downsides, the clean up, for instance, after you've made a mess.

That can happen in the blogosphere, too. At least occasionally it's happened to me.

Thanks, Antares.

David-Glen Smith said...

Elisabeth— I can relate to many of the situations you presented in this entry. Specifically your comments regarding your daughter and her reactions to your blog— my son is only 8 months currently, but already I have been imagining his reactions to some blog-entries or individual poems I've written in the past.

Your writing style has an open, frank nature that I admire. Look forward reading more over time.

Phoenix said...

Another fabulous blog post, Elisabeth. I have noticed that my friends who end up getting degrees with theses that need defending end up becoming some of the most defensive and close-minded thinkers I've ever met - I'm not saying that this is how you've become, I just find it highly ironic and have never noticed the pattern until now. But life (and our opinions) are not for defending as much as they are for expanding, no? And so once again, balance must be struck, just as it must be struck with time.

I used to feel horribly guilty as a blogger that didn't visit other blogs enough, and then I thought about all the time I'd spent cultivating those relationships with other bloggers, leaving comments when I DID have the time, and I thought... these people are my friends now. And they will understand. And if they ask of me what I cannot give... then I owe nothing to them.

Same for you, Elisabeth. Live your life, be a writer, mother, wife, and critical thinker. You are doing enough, just as you are.

Elisabeth said...

The trouble with being frank, David, is the potential disturbance to your children in years to come. As you say your eight month old might in future years resent your writing.

There is a notion that we are all bit players in our parent's autobiographies. We might prefer this if we do not want to be represented in years to come by our parents view of us.

Strange to say we consider it's okay to write about our parents, or even to be written about as parents, as long as we're not too delicate or sensitive to criticism.

It's a funny world. Thanks, David.

Elisabeth said...

It is one of the joys of blogging, Tracy, that I do not feel quite the same need to defend my arguments, though blogging certainly calls for a certain thickness of hide, even when most of the comments are gracious and a joy to read.

There's always the odd commenter who might take you to task, which is fine as long as it's not gratuitous or mindless, or written with malice at heart.

Mostly, like you, I enjoy the serendipity and spontaneity of blogging and I'm getting over this notion that I should reciprocate at every turn.

I reciprocate when I can, but I can't always be so omnipresent - said with tongue in cheek.

Thanks, Tracy.

KleinsteMotte said...

My daughters rarely say much about my blog but they do recommend it to all their close friends. Though those read it, they tend not to comment.
Sixty is young when your 65. Having just stayed with a 90 year old and her 99 year old friends I think old has changed. Even 80 is young. Health is a big factor.

Elisabeth said...

I agree, Kleinstemotte, health is a huge factor in determining your quality of life. given that medicine helps us all by and large to live longer, our expectations have increased.

I thought this the other day as I sat with my mother. She looks and behaves as an eighty year old, much of the time, but her body knows it's nearly ninety two, despite all the medical interventions.

Thanks, Kleinstemotte.