Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Thoughts after another year of blogging

At Blographia Literaria, Andrew Seal has been pondering the nature and purpose of litblogs. Of course, there are any number of reasons why people blog, whether about literature or not, so it might seem fruitless to make such an attempt. Even so, I was interested in where Andrew's inquiry was taking him, particularly given his admission that his own blog tends to be the kind of blog he doesn't like. But I wondered how this blog might be defined. I've never really thought of myself as a litblogger. When I began blogging, I conceived of The Existence Machine as some sort of mutant combination of The Reading Experience, Lenin's Tomb, Simon Reynolds' Blissblog, and Bitch PhD (to the extent that, as a man, this is even possible). These blogs were among my categorical models for longer-form blog writing at the time, so I imagined. Others were models for shorter, link-heavy posting. In the event, I have never been able to pull off the sort of breezy writing suitable for the latter, and I've had to narrow my focus considerably. Though I was more likely to attract readers early on with my music posts (and, bizarrely, early last year The Existence Machine was somehow ranked 45th most influential American music blog; even as of this writing, it places 75th--one really has to wonder about their algorithm), writing about music has ceased to interest me much; with rare exceptions, I've given it up. What's emerged is that I've blogged about literature and politics, as expected, but my writing on both has rarely resembled what I had anticipated. In part, I've simply lacked the time to do certain topics justice and have had to find alternatives. My concerns have evolved--narrowed and deepened. And I've found that my own difficulties writing are of interest to me, and that perhaps they are not irrelevant in an exploration of larger issues.

Unexpectedly, this post has morphed into a State of the Blog sort of entry, as I approach my third anniversary of blogging. So be it. Maybe I need a little meta-commentary to get myself moving again. Anyway, I mentioned above The Reading Experience as a sort of model. This is perhaps fitting, since yesterday Dan Green posted an entry marking the fifth anniversary of that blog. I'd like to take this opportunity to congratulate Dan and to thank him for his contribution (in addition, Dan was perhaps the first established blogger to take notice of The Existence Machine, for which I remain grateful--Helen DeWitt is right: "if a blog you like mentions your blog favourably you're walking on air"--and I am grateful for the friendships I've made as a result of the blog). But I'd also like to note that, in providing such an ongoing, consistent example, Dan has perhaps ironically helped enable me to realize how much I differ with him on literary matters, whereas I began blogging under the assumption that I agreed almost completely with his approach. More accurately, I took it for granted that his approach was the correct one, without being confident I could yet make appropriate aesthetic assessments myself (I hadn't read any literary criticism, though I had perhaps already drank too much of the old Nabokov kool-aid; I hope to have more to say about that sometime soon). It was the practice of blogging, then, of writing, and of encountering other bloggers and writers along the way, that has allowed me to better understand my own thoughts, to enable newer and better thinking and writing. I've always known this to be true--that I needed to write in order to even know what I knew, in order to facilitate further writing and understanding. I've known this, but resisted it. I resist it still, still have the tendency to think I can comprehensively pre-assemble my thoughts on a matter, prior to beginning to write. Things have improved somewhat on that front, but I still struggle, just as I struggle with those basic writing necessities, space and time. This blog is still becoming, still emerging . With all the retroactively embarrassing or pointless posts and all the frustrations and unwritten entries, there are some pieces I'm fairly happy with, either as written items of their own or as suggestive pointers to future writing and thinking, and I've never felt the urge to quit. Thanks for reading along.

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