Andrew Sullivan of The Atlantic, a writer I admire, has written an ode to blogging that I like very much. Considering the fact that I’ve suffered from my first real bout of writer’s block over the past few days (thanks to a two-day trip to Rochester, NY, my work on a presentation about Web 2.0 technology, picking up a writing award in Manhattan, and a visit from my two college kids), reading Sullivan again has put me back on the right track.
Blogging is a solitary pursuit, and for me a pursuit that doesn’t pay the bills and attracts only a small (though loyal) audience. So occasionally, I run dry. But posting to my blog is constantly a thought that nags at me, reminds me that I’m still a writer. I might be getting older, I might be on a damned diet again, I might be finding excuses to avoid the gym, but my brain is still working. I want to learn, read and write.
Here’s what Sullivan says about blogging:
You end up writing about yourself, since you are a relatively fixed point in this constant interaction with the ideas and facts of the exterior world. And in this sense, the historic form closest to blogs is the diary. But with this difference: a diary is almost always a private matter. Its raw honesty, its dedication to marking life as it happens and remembering life as it was, makes it a terrestrial log. A few diaries are meant to be read by others, of course, just as correspondence could be—but usually posthumously, or as a way to compile facts for a more considered autobiographical rendering. But a blog, unlike a diary, is instantly public. It transforms this most personal and retrospective of forms into a painfully public and immediate one. It combines the confessional genre with the log form and exposes the author in a manner no author has ever been exposed before.
And when I’m feeling that this is so solitary a pursuit, I’ll try to remember how Sullivan describes the immediacy and companionship provided to a blogger by his readers, commenters and dissenters.
On my blog, my readers and I experienced 9/11 together, in real time. I can look back and see not just how I responded to the event, but how I responded to it at 3:47 that afternoon. And at 9:46 that night. There is a vividness to this immediacy that cannot be rivaled by print. The same goes for the 2000 recount, the Iraq War, the revelations of Abu Ghraib, the death of John Paul II, or any of the other history-making events of the past decade. There is simply no way to write about them in real time without revealing a huge amount about yourself. And the intimate bond this creates with readers is unlike the bond that the The Times, say, develops with its readers through the same events. Alone in front of a computer, at any moment, are two people: a blogger and a reader. The proximity is palpable, the moment human—whatever authority a blogger has is derived not from the institution he works for but from the humanness he conveys. This is writing with emotion not just under but always breaking through the surface. It renders a writer and a reader not just connected but linked in a visceral, personal way. The only term that really describes this is friendship. And it is a relatively new thing to write for thousands and thousands of friends.
The next time I run dry, I’ll return here for water.
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