I'm enjoying this blog. It's not a big deal, I know – mostly just small, casual writing, with the address shared with a few friends – but it is succeeding in exactly what I wanted it to do, that is, helping me to get into the habits of writing, communicating, thinking, making sentences. Even at the lightest level – and this is basically a kind of journalism lite – it's already distinctly productive from my point of view: this gets easier, I feel better about it and about things in general, and the vast stretches of research and writing I should be doing (instead? along side?) look less impossible and guilt-ridden than they did a couple of months ago. In fact, it is kind of like doing journalism: and, as we all know, many writers spend long stretches of their career on journalism... it's a while since I wrote the many reviews and short pieces I wrote in the mid-80s and early 90s, so it's good to get back to something that has the same effect.
There are, though, two faintly tricky aspects: one is the difference between a traditional journal and this; the other is the changing context of the Blogsphere.
I already have journals: nice (sometimes very nice – I like Moleskines, very much) blank books, in which I've made occasional entries, especially while traveling and sitting in restaurants and cafes. Naturally, those journals function in a context that is considerably less tricky than blogging: one can write anything at all, one can be boring, one can babble incoherently, one can quote fragments of remembered poetry, one can draft and sketch and scribble down secrets. Those are all of the pleasures of a journal – as opposed to a blog.
Not that this is such a massively public forum: few people read these pages, and my name isn't on it. But it is still 'published', or made public, in the technical sense: and I know that other academics (and at least one New York nanny) have been concerned about the potential problems of talking about relatively private thoughts in a public forum.
Of course, I'm not known for being secretive – even in my academic writing, I tend to tell stories on or about myself, and some of my most successful articles have been grounded on examining my own (sometimes undignified or tacky) reactions. Some of that is merely my nature – as a thinking type, I'm not terribly sensible or completely in control when it comes to questions of emotions or social connection; I tend to regard those questions as areas of potential research (research to be followed in public, with myself and my friends as experimental subjects!), and anyway I'm not terribly good at instinctively knowing when to stop before I go too far. Besides, the years in San Francisco encouraged me to treat people as relatively 'safe' receivers of personal information (just think how different I would be if I'd gone to New York in the late 1970s, rather than the West Coast).
It's a bit like being a confessional poet: having read perhaps a bit too much Sexton or Plath – and it's a position that was exacerbated by my own circumstances. For instance, several of my most personal academic papers were written in the years when I still expected to die at any point – I thought they would be 'final' statements, so it didn't seem to matter that I would tell all.
The other tricky part is, as I mentioned, the Blogsphere. 75,000 new blogs a year (most tank pretty soon, of course); newspaper articles and television shows about the Phenomenon; commercial use, publicity, media connections. None of that interests me at all, but of course it makes this all a bit dubious: as if writing about one's own ideas isn't egotistical enough, the vast sectors of the Blogsphere that seem to want this to be a version of Pop Idol tar the whole idea of blogs with a slightly tacky brush. (Now there's a blurred metaphor – consider it my gift to you.)
Oh well. This blog is what it is, and I can use it however I like. And maybe I'll start doing some Real Writing – if I do, it will be partly because of this – this blog....