To Blog or Not to Blog
I have been blogging now for almost two and a half years. As a writer, I wasn’t sure about this thing called a “blog” (short for “web log,” something like an online diary) and I’m still not sure. It’s really no different from a weekly column but my editor urged me not to make it like my Mary’s Farm essays — just jot down something quick, he recommended. That was harder than one might think. It reminded me of when they cut the maximum number of words in my column from 750 to 550. I believe it was Blaise Pascale who said, “I would have written you a shorter letter but I didn’t have time.”* Crafting a certain number of words into a fixed space can be challenging — that is, if you want your words to make sense and have resonance. But blogging freed me of that — the online format allows for a seemingly unlimited number of words. But then, I’m told, people don’t want to read anything very long. Not online, anyway. Hmmm, what could that mean for the future of e-books? While all these considerations were emerging, I kept on blogging, just about things that were happening here, on this particular place known to locals as Mary’s Farm but which has been mine for some thirteen years now. A lot has happened during my tenancy here.
Even as I wrote, I kept wondering what constituted a blog. How was it different from an essay? I’m still not sure I know. I occasionally read other blogs but I confess I’m not a big blog fan. I don’t read much online. That is a personal choice, even though I accept that the future of all reading lies online. I like a book in my hand but more and more, the delivery system for those words is and will be electronic. Many advantages! Save paper. Save money. Conserve landfill space. Sounds like perfect Yankee frugality to me. But, alas, I love the tactile experience of the printed word, the feel and smell of the paper and of the ink — even though I’m now a blogger, an intimate member of the electronic world. Sometimes not everything makes sense.
And then there was the issue of what is appropriate to blog about. It’s supposed to be about all the little seemingly insignificant things that happen. I like nature — I’m surrounded by it and experience some fantastic shows of blizzards, shooting stars, northern lights, lightning storms, and rainbows. All that seems appropriate for my blog. And I like to cook, I just discovered a great new recipe last night for butternut squash lasagna, a recipe I might share. That also seems like a natural. But then there are other things that concern me. The political paralysis this nation is experiencing. I probably ought not to get into politics, good way to make enemies. Recently, I experienced a recurrence of Lyme Disease which has been painful and distressing. Do I write about that on my blog? Probably not appropriate, if for no other reason than that once I get onto the topic of Lyme Disease, I find it hard to stop. So I would limit my words to telling about my extreme discomfort and my disappointment that it has returned, which is the real reason I have not been blogging very often recently.
But the best part about blogging is its lightning speed. This is a phenomenon of the electronic age. In the past, writing magazine articles or essays, one sets to work on a piece and labors over the facts, the words, the phrases, everything that makes up a good piece of writing. Sometimes the entire process takes months and then there is even more of a time lag while the printing takes place. Between the time I write what I write and the time readers read what I wrote, sometimes as much as a year can go by. Then people respond. It’s somehow a muted experience, to have a reaction so far removed from when I was so deeply involved in the subject. Thinking about it now, that system seems almost medieval. With the blog, I write it and post it. Done. With few exceptions, I write a blog, read it over for any grammatical or spelling errors and then post on the website from here inside my farmhouse. That in itself is revolutionary. No editors see it. No proofreaders comb it for mistakes. No fact checkers sniff around for errors or contradictions in fact. Out it goes, completely unfiltered. And then, sometimes in the same day, readers respond. This is what is exciting about a blog. It becomes more of a conversation, an exchange of thoughts and ideas. It’s alive. I love that immediacy. I think I’ll keep blogging. Maybe someday I’ll actually get used to reading online.
*I always thought that Mark Twain had said that but I just went on Google and found that both Twain and TS Eliot are sometimes given credit for those words but instead it was Pascale. So easy now to find out practically anything — score another one for the revolution!