(And meanwhile, feel free to enjoy the pictures that accompany this post, which have nothing to do with my question, but everything to do with all the usual reasons I keep writing this blog … )
The list of books I’ve quoted and discussed on this blog is growing and growing, and the current page of links I have to them is growing and growing, too. I’m thinking of reorganising that page, sorting the books into more categories than the current ones (which are fiction and literature; non-fiction; poetry; magazine/newspaper/blog posts).
How would you like to see these lists organised? Would you like further subdivisions of the current categories (e.g. fiction: Australian; fiction: American, etc.)? Or would you prefer categories that don’t distinguish between, say, fiction and non-fiction or between book and non-book but are theme-based instead (e.g. running; walking; love; nature; life; health)?
I don’t know if I’ll make it to eight years of blogging. Probably not, to be honest. And that’s OK. Because the time I’ve spent in this corner of the internet has changed my life in the most unexpected and powerful way. That has nothing to do with me and everything to do with you, so THANK YOU.
It’s becoming quite a trend, isn’t it? Quitting blog writing. Decrying the blogosphere and what it has become. I’m saddened to find that some of my favourite bloggers, quoted in the passages dotted throughout this post, are pulling the plug on their blogging.
But I’m not about to do the same.
But it’s time friends. It’s time to pull the plug on my blog. I’ve been putting off this decision and this post for a very long time.
I’ve talked before about why I love blogging and the blogosphere. Many of the bloggers now leaving the blogosphere complain about how disingenuous bloggers are becoming: how curated so many blogs are; how inauthentic the bloggers’ voices have become; how blogs now function, simply, as the latest tool for a person who wants to build a portfolio in order to make a living through social media.
Rain in the vineyards
Honestly? In some ways, I agree. I wince when I realise I am wading through yet another post on a cooking blog filled with not one, not two, not five, but ten (or more) shots of the same dish, artfully presented amongst scrunched-up tea towels, autumnal leaves and battered enamel saucepans. And I wince even more when I find myself reading yet another post by a blogger announcing breathily, Guess what? Exciting news! I got a publishing contract!
I’m almost nostalgic for the early days of blogging (except I don’t really do nostalgia). It was enormous fun, but also an enormous consumer of time. I loved it at the beginning but foresaw early on many of the problems now associated with the internet, and now I’m happier doing it all in private. I always had faith that the appeal of printed books, face-to-face conversations, trips to the cinema, walking, swimming and camera-less experiences would never fade for me and now I am back where I was before I started blogging in 2005 … I’m writing a new book. I’ve moved on from writing about domesticity. I just live and breathe it, like I always did.
But there’s still room in the blogosphere for sincerity. For vitality. For authenticity. There is. You just have to look a little harder to find it.
Sheoaks in golden bloom, vineyards and … my bike (of course)
Some bloggers find joy in the blogging community; recently, for example, I read a lovely post by children’s author and fellow blogger Cynthia Reyes about bloggers helping bloggers. Her post would make any blogger think twice about stopping blogging.
Me? I blog for many reasons. I see blogging as a way of improving my writing: of learning to express myself better, learning to reach out to people, somehow, with my words. I see blogging as a form of connection to the rest of the world — if I show you my world, perhaps you will show me yours. I see it as a substitute for journal writing: a substitute that is better than the original because, due to the public nature of the domain in which my blog appears, there is discipline involved in the writing of each post, and discretion. And I see blogging, as I’ve said before, as a way of reaching towards beauty, wherever I can find it.
All of those are selfish reasons for blogging, I guess. But the corollary of writing a blog is spending time reading other people’s blogs: listening to what other bloggers have to say, seeing what they see, understanding what they believe (even if I don’t agree with them). Reading of any kind, no matter how enjoyable an activity it is, is inherently an unselfish act. It forces you to listen to other people. It can, if you let it, open your mind.
I think blogging offers a richer, more thoughtful, more all-compassing vehicle for expression than other forms of social media like, for example, Twitter (where pithiness is valued over thoughtfulness) and Instagram (where aesthetics are valued over normality). And for that reason alone, I will continue to participate in, and love, the blogosphere.
What about you? What do you think about the state of blogging today?
Well, as you may have guessed by now, I’m with Ruby on this. I love waxing lyrical about the weather, and have been doing so, on and off, ever since I began writing this blog, back in April 2014.
And when I’m not waxing lyrical about the weather, I’m taking photographs in celebration of it instead. So, to continue the weather celebrations, here are some photos from one of my latest saunters out and about.
This particular jaunt through the Aldinga Wetlands took place in early June, a time of year when we expect rain and clouds and wind here in South Australia. But, as I’ve mentioned several times before recently, in my usual waxing-lyrical-about-the-weather mode, that’s not the weather we’ve had at all this June. This day was just one of a number lately that began cold, crisp and clear, and progressed into soft, still sunniness.
If I were to say anything more here about how clear and true the sun shone as I wandered through the wetlands that day, or about how the sunshine filled me with joy, I’d be venturing into waxing-purple territory. (That, I believe, is the stage that follows the waxing-lyrical stage.) So I’ll leave you to enjoy these photos without further ado.
Although PS Like Ruby, as far as talking about the weather goes, I’m. Just. Not. Sorry.
