Monday, March 19, 2007

Yet Another Treatise on the Blogging Experience

In a recent post, I remarked how journal land has been experiencing yet another shrinking fit. More long-time journalers, some nearly dug up with the foundation of AOL j-land, have hung up their spurs.

I hate that people are losing interest in the blog experience. I feel each loss personally. I’ve learned so much from blogging. I’ve learned about the lives, feelings and beliefs of people all over the country and beyond. I’ve learned that, regional demographics aside, there are people everywhere just like me. People who love to write; people who want to write. People who have to write.

I broke onto the blogging scene back in September of 2003. So I’ve been doing this for 3½ years. And the experience has been so different from anything I might have predicted going in. So many of us have remarked upon the surprise aspect of blogging—the community that grew up in the infant blogosphere. Especially among the pioneer journalers on AOL. That community…it has served as both carrot and stick. It has been, at various times, the best thing and the worst thing about blogging.

Ahhh…that unanticipated experience of "Comments…" Dialogues and critiques inspired by MY writing…by the ideas and opinions that had mouldered for so long only inside my own head. That was the fix to which I became instantaneously and hopelessly addicted. And it soon became obvious that, like any addiction, blogging would become a roller coaster spin of euphoric highs and belly-scraping lows. The highs kept me securely chained to my modem…the lows sent me grasping for the nearest heavy, sharp object with which to hack those chains asunder.

Of course blogging is a fad. And, as such, it inspired some people to blaze in and burn out of the scene with astonishing speed. And then there are those who found themselves treading the ethereal waters during the calm, uncomplicated doldrums of their lives. As soon as more engaging activities stirred up the waters, they swam on. Still, some of us—the dogged few—remain. Why?

For me, contrary soul that I am, the experience has been much the opposite from most. As was true for others, I dove into the journal pool when my life held little else. I became blog-o-centric; journaling was the only challenging, colorful, engaging thing in my life. But the dark side of the blogosphere—the hit and run relationships, the venomous "friendships," the pretenders and the liars and the criminals—make the ether a treacherous place. It can promise redemption and slit your throat in one swift motion. A sad, desperate, scary place to be when one is in a vulnerable frame of mind. Compelling and repulsive at the same time. But now…now that I have a life outside the blogosphere, I can truly appreciate its benefits without being poisoned by its miasma.

Benefits? Oh yes…they are there. In spades. Is it the friendships—those internet relationships that can be as frail and inconstant as the ether upon which they are carried? Yes, and no… the very fragility of the ethereal foundation of those bonds makes them forever straddle the line between blessing and curse.

No…the friendships are an arguable bonus, but they aren’t the real prize.

The big thing, the ultimate reward of which I became aware only recently, is the market. The showcase. The unprecedented opportunity for people like me—those who have always been writers but, for whatever reasons, have been unable to do anything with our compulsive scribblings—to be read. Heard. Appreciated. With the explosion of this great open-air market of communication known as "the internet," anyone—anyone at all—can set up a stand and display their wares.

Consider the plight of the writer: There are traditional showcases for almost every other left-brained activity. Painters, craftspeople, musicians… It’s easy for them to share the fruits of their cherished talents with other human beings. If nothing else, they can display their art on any old street corner. They don’t have to fill pages and studios and warehouses with work that no one else will ever see. Where is that kind of outlet for those of us who wield the pen as our creative instrument? Try standing on a street corner and reading poetry, or handing out copies of an astute political analysis to passers-by. Street-peddling words and ideas would more likely result in a ride in the back of a squad car than a chorus of "oohs" and "ahs" from appreciative pedestrians.

But now…NOW we have it. A place. A bazaar. Somewhere to get our words out there. Without the interference of a middle-man who sets himself up as judge and jury, and tells us our words—our ideas—are not good enough. Believe it, create it, write it, post it. And someone, somewhere will read it. How amazing, how utterly cool is that?

So that’s it. That’s the hook—the thing that will keep me chained to the blogosphere. Not the wonky relationships, nor the serial-drama allure of peering into the intimate lives of people I don’t know, nor the desperation for some kind—any kind—of human interaction. It’s the market. The place to set up my easel and display my stuff to other human beings. The place where someone outside my own head can read, and consider, and conclude, "That’s good writing."

Even if I touch only one other person in this way, it’s worth every gut-spilling keystroke. So here I am. And here I will stay. For as long as my fingers can make any sense at all out of the harpies flying around in my head.


  1. You said it.

  2. You said it.  You said it well.  And that is why I visit often!  Well, at least as often as you choose to write.  

  3. I think you have just about said it all ~ JLand is addictive and I love to read others thoughts and hopes and to know what is going on in their lives ~ this is the only place you can do that ~ Ally

  4. Great entry.  You said it so well.  So glad you are still with us.  Hugs,

  5. A great entry as usual. Some of us just have to write, or go nuts.


  6. Oh, yeah...this is why I write too.  The market...and the chance to be read by people whose writing I admire.

    Like you.


  7. I think the same applies for those of us who are more visually oriented.  Sure, we could set up on a street corner and wait for people to stop by and perhaps appreciate our work.  But, I don't know that I ever would have gotten my "work" out in front of so many if I hadn't had the option of cyberspace.  And it HAS certainly been an inspiration to continue.  I know I'm here for the long haul as well.

  8. Funny that I read this post TODAY....I talked about you today with someone.  Mentioned that I was busy making a surprise gift for a friend I have not ever met in person.

    The friend is you.

    And yes Lisa, you are my friend.

    Even if we don't write to eachother everyday.

    I do think of you often and I treasure you.

  9. I must have missed a lot of the drama you refer to, but I do understand the attraction/repulsion aspects of keeping a blog.  It's been, variously, a lark and a burden, but it's the opportunity to exchange ideas and connect with people that I would not otherwise have the pleasure to know that keeps me in.  That, and the fact that I just like to write ~ and will happily send it out there even when no one will read.  Sometimes I think it may even be better that way.  More free, less self-censure.

    But I'm inclined to agree with Sunflowerkat; it is not, in fact, easy for visual artists to share their efforts with others, either.  I would no more display my art 'on any old street corner' than you would stand up and declaim your poetry in Market Square, and the internet has proven to be an equally welcome venue for us as well.  

  10. I do tend to miss the dramas thatnk goodness! Iblog as a place to put my thoughts. In turn I have found some good reads and I have found some friends. I will continue writing, not as a creative outlet but as an emotional outlet.

  11. What a wonderful entry. I agree with the appeal of blogging, and I've sure endured my share of the venomous attacks, too. Mine has been around for four years now....

  12. Great post, Lisa.

    I definitely miss the community aspect of AOL.  Now it seems that I have lots of hits each day, but most people don't say a word, and I have fallen into the same pattern.  And I lose track of people quickly unless an aol alert pops up.

    As far as the market?  I don't know.  Something to think about.

  13. You have completely captured it and you are so right about the addictive nature of comments, and the chance to have others read what I write (and vice versa).  I've always been a reader and a writer and this blogging thing has been the perfect place for an amateur like me to do both. I have kept diaries since elementary school, and although in the past they were always "private", on occasion someone else would read what I wrote (either because I showed them, or because they snooped).  It is therapeutic, to me, to put my private thoughts out there, and to have others read and respond, especially when they seem to "get" what I'm trying to say.