Sunday, February 1, 2009

the Emperor's new clothes...

It's Super Bowl Sunday and there was a time I'd have been blogging about that. I have one child in Las Vegas attending the game, and I'm going to a Super Bowl party here in Dallas later this afternoon myself. But that's not what I'm writing about today. Instead, I'm taking a few minutes to write about writing, or rather, about blogging.

I started blogging in the now-fabled AOL Land of Blog. This was a community of bloggers who came together on AOL several years ago in a sort of blogging Camelot. Many of those writers, now here on blogger because AOL closed its doors, still bemoan the loss of that community. I'm not one of them. I understand their sense of loss, but I understand it as someone who observed that community from the outside looking in, with my face pressed up against the glass, as it were, not from a sense of ever for a moment being inside that warm, fuzzy cocoon. I started blogging on AOL in June 2005, but I happily migrated to Blogger a few months later, in November 2005, when there was a great brouhaha about the ads, and many members of the AOL community left. For what it's worth, there were always ads visible on my AOL site, so I didn't really understand what all the fuss was about. I've been a fan of many of those AOL writers, and some of those writers became fans of mine, but I was never a part of that community. It seemed to me to be a gated community, and I know I'm not the only one who felt that way, because other bloggers have written me about it.

Why do we do this anyway? Why blog? Of course, everyone has their own reasons. Early on I wrote a post about this, about how blogging can be a way of feeling connected to the rest of the world and conquering the sense of isolation that afflicts everyone, in varying degrees, from time to time. I still think that's true, but somehow, as time went by, I found myself getting caught up in who was reading me; how many comments I was getting; who was leaving comments, etc., etc. This was not a healthy thing for me, because as I got caught up in those observations, I began writing less. My younger brother, Dave, one of my most faithful readers, immediately noticed and complained to me. I made a half hearted attempt to write more, but as my focus was still off, it didn't really work. The gadgets now available to us, of which I don't hesitate to avail myself (sitemeter, who links to me, followers, etc.) make it easy to succumb to this sort of self-absorption, at least, that's what it amounted to for me.

But then one day last December I went into my blog, and clicking on the linked bloggers in my sidebar and reading the blogs of others, I suddenly realized that the blogger whose writing I admire most receives almost no comments, and I don't know how many followers he has, as he doesn't post that info on his blog. And I thought of Emily Dickinson, and I also thought of Justin Hall. Without Justin, would any of us be blogging? A couple of light years ago in Chicago, A and I lived in a coach house on the near north side, on State Street. There we shared a yard with Justin's parents, who lived in the row house in front of us and with whom we were good friends. I remember the day Justin was born. When he was a little guy, he and Alex sometimes played together, and I have a pic of the two of them, arms around each other's shoulders, wearing cowboy hats and smiling for the camera. I discovered and read Justin's original blog a few years ago when I googled my own name and came across a link to something I'd written in a condolence note to his mother on the death of his father. My note had ended up being been read at his father's eulogy, and Justin had posted the eulogy on his original blog, which he started in 1994, when he was 19. It was an online diary, with no place for comments. Writing online a few days ago about his original blog, Justin said: "When I started writing I wanted to find a place for myself in the world. I wanted a mate, I wanted to work with passionate people, I wanted to explore computers and publishing. Those things have come to pass, I need to find new things to write about."

Well said.

Me too. I need to find new things to write about, and although I love reading the comments people make, I need to write without caring whether anyone reads me or not. And to that end, in January I applied seat of pants to seat of chair and posted 34 entries in 31 days.

It's a start...

7 comments:

cw2smom said...

Great post!! Just today..I was amazed to find that I had 72 followers! ME? That makes it difficult as I never intended to write for an audience and I find myself wanting to censor some of what I write. I even created a private..my eyes only..blog because a friend of mine said I was too emotional. I started the journal on AOL in February 2004 as a place to express those emotions. I had very few readers, and yet I did feel a strong sense of community there. People cared and people responded to my real life drama, emotions and tears. I understand some of us have such a difficulty with change, but in this change..to Blogger, I've found a much greater sense of community...new friends, entertaining reads, support and yet..I still get worried about what I write. There's always sooo many people who write so much better than I, and I don't want to be compared. I am me and my writing was all for me. Now it's evolving too. I will stay for however long this format helps me grow, heal and learn. The Al-Anon contacts and recovering AA/NA members that I've "met" has made such a difference in my life, due to their support and kindness. I actually love it here in Blogger land! Blessings, Lisa

emmapeelDallas said...

Thanks Lisa! Me too, I love it here at Blogspot, where I have much more of a sense of community than I ever had at AOL. I made some friends there, for sure, and I'm grateful for that. But there was definitely a cliquish aspect to the AOL community that was very apparent to many of us who found that community later rather than earlier.

Lisa :-] said...

Judi--

Congratulations on your renewed interest dedication to blogging. We love having you as part of our group!

I was posting a comment here that became so long it was going to be an entry in itself... So I'm going to go away and write the entry, now.

Cynthia said...

34 wonderful posts in the last 31 days I might add. Your blog is always a wonderful read. It's so easy to get caught up in the numbers. Goodness knows I've done it, and it affects how well I write. I always felt like I was one of the marginal inside bloggers on AOL. I'd started early enough to get in on the community, but there were defined neighborhoods within that village. Then someone one outside of my regular group of readers and people I read would notice me, and my numbers obsession would kick up a notch. For me, blogging has to be about two things -- self expression and writing. If I turn to the numbers, who's following, who's linking, and all the ways that blogs can be ranked, I lose something essential.

alphawoman said...

I really loved the anonymity when I first started. My flow became cramped when people I know began to read my blog. I don't know why. I have been stifled ever since. I think it has something to do with my Catholic upbringing! haha! I go in spurts and feel burnt out on subjects. Writing about anything personal is a big fat no-no because of the people I know who might drop in. It has back lashed on me in the past...so, I feel really bland now. Anyway, I miss AOL. I loved the many many comments and connections I had on AOL. I have been on Blogger for many years and I think people do not realize I have retired Alphawoman's Blog and use Just A Hippie Gypsy. I wrote an entry today and had one comment...yes, I'll admit it, I miss the AOL community.

emmapeelDallas said...

Lisa, if I've inspired you to write something, I am one happy blogger! :)
Cynthia, yes, as always you have put it so well, there were defined neighborhoods within that village, some of whom welcomed new neighbors and some of whom, quite clearly, did not. Mary, I know what you mean about flow becoming cramped when people you know began to read what you wrote. I think that's got to be quite similar to my paying attention to how many comments I was getting, who was commenting, etc. I love reading the comments and it's hard to let go of that, but it's affected my writing in a negative way. So in a way, I was lucky to be a latecomer who never felt fully part of that community. But that said, there's nothing wrong with missing that community. It's just that not all of us do.

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