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 …
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.
This means, I am glad to say, that you could never call me a troll. But you could, apparently, call me a lurker.
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 … 🙂
He said, ‘What is your job as a writer of fiction?’ And she said that her job as a writer of fiction was to report on the human condition, to tell us who we are and what we think and what we do.
from ‘My name is Lucy Barton‘ by Elizabeth Strout
When I first began this blog, I was adamant that, though I am a published writer, my blog would not be about writing. A writer can blog about things other than writing, right? A writer isn’t just a writer: a writer is a person; a writer has a life. That’s what I wanted to blog about.
Besides, it seemed to me that blogging about writing would be, in my case, an inexcusably audacious act. My thinking went like this: I have published only two books. I haven’t published anything since 2010. My books have gone out of print. What can I tell anyone about writing? Who would want to read what I had the temerity to say?
I don’t much like the word ‘writer’. Perhaps it’s because I haven’t published much and don’t make a living from my writing, but I feel pretentious and arrogant when I call myself one. I think of myself instead as someone who has written two books, and would like to write another one, but is struggling to do so.
That’s another word I don’t like: ‘struggle’. When I first began writing stories and fiction, the writing was an act of joy. It was a process of humble discovery. Each word that I wrote, each sentence, each chapter, was a journey. I was learning to do something new. I was learning to do something I loved. I was learning.
So when I first read the words I’ve quoted above from Elizabeth Strout, I thought: Yes! Writing fiction, for me, has always been about opening myself up to sorrow, and to joy, and to humility, and to discovery. It’s about expressing those things, however afraid I am to do so. It’s about making sense of my life. It’s about trying to make something beautiful. It’s about having the temerity — the audacity, the arrogance — to share my words with other people: people who, like me, love reading.
Most of all, writing fiction, like blogging, is about sharing.
And so that’s the reason I’m posting these words about writing today. Call it pretension; call it temerity. Call it audacity; call it arrogance. Call it learning; call it sorrow; call it joy.
Elizabeth Strout again (from the same book):
You will have only one story … You’ll write your one story many ways. Don’t ever worry about story. You have only one.
Maybe this is the only story I have to share, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth sharing.
As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t do Facebook or Instagram .
(Or Pinterest … Or Snapchat.) And I never, ever take selfies.
Blogging is as far as I go.
One of the reasons is this:
It’s a bright, shiny world out there on social media.
Everything is beautiful in Insta-World.
But that’s not real life.
Life is a series of moments — some of them beautiful, some of them not —
and social media doesn’t capture that.
Here’s what lovely blogger Sheena has to say on the subject:
Social media is great, right? It’s the perfect way for me to stay connected to friends, see the world from different points of view, I can use it to work from home, and let’s all agree….it’s fun! It’s also the WORST….we all paint this picture of the perfect little world we live in–only showing our best of the best moments….it’s not at ALL a real representation of life. And I think sometimes it’s too easy to get caught up in that, don’t you think?
You’ve heard the term “Keeping up with the Joneses”, right? Did you know the phrase dates back to the early 1900s? I mean really, what was it that Jones Family was doing that was worth keeping up with–growing better potatoes? Riding a faster horse? Now, with social media, we know every little detail of the Joneses life. Where they are going and who they are with and how they got there! What they are eating and when they are eating it! What their perfect house looks like, what their perfect kids look like, and what their perfect face looks like, because now the Joneses share lots of pictures of their outstretched arms and close-up faces. They definitely didn’t have to worry about selfies back in 1913.
Those Joneses are BUSY, and they are everywhere. Doing everything. And rubbing it in your face.
I’ve talked before about why I blog, and which blogs I love (and why).
One of the things that drew me to the blogosphere, and keeps me there still, is the diversity I’ve found within it.
I read blogs about baking. Health. Nature. Writing. Reading. Life.
And, while the tone of my own blog is rarely confessional, I can’t count how many times I’ve drawn comfort from my fellow bloggers’ brave, confessional posts.
Blogging helps me come unstuck, in all the right ways.
It’s a good path to follow.
Here’s a post that keeps me on the straight and narrow:
Yesterday I got stuck in a bookshop …
It doesn’t happen often, this stuckness, or at least, not this way round: sometimes I can’t leave home for days, but it’s rare I can’t get home. But yesterday afternoon, I was scared, and I was stuck. It was ridiculous, laughable: sometimes anxiety is. Often it is. My fears are myriad, and they are stupid. They aren’t real. They are as real as monsters under the bed or thieves in the hall cupboard: they are stupid. I know that …
I have walked that street a hundred times; this time, I just couldn’t. Just couldn’t.
And then I did. Forty minutes of pacing the bookshop, looking at the sky outside, and then I did it: opened the door, and went out into the street, counting the steps in Roman numerals to distract myself from the gathering sky …
I don’t have any explanations for why sometimes I get stuck. I don’t have a way to fix it, either, except to cook through it, to press through it, to trust that I will, somehow, get through it, and it will, somehow, be over. I don’t know if this post even makes sense to anybody to whom this hasn’t happened; perhaps it doesn’t. But the supper [I cooked at home last night] was nice, all the same. A small victory. And we should celebrate small victories, I think.