January 17, 2014

Blogging and the blog



I need a disclaimer: I sometimes roll my eyes at the way we readers mollycoddle you with our flattery and commiseration. Furthermore, after becoming more familiar with your blog over this past year, I also thought that things might be improved in your case if you didn’t look at things in such a dire light. But then I read some post where you write how you worry that your readers must perceive you as inordinately over-dramatic and that your response to this would be that your blog is the outlet for all of these spewing emotions and that you are not as self-focused during the rest of your day. Then I realized that my equivalent of your blog is my daily journal, and I certainly am self-centered and overly dramatic there.

Boldface mine.  No.  Wrong.  Good grief.  On a public blog?  Are you frelling kidding?  Smoke and mirrors, remember?  I am self-centred and overly dramatic, but what you read on the blog is a shtick.  It’s a persona built on the fact that I can get good mileage out of dire and overly dramatic—although I admit it’s supposed to be funny.  I’m trying for funny*.  The self centred is (as I have also said on the blog, although you seem to have missed it) largely because I don’t have to worry about hurting my own feelings if I go over the top, and I don’t want to hurt anyone else’s by taking the mickey wrong.  I tweak other people only as far as I think I would let them tweak me, if they had a public blog that a lot of strangers read.  I may get this wrong but I’m trying to be responsible—and I as a subject am always safe.  Also—and this relates both to the smoke and mirrors and to how far I will go using other real people on my blog—I have a privacy fetish.  I’m very well aware that it would only take some basic Google fu and a little time to find out all the ordinary realworld ™ details about my life, but all the aliases are there partly because it’s fun for me, partly because I’m doing unto others as I would have them do unto me and partly because it’s an indication that an essential aspect of my blog shtick is misdirection.

I don’t keep a daily journal.  It’s not because the blog takes up equivalent time and it’s certainly not because the blog provides genuine catharsis.  It’s because I don’t find the naked truth about myself all that interesting.  I’m a storyteller.  I take facts and yank them around. This includes the blog.  Something else I’ve said, I thought often but perhaps not often enough, is that I rarely lie by commission on the blog.  I lie by omission every day.  It’s not just leaving stuff out.

I’ve said for years—since I first started receiving embarrassingly personal fan mail, which means shortly after BEAUTY was published in 1978—that it’s true that readers know a lot about me (cf embarrassing fan mail declaring that the letter-writer totally understands me) but they don’t know what they know.  Because of the storyteller.  Because of the yanking around.  I think all writers write from their guts—what else is there to write from?**—but I may do it a bit more transparently and—er—enthusiastically than some.***

It wouldn’t surprise me, although as a poll this is a nonstarter, if the blog hasn’t further confused the issue of Who I Am As A Real Human Being rather than reading only all those made-up stories.  Because I’m starting with my life.  Not with dragons and pegasi and vampires.

I began the blog because my agent told me to.  It was no burning desire of mine.  I’ve turned it into something I can do, and even mostly enjoy†, although regular readers know that one of my regular moans is about the limitations of that can.  I’m bad at writing short;  if I stopped doing it every day I’d start trying to make the more occasional posts better which would take even more time.  Which is also the reason I rarely write about big important real-world stuff however much it concerns me privately, because I’m not going to be able to do it justice without tapping into my professional story-writing energy which I (mostly) manage to keep separate.††  And I have a huge mental block about writing book reviews††† because I know how much even the wrong praise can hurt or discourage, and acknowledgement of subjectivity may not cover all a reviewer’s errors.

My agent also tells me that the internet has moved on and writers aren’t blogging any more.  Sigh.  This blog having become something I can do, something that gives me some, however off centre, public profile, I am unwilling to give it up and try to learn to do something else—since we’re all now supposed to have some kind of visibility as ourselves, not just as the things we do, the stories we write, the song cycles we compose, the forty-foot rusty steel sculptures that terrify the children in the city parks.

But this blog is what it is.  I know that.  It’s not meant to be awesome and deathless.  It’s only supposed to be amusing.‡  And no writer gets it right every time, either in a multi-draft novel or a once-through-with-safety-pins-to-hold-its-hems-up blog.  I suggest that the next time I . . . roll my eyes at the way we readers mollycoddle you with our flattery and commiseration you give my blog a miss.  There is an infinity of ways to waste your time pleasurably on the internet.  It’s not worth sticking around somewhere if you’re not having fun.

* * *

* Mostly.  Peter’s stroke, for example, is not funny.

** Which may be a revelatory remark.  But as a reader I find books that feel to me too much written from their authors’ heads uninvolving.

*** Peter doesn’t get nearly as much embarrassing fan mail as I do.  His readers rarely declare that they have known him in previous lives and that their souls are intertwined with his for eternity.

Including the forum.  If people didn’t comment I’d lose the will to blog.

†† And maybe not at all.  True nonfiction and I are a trifle wary with each other.  Possibly because I don’t believe true nonfiction exists, and I get hung up negotiating the shape of my subjectivity.

††† Frelling ratbags anyway.  I would like to figure out a way over/around this.

‡ Which, you know, is hard graft enough.


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