There Is No Ending

I have what charitably could be called a love/hate relationship with blogging.  It’s well-documented on my previous blogs – usually in the first post like this one, so at least I’m a creature of habit – so I almost don’t feel like taking the time to tread familiar territory here.

And yet.

It always feels like the act of admitting my faults as a writer will somehow protect me from falling prey to them again.  It hasn’t worked yet, but hope springs eternal, right? So here it is (again), for better or worse (again), with an added twist: honesty.

First, the facts, for new readers: I’ve kept a blog in various incarnations for almost ten years.  My longest stretch was 2003-2006, when I (along with legions of adolescent girls) recorded my thoughts on LiveJournal.  When I returned to grad school I abandoned good ol’ LJ and picked up on Blogger (née Blogspot), which lasted for a few months.  Sometime after I got bored of that one I started up on WordPress, and I’ve been faithful to this platform ever since.  I’ve gone through at least three different iterations of the blog in the last five years, none lasting more than several months, although when I’m on, I’m on, posting one or two substantial pieces of writing daily.  I don’t pretend the work is of uniformly high quality, but I put in the time because I take the writing seriously.

So what’s the deal?  Why do I tire of it?  Why the lack of fidelity?  Why does my relationship with blogging resemble my relationships with women in college?

One answer is easy.  I run out of things to write about.  With only one recent exception – the death of my mom – I’ve tried to keep my personal life out of the blog.  Anyone who’s spent even a minimal amount of time poking around blogging sites knows the dubious quality of many personal blogs.  No one cares what I had for breakfast, what Harmony said on the bus this morning, or what the cute boy in Geometry was wearing today (for the record: oatmeal, One Direction is “dope,” and plaid).  Treating my life as anything special is self-indulgent silliness.  But without my own life to draw upon, that leaves me with the grist on which I typically fall back: the stuff that interests me.  But as much as it interests me, I soon tire of writing about music, movies, books, pop cultural ephemera, politics, and education.  There are only so many essays I can wring out of my love for Woody Allen or my hatred of the Common Core.  I get bored, as do my threes of readers, I’m sure.

So that’s one reason.  But the bigger reason – the uncomfortably honest reason – is this: I’m a thin-skinned writer, and I don’t function well when it feels like I’m mainly writing for the void.  I don’t need to hear that my writing is great, but I like to hear something.  As I said before, I take this seriously and I put in the time, but that investment starts to seem less and less worthwhile when it seems as though the only person reading my writing is me.  That, as much as anything, is why I run out of gas.  I know what I think about, say, the new stupid Common Core thing or that great movie everyone’s raving about or the latest idiocy from Fox News, but I’m not sure it’s worth the effort to put those thoughts in writing if there’s no ensuing dialogue from readers. Without readership, there’s nothing separating this blog from my old-school pen-and-paper journal … except that these posts take a helluva lot longer to write.

This feels a little icky for me to write because it sounds like I’m putting the blame on you, the reader.  Saying, in effect, “My writing is magnificent – now, comment!” And that’s not it, or at least that’s not it entirely.  Because I usually take the lack of comments to mean that my writing is horrible, beneath response, not worth the time it would take to tell me I suck.  It’s a neurotic little hamster wheel I find myself on whenever I start this thing up again, but I also know that it’s one of the best ways of holding myself accountable for writing regularly. But, in the interest of honesty, it’s also the truth. I’m a fan of instant gratification, but I teach and I write – two endeavors that are often done entirely on faith.

So here I am again, and I have a proposal.

This blog will likely contain the usual business: commentary on education, politics, and pop culture; reviews of films, music, and books; recommendations of whatever happens to be tickling my fancy at the time; infrequent forays into memoir and creative writing.

But.

If you’re good enough to leave a comment – good, bad, or otherwise – I’ll be good enough to take requests.  I don’t have something to say about everything, but if the content is lacking I’m happy to try something different.  It’s not truly collaborative, of course, but I’m trying.  And I’m all about customer service.

*****

Current listening:

Massive blue
Massive Attack – Blue Lines (1991)

Current reading:

Do androids
Philip K. Dick – Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968)

Graveyard
Neil Gaiman – The Graveyard Book (2008)

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9 thoughts on “There Is No Ending

  1. My blog gets comments on Tuesdays, so I write on Tuesdays. My audience is a bunch of teachers who share a slice of life weekly. The days I post late and get no comments are days that I, too, feel like I am writing for the void and that my writing sucks. By the way, your writing is magnificent, and here’s your “almost” instant gratification. I will add you to the “Blogs I Follow”, and I will try to comment. Hey, but don’t you worry about ever commenting on my blog that you say you sometimes read.

    • Haha. Touché. But yeah – I’m my own worst enemy on this stuff. Seth Godin recently wrote a really, really good post on his own blog about how the more you post, “the stakes for each thing you write go down.” He compares it to reading Gary Larson’s collection of Far Side cartoons: not everything he created was brilliant, but enough of it was that he made his mark, and it’s the brilliant ones people remember. Blogging is similar, he says: “You don’t launch a popular blog, you build one.”

      My problem (one of many) is that I haven’t gotten to that low-stakes point yet. I still put way too much pressure on each individual post, and I need to get past that and remember that the reward is in the writing and in creating a body of work.

    • I’m only a few chapters in, but so far there’s not much similarity at all … aside from the basic premise of an android bounty hunter. This is (surprisingly?) my first experience with Philip K. Dick, and the jury’s still out.

  2. Your blog post about your mom was so beautiful and powerful. I know it’s uncomfortable to put personal information out there, but I find it to be the most captivating. If you ever decide to open yourself up again, I would love to read about your experiences (positive and negative) from your days teaching HS. It would be awesome to get some inspiration or some commiseration or just have a good laugh. I feel that there are very few teachers writing honestly about what really goes on in the HS setting. Just a thought. SO glad you’re writing again!

    • Thanks, Cassie! It’s not so much that it’s uncomfortable to write personally (although it can be that, too) – it’s that personal writing can get awfully self-indulgent and be of little interest to anyone but the writer. I’m trying to be more mindful of what I tell my students: it’s not WHAT you write, it’s HOW you write about it. I’m an object lesson in “do as I say, not as I do.”

  3. I’ve felt similarly about blogging in the past. Twitter does seem like a good venue for getting your stuff to an audience.

    A mentor once told me not to get down on yourself when you haven’t written in a while, that we should go easy on ourselves so we can pick it up again without guilt or judgment. I liked that.

    • I like that, too, Darren. Unfortunately, I live in a perpetual state of guilt which is only relieved by healthy draughts of wine.

      So, wait. Maybe I’m a writer, after all.

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