Monday, June 9, 2008

To Blog or not to blog

“Don’t blog. Write.”
R. Hobb

That is “Robin Hobb’s” advice and in some ways it is very good advice. If you read her essay, missive, open letter, whatchamacallit, (see writer's blogs) you come to the conclusion that this is a smart lady and that much of what she writes makes sense.

But then, I still am bringing her rant (her words not mine) here, to put out on the writing about blogging, blogging about writing kitchen table. I can take a pencil and prod it, turn it over, probe it, put a light on its underbelly and opine using the exact form Ms. Hobb detests. That may be a tough task if you are just starting out in the writer's career path, but I have been on this trail for more than 50 years and have no fear. Although I see have seen some measure of success, poetry and poverty are intimately connected, and success as a academic or a grant writer has never been part of my makeup. But I have been doggedly writing, putting letter after letter, sentence after sentence, since my pre-teens. Whatever Ms. Hobb knows, I see no reason to believe I cannot conduct a thoughtful counterpoint to her conversation, albeit one-sided for the most part, but a dialog about one of the world’s oldest activities. In the beginning, after all, was “the word.” I somethings think that will be the end, too. Perhaps, with a laugh, a good guffaw instead of a hushed silence. I just cannot stifle my wordiness enough and so I have to stand up for blogging, I have to respectfully disagree.

I am not about to get in the rebutting rut. She makes many good points, but most of them seem to be based on the idea that blogging is a sheer waste of time, as opposed to entering the jaws of the book publishing beast, clawing your way down its throat and oozing through its entrails. Blogging has to be mundane because, even though some desk jockey makes the decisions and suits and number-crunchers follow it all the way to remaindering, books are serious, real, literature. Anything you don’t write and rewrite and edit and rewrite again and then hard bind and sell for $45 is pretty much unfinished crap.

I see this more as Ingres vs. Monet argument. If you have ever seen these two painters, you know that the former was a classicist whose paintings are almost photographic in their accuracy and the latter is an impressionist whose paintings can appear casual and sloppy, especially if one gets too close. But standing back, one does not see the fine, single-hair detail of the neo-classical and the sloppy, seemingly careless swirls of the impressionist disappear into the whole impression, one of absolute accuracy. They are two completely different things.

I am not suggesting you read this blog from the back of the room peering at the screen with squinted eyes or binoculars. But, for me, it is about the bigger picture, a reflection on a lifetime of writing, about the idea of writing, the why and wherefore. And I do put real work, labored over work here, published and unpublished, mostly brand new and worked over to the point were I am finished in the sense that Auden said, “A poem is never finished, it is merely abandoned.” It is a big decision to put a poem out in the light and ask any person whose eyes it enters to write back, to let me know what they think, to react. I see it as making the poem "public" of "publishing" and part of the process of my ending my association with a piece of my work. I don’t want to keep it, having come to the conclusion that I am abandoning it. I want to get it out, out there, away from the huge stack of other things that I don’t feel I have put enough effort into yet to claim that honor.

It took me a while to write about Ms. Hobb’s blog. I found it a very pragmatic, intelligent and logical essay; yet olde Gutenberg thought, a very narrow and German sensibility that allowed for all of us to read from paper, from the page and from that technology. From that kind of making public all sorts of new forms grew, the story, the novel, the book of poems and stories, the opus of great classics, not to mention the publishing business. However, that was not the actual primordial writing. Writings had been there in monasteries and libraries all along. The difference was the technology allowed readers to multiply and to become a market. Now, I am watching the technology shrink the number of readers. Amazon is leading the way, as are all the internet texts, to a new way of looking at the page, the process, the experience of reading. Trees are going to stop dying and poisonous inks are going to stop being made. All the fuel in all the trucks that truck those books is going to be saved.

I don’t pretend to know what will happen a hundred or a thousand years from now, but I believe this juncture in history, is the beginning of the end of the book. It is a time, as were all the eras before, when technologies can transform our lives. Just as we are different from the age of Gutenberg, our grandchildren will be different from us. I think there will be new forms of entertainment, new kinds of reading/writing experiences and new forms of literature. I may not be riding that wave then, but I am experiencing the surge of the surf now that feels like change happening and I am part of it. And that vision allows for blogging, encourages it, sees it as the beginnings of something new.

I allow myself to blog, as long as I have spent time working on my non-blog writing. The blog itself lets the writing in and vice versa. I write and react and report on my writing life on my blog. It is one of the best parts of my being. As I create fiction from the reality of my thoughts, I plan to learn from my experiment. To push the paradigm even further, I was thinking of starting a novel about a blogger.