Blogging (excluding those among us with enough readers to sustain clickable ads or donation schemes) is a largely unpaid activity. One of my friends took me to task about this recently. She said, ‘why waste your time churning out words for your blog when you could be writing and trying to get that published? I wouldn’t give my work away for free.’
The thing is, as I see it, blogging’s never going to make sense at this level. The fact that no one pays me to do this blog is pretty much irrelevant to why I do it.
Blogging seems irreducible to such things as money. It’s more akin entering the surf on a hot day and feeling it sting your skin. Certainly, a bath is gentler, warmer (and nice in a different way and at a different moment), but right then the slap of sharply cold brine is brilliant.
I like the slap of the sharply cold brine of this blog.
At the same time, I think Ayelet Waldman’s take on blogging versus writing is interesting. Waldman writes for Salon, as well as being a novelist. She ceased writing at Bad Mother, her blog, when she started at Salon. In an early column over there, she mused on the distinction between writing opinion pieces and writing a blog. She raked over her decision to leave the blog for good.
As far as writing goes, these words are what stayed with me:
At the same time, I was becoming convinced that all this blogging was having a deleterious effect on my writing. It was more than the hours I was spending posting to my blog, reading my comments page, reading other blogs, and checking my site meter. As a novelist, I mined my history, my family and my memory, but in a very specific way. Writing fiction, I never made use of experiences immediately as they happened. I needed to let things fester in my memory, mature and transmogrify into something meaningful. The fictionalized scene I ended up with was often unrecognizable from the actual event that had been its progenitor.
But in the months I had the blog, I was spewing as fast as my family was experiencing. My initial idea, that the blog would act as a kind of digital notebook, was not panning out. Once the experience was turned into words, I found that it was frozen. The fertile composting that I count on to generate my fiction was no longer happening.
I’m not certain yet what my own position will prove to be. Some days I think darkly about my blog and its relation to my broader writing aims and goals. Some days I hate the surf and long to climb into a bath again. I begin to doubt that the blog-as-digital-notebook thing is working for me either. I start to think it’s more a case of ‘write a half-assed blog and maybe write some other stuff if I have the left –over energy … dammit, I don’t.’
But then I remember the days that are spent writing and writing can be lonely and loom ominously large. I remember all the things I like about posting here. I remember in particular the Internet’s great seduction: it offers up people who will connect with what you’re writing. The importance of that fact alone can not be overstated.
That’s the point at which I realise what I should have said to my friend, it’s just that the words wilted and died on my tongue.
Perhaps I should have told her this:
When I go online to post, I poke my face excitedly through the wormholes of the internet and into other writers' blogs. They each have a scent, a flavour, a certain, indefinable quality that hits you just like walking into a friend's living room and seeing the traces of her personality sunk deep into the space, its decorations and all its nooks and crannies. From these repeated sojourns, I know the faces of certain writers. I marvel at the effortless energy others seem to invest their blog-space with. I know the cupcake predilections and favourite flowers of others still. Certain writers make me want to move to Melbourne ... and not just so I can dress my cat in clothes. Promise.