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.


Ann ODyne said...

Wensleydale means cheese to me.
Wensleydale with rich dark fruitcake is a taste sensation.

When I discovered blogs in 2004, I commented a lot and was awed by everybody. Then I felt guilty that anyone who might follow my comment name-link didn't get a blog for their trouble, so I made on little post ... and it just grew. I don't consider myself a proper blogger - the kind with planned thoughtful posts with a beginning, a middle and a conclusion.
Right now I have laptop on knee, watching TV and simultaneously pinning the hem on a shirt.
Clearly I live alone.
My blogpals are mainly geographically adjacent to me as well. I am too lazy to explain to foreigners what I mean by an references, so it's best not to encourage them to come read and be confused. Since I put a Feedjit thingy on my blogs, which shows where people come from and how they leave, I am amazed at the number of readers who come and go. Most don't comment - so you could have more readers than you think.
Don't stop.

Jim Murdoch said...

People are strange. Bloggers in particular. They're strange publically. And what's really strange about them is the fact that so many of them are really quite private people who'd rather not be there. I am nothing if not ambivalent about blogging.

No one would ever call a pen pal a 'virtual friend' would they? So why the bias against those of us who choose to communicate electronically? The medium may have changed but I would suspect most people's motives are the same, to be less alone. I'm not a social animal. I don't have an especial need for friends but I do appreciate intellectual stimulation which is what I find online. I just made a comment on the nature of failure on one of the sites I visit. When, in the real world, would I ever get into a conversation on the nature of failure? I was asked my opinion, she'll respond; if I can think of anything to say back there may be another short interchange and that will be it – no small talk, straight to the point, efficient.

I agree with you when it comes to quality literary sites. I had expected to find loads but many are not up to scratch and their authors spend more time talking about their private lives than anything else because they feel a compulsion to post regularly but don't have that much to say. I determined right from the start to not post too often and I don't, twice a week and that's it; it's enough for me and enough for my readers because I don't want to sicken them. At first I wasn't sure what the parameters of my blog were going to be but once I did I've stuck to my guns.

Building a following takes time. I've been at it for two years now and compared to my friends' sites I'm doing a roaring trade but that's only come through aggressive marketing and self-promotion. You have to remember you're in competition with millions of other sites and the lower down the Google rankings you are the less chance there will be that you'll be found no matter how interesting what you have to say is. Content is everything, quality counts but neither is worth anything if no one is reading you.

William Michaelian said...

Elisabeth, as long as you are honest with yourself, or try to be, the rest will fall into place. Online or off, let your writing be an adventure. It will define itself by and by. In the meantime, I for one find you quite real. Despite the fact that we will probably never meet in person, I feel we have met, and that if we are lucky we may one day know each other quite well. I certainly value the thoughtful comments you make on my blog, and our brief exchanges there. And I am enjoying your entries here, and find them worthwhile and revealing. As for what is “real” and what is “virtual,” I seldom differentiate. It might be a product of my faulty wiring, but I feel that either everything is real or nothing is. That includes dreams, and the so-called imaginary realm. And knowledge — well, it’s nice, unless we cling to it and identify with it too dearly.

With thanks,


Elisabeth said...

Thanks for all your comments:
AnnoDyne for giving me such am image of you sitting there with your lap top on lap in front of the TV and hemming your skirt. You certainly are a creature of the present, a multi-tasker.

As for readership, I can understand you wanting to reach out only to those 'geographically adjacent', to keep the references shared and clear and not confuse readers.

My European background makes me want to reach out across the world to people far and near, beyond Australia and Europe.

I have a follower whose blog is not written in English and yet presumably he understands English, so many people do. I am ashamed of the hegemony of the English language especially as it is all I speak. This response is fast becoming a posting in itself. Thanks again, AnnoDyne.

To Jim. Many words have already passed between us. I have an added thought in response to your comment here and that is to do with the speed of blogging. Everything happens so quickly unlike in the business of letter writing on paper through the post and even with emails.

Somehow blogging seems to require a reasonably rapid response, or at least I feel that pressure.

My husband who gets some 200 plus emails a day at his work is sanguine about the need to respond quickly to emails. Most emails I get are those I receive from people whose connection I value and therefore I try to get back to them as soon as I can.

