Other people’s words about … blogging
I never intended to be a blogger. The name alone is enough to put anyone off — ‘blog’ is an ugly word — and besides, I’ve always been about as tech-savvy as an aardvark. Then one of my oldest and closest friends started a blog and the scales fell from my eyes. I realised that, in the right hands, a blog, which I’d lazily assumed to be an outlet for opinionated egos or a medium for look-at-me wittering, could actually be a thing of beauty, a repository of interesting and original thought, of humour and pleasure, of amiable interchange among friends …
from ‘In Praise of Blogging‘
by Nigel Andrew
featured in the Literary Review magazine, August 2016
Do you remember when blogging first began? It wasn’t so long ago, was it? — somewhere in the late nineties, perhaps. I remember being deeply suspicious of bloggers and their blogs, at least at the start. They were so … trendy. Instant. Shallow.
For me, blogging was the beginning of social media, of which I was originally — and indeed still remain — very wary. What could be good about instant publishing? About uncensored, unfettered writing? About unedited writing? (A disclaimer here: in my non-blogging life, I work as an editor. Perhaps my horror at the thought of unedited writing has an aspect of self-interest to it … )
Nigel Andrews continues:
Blogging at its best is essentially an extension of the essay form: brief and provisional, feeling its way through a subject, written with care but relaxed and not over-polished. One difference is that a blog post is published instantly and by the author; it takes its place in a conversation (with luck) and the blogger establishes his place in a community of taste and thought (ditto). This has its risks, but there is something deeply satisfying about it. Another difference is that technology enables a blog post to open out in ways not possible in the printed essay: for instance, through hyperlinks embedded in the text, or through pictures, video and audio …
I’m glad my original opinion about blogging turned out to be wrong. Blogs can be warehouses of mediocrity, egocentrism and vitriol. But, as Andrews — known on his own blog as Nige — says, they can also be places where people write with wit and tenderness, with beauty and sagacity, with passion and honesty and verve. Bloggers can take you to worlds you might not otherwise visit. I love that about them.
The blog world is vastly wider and richer than I ever imagined, Andrews says. I’m with him here, too. I have cooked new recipes from some of the blogs I read (here, for example, and here); I’ve learned about art and craft (here); I’ve marvelled over the joys and wonders of nature (here); I’ve found fellow booklovers (here); I’ve envied women of my age who run long distance (here); I’ve sympathised with the health woes of women younger than I am (here).
One aspect of blogging that I struggle with, though, is its conversational side: the participatory nature of it, the community. Don’t get me wrong: I love being part of the blogging community, and I love feeling as though I am getting to know the bloggers whose posts I regularly read. I love that there are readers and fellow bloggers who take the time to comment on my blog; I love that, in replying to them, I have in a sense ‘met’ them. They and their blogs have enriched my world.
But I am still, at heart, an old-fashioned reader. For me, reading is an activity that I engage in privately. The silent communion I find with the writer of whatever it is I’m reading: that, right there, is for me the joy of reading. I read with my mind and my heart and my soul. And those things — my mind, my heart, my soul — are mine, and mine alone. So I rarely comment on other bloggers’ posts, or give feedback to them, or praise them, or, heaven forbid, criticise them.
Seriously? When did the act of reading become some kind of dialogue? When did reading obligate a reader to correspond? Isn’t reading an escape from all of that?
I take comfort in Andrews’s thoughts towards the end of his essay on blogging:
Much else that used to be in blog form has also made the transition into other social media. Could it be that the ‘death of the blog’, which seems to have been predicted ever since blogging began, is now happening? I doubt it; I think it’s more that those who were using the blog form to pick fights, project their egos or drone on about their everyday lives are migrating to media better equipped for such purposes: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and the rest (neophilia is a strong driving force here). This might, one hopes, leave the blogscape open to those who blog because the form is a perfect fit for what they want to do and who are impervious to the whims of technology. If blogging is unfashionable, so much the better, I say. So many of the best things, like so many of the best books and writers, are.
I’m a reader, a writer, an editor: all of those things. And I’m also — yes, still/always/despite everything — a blogger. I see my blog as an extension of the best parts of me. However contradictory it may seem after what I’ve just said, my blog is an effort to express myself. To educate myself. To introduce my readers to things they might not otherwise have encountered on my side of the world (like some of the things pictured in today’s post). And I see it as an effort to try, in my writing and my posting and my life, to reach towards some kind of beauty.
In case you wondered, you are, as always, very welcome to comment … 🙂