Today as I sat at the Farmer’s Market with my teens, I was thinking about my blog and how I had inadvertently muddled up the HMTL so that for a while there clicking any internal link (like the linkwithin widget,anything on the sidebar or the “Next” button at the bottom of the page) would simply redirect you to the homepage.
I had no idea why, and, coincidentally, no idea how to fix it. As I was ruminating, I was also feeling antsy. I was worried about people coming to the site and not being able to navigate around and, how would you read fascinating stories about a 27 year old married woman and her obsessive habits and giant dog and illiterate husband then?
And then, of course, I started wondering why I am doing this. Why any of us in the blogging “community” are doing this. We are cumulatively logging countless millions of hours writing a shared history, a sort of record of existence…and for who, exactly? And for why?
And, of equal importance, what does it do when you begin to feel yourself under daily pressure to manufacture content – does it change the way you perceive the world? Does it change the way you interact, experience daily events and relationships? What does it do to be constantly looking for an anecdote or mentally editing a post about an experience, even as you’re living it?
I read a book a while ago by Elizabeth Gilbert, it was called Eat, Pray, Love (just a small book, but perhaps you’ve heard of it?) and I thought the story was decently interesting, if a little self-involved. Once I closed its covers I didn’t give it much more thought until a short time later when I happened across an article which disclosed that the entire trip – the pasta-eating romp through Italy, the introspective stay in India and the headboard thumping nights in Indonesia- all of it was paid for in advance by the publisher in exchange for a book deal.
To some, this isn’t surprising, nor is it relevant. How else would someone afford to go on a year long trip? Isn’t the experience still valid regardless of the source funding? What’s the problem? Well for me, as a writer, there is a HUGE problem.
A few, in fact.
First of all I would argue that her entire experience, every observation, conversation and decision, was affected by this arrangement – irrevocably coloured by the knowledge that at the end of her 12 month jaunt, Ms. Gilbert had to churn out a book.
And wait, back up, even the ability to TAKE such a trip – who hasn’t thought about this? Who HASN’T wanted, at times, to run away from your life, to flee and escape and attempt to become something, someONE, different?
The fact that she was able to changes things immediately. There’s no risk, when the money you’re spending isn’t your own. There exists a huge safety net, a golden parachute and with it, the comforting knowledge that even if the year is a bust you’re not really wasting time, because you can work that bust, the heartache and desolation, into a narrative. You will have still produced as it were.
It’s the difference between living and researching and I would argue that Eat, Pray, Love falls into the latter.
Having said that, is blogging the same? Obviously bloggers are – for the most part- unpaid, but nevertheless, do our lives change when we start recording it, offering it up for public consumption?
Is blogging just reproducing the Hawthorne Effect on a grand scale? We know that people change their behaviour when they know they are being observed, does this old true even if WE are the observers?
And what does this mean for the generation I work with, the teens who have grown up with digital cameras and Facebook and the knowledge that they are being documented, tagged, checked-in and identified at virtually every stage of their lives? What does it mean to make so much of private life, public?
Reality shows are a great example of this. For some reasons TV cameras function somewhat like alcohol – start rolling and people become strange, exaggerated versions of themselves, saying and doing things which would be unthinkable in a private setting, without an audience.
I can’t deny that this happens to me. I try and keep a fairly regular schedule and write every morning. I have noticed that as I prepare my coffee or take a shower I’m flipping though ideas in my head. I’m writing and re-writing, turning phrases and honing thoughts, reworking and fine tuning things until I can sit here, hands aloft and tap out something worthy.
And why? I have no idea. I’ve explored this idea here, and will probably continue to do so because this question is asked of me nearly every time my blog arises in conversation. Perhaps unfairly, I usually infer the unsaid rest, “Do you really think yourself so interesting? So unique?”.
“I like to write” I usually offer, simply. Somewhat lamely, “So I do.”
It seems to me that the problem with
diariesblogs, and the reason that most of them are so boring, is that every day we vacillate between examining our hangnails and speculating on cosmic order.
-Ann Beattie, Picturing Will, 1989