That's my point here, blogging holds a special pressure. I started blogging in 2006, put in four postings and then stopped. I resurrected my blog in 2008, with nothing in 2007, and since the middle of this year I've gone a bit troppo.

That's okay, I think. I understand the reasons for this, I think, and soon my blogging will settle down into part of the rhythm of my day.

William, thank you, too, for your encouragement.

I try to write honestly. It's important to me. I cannot understand this pressure to conceal my identity that has happened in some more politically motivated blogs. I have heard horror stories about people who have been abused and accused on line of all sorts of heinous thoughts along political lines.

Obviously different people get different things out of blogging.

Your words are like sunshine. They brighten even the gloomiest days and you always have a way of keeping your poetry accessible.

I'm afraid I'm a bit too wordy, as Jim will testify.
Thanks again.

iODyne said...

Yes Jim, shy people with pseudonym blogs, can pour it all into a blogpost, like a message in a bottle onto the ocean. This is not strange when you consider how many times you have read a well-known performer claim to be shy: my view of showbiz is that it attracts shy people, who get their needed interaction in a controlled way, ie: after the applause they can go home alone and not really get involved, having had themselves 'appreciated' by other humans.

People with Gmail accounts have a bar over their Gmail News page, where they/we can search Blogs for "who is talking about ****" and can zero in for a conversation with various bloggers on a specific topic. I use it for books/authors.

Thanks Elisabeth

Elisabeth said...

Hi Marshall Stacks. Welcome aboard, as they say.

I checked out your blog site, but your actual blog doesn't seem to be there, along with all the other blog type accoutrements.

Is this a new convention, one I haven't met before? A person who visits others and who does not, for reasons unknown, open his own doors to visitors.

This is fine by me. Maybe you are a nomad of sorts, or maybe I read your blog site wrong.

I am following another blog wherein comments are not possible, at least not on line. Last year they were possible. I suspect from earlier postings that this blogger got sick of spam, so she now writes as she wishes and if her readers have a desperate need to respond then we can email her in private.

Your system seems something of a reverse of this, unless I have it wrong.

At least we can respond to your comments, so some communication is possible, and I am very glad you have commented here, because this morning when I noticed you're a 'follower', I wondered how I might make contact.

Perhaps you can let me know how it works for you, your blog that is?

Anonymous said...

Blogs remind me of the playground. Most bloggers are open (such as yourself) and write beautifully (such as yourself) and from their heart (such as yourself). I often think of blogland as a place where people find like-minded humans in their crowds without the flesh and blood concerns (a post-human place).

Travelling in blogland can be reassuring when I find someone who writes and thinks like me. It is even better when I am made to think about something in a completely different way. It can also be very disconcerting to find blogs written by 30-40 year old women, all well-educated, some working part-time as teachers, etc yet completely sucked into the 1950’s domestic world of my mother. These women are into knitting and baking (in a big way) and write about it! Endlessly. Photos galore too. There’s a PhD in this topic alone.

Some bloggers write as if they inhabit a secret land open only to a few. Usually the blog is written by a bossy type who gathers worshippers – rather like the bully in the playground. I followed one elite Australian blog for a while, and I felt I was back in the playground watching the ringleader toying with a bunch of dangling puppets. I cringed more than once as some poor soul who offered some well-meaning thoughts got their cyber marching orders – the poor soul didn’t get the secret code of the post (neither did I). This zone of exclusion that is also so public is fascinating.

I am ambivalent about the world of blogs and their value. Perhaps it is too public for me. I am a watcher with the occasional contribution – a bit like my presence in meetings. Never the chair, always the person who can see into the crystal ball. Often the crystal ball reveals gems.

Elisabeth said...

The playground is a wonderful analogy for blogland, Imrb.

Why are you the quiet one hovering in the corner, observing? You're also one of the wonderful writers, judging from this comment.

Still I can understand your ambivalence. It's a strange journey in blogland - so many unusual people and places to visit.

I tell myself constantly that I must not judge on first impressions alone, but life is short and something has to connect if we are to persevere.

Thanks for venturing into the limelight.