Today I've been reading the Sunday papers and finding tidbits online. There's a random component to what I've selected to read in full—profiles, gossip, book reviews, blog entries, ads—yet I find there's also a purpose to it, beyond delaying getting dressed or walking the dogs.
"Casting a net" is the term you most often hear applied to what I seem to be doing. What actually comes to mind, though, is those dew-collectors the Fremen place around the desert plants in Frank Herbert's Dune.
I must admit to feeling like that parched desert planet, but it must be good that a watering program is underway.
blogged at Apartment Therapy
I first became aware of this site because I saw Maxwell on an episode of Mission Organization, a show I confess I'm addicted to. I was entertained by the designer's title, "apartment therapist" and Googled it, to see if it was in fact the name of a business. Which shows the power of a good name. The business and blog are centered on NYC, so I can't really take advantage of the local shopping tips (especially not after the move to Chicago, which is looming closer and closer), but I shall keep clicking by for the amusing design commentaries.
Combining "Work" and "Wild"
I'm plunging ahead with combining the old "worklog" TypePad-powered blog and my hand-rolled "Wild Keys" blog. I've started importing old posts from Wild Keys (I say importing, but with hand-rolled originals it's actually no more work to cut and paste and antedate things than it is to format the stuff in import format).
Well, there's probably a clever macro that could help me, but I haven't the time to work one out. For once, I'm glad I'm not prolific.
I've been tongue-tied and inarticulate of late. It seemed too dull to say, "I did my ten-minute exercise today," or "I changed client x's navbar from one with image replacements to one with subtle border styles."
TypePad satellite blog
TypePad is so enticing I decided to give the service a trial run. I've opened up a development log to record my progress as I write new material for my online workshops and design new sites for their delivery. I'm hoping to also prototype the materials for Dramatica Unbound in TypePad or some combination of Dreamweaver and TypePad. Anyway, the more technical/theoretical mutterings will probably shift over to the worklog, while Wild Keys will remain a personal log and writer's notebook. At least, "This the theory that I have, that is mine."
"Lisa Firke in Wallingford, Conn., highlights a quote blog called 'If...' This is the first I’ve seen of its kind, and the layout is novel as well."
True 'nough, and that site called 'Wild Keys' aint bad either.
Blogging the Line
If I'm not mistaken, among the various issues that might boil up in response to reading these two side by side, you will also find the following paradoxes of web writing, (which are, as it turns out, the paradoxes of all writing):
Say your piece. Link to what others have to say.
To thine own self be true. Only connect.
"Stacey A.", in her first-year teaching log for the college writing course, says:
I can't help but yet again feel pinned between Bernstein and Blood .... Blood says to write for yourself. Bernstein more or less says I need to be interesting, constructing rhetorical and social situations by creating effective links.
— entry for 5/15/03,
(quoted 5/16/03 by Bernstein)
Be yourself. Be interesting. Does some such dynamic pairing define a borderline between Bernstein and Blood, both influential personalities when it comes to the topic of web writing? Is this the uncomfortable rock and hard place where a fledgling web writer could get pinned?
Maybe. Except I don't see Scylla and Charybdis. To write at all you have to believe that you are interesting. Martha Graham puts it even more emphatically:
There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time this expression is unique.
And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost.
It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how valuable, nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours, clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.
I believe this. And yet, to write at all well, a writer also needs to follow the lead of John Gardner, who says, "[the writing] is about other people." It would be a poor world, artistically, culturally, politically, if artists didn't enter imaginatively into the experience of another.
What seems important is to be mindful of where the balance point might be between creation's rival hungers for privacy and for audience. Creation plainly craves both. Privacy argues against exposure, but hiding blunts authenticity. Audiences claim to crave authenticity, but everyone knows audiences are fickle.
Still, the audience likes a good story. The audience likes context.
Include the audience. But don't lose yourself.
The first paragraph of Bernstein's review of Blood's manual gives the lay of the land of blogs:
Tragedy tells us that our weblogs are the playthings of the Gods, subject to the whims of fate and fortune. Comedy promises that our weblogs can succeed through hard work, struggle, and good fortune. Melodrama warns us that there are bad people and evil forces in the world, and that only through courage and determination can our weblogs overcome their malignity. And Romance assures us that, though weblogs fail everywhere, our weblog will prosper because we, ourselves, are wonderful.
I love this. If you substitute something a little broader — 'endeavor' or 'work' — the passage opens out to encompass the entire existential dilemma of the artist. The four "genres" of the blog are not discrete states of being, they form a continuum of the artist's state of mind, by turns fatalistic, hopeful, fearful and self-involved. The balance point is always shifting, and with it, the artist's ability to look inward or outward.
Jill's post about Hiding behind a blog (itself a very poignant expose of a personal sorrow) has had enormous ripples. It's joined up with so many conversations, too many to reference here, but I've been interested in the ones about why people keep online notebooks, and what sort of assumptions we make (regarding fiction versus fact) when we read these. Shelley Powers over at Burningbird has a long post on this.
Jill's regular readers seem glad she told them; it gave them a chance to say they're sorry she's hurting. As for whether posting sideways about personal matters is a lie of omission, that's just plain silly. It's incredibly naive to assume that any of us refrain from lying, if not saying everything we think (being tactful?) is the criteria for truth. There shouldn't be a rule that you have to spill everything — nor one that says you can't interleave personal and professional voices. Jill's trying out a lot of new voices, and I like to think her readers have encouraged this lyrical one along with many others.
Getting back to Shelley — the Burningbird attracted my attention because one of her readers brings up a passage in Annie Dillard's A Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. Like Shelley's reader, I use Annie Dillard's words often in my teaching about strong writing. I've always loved the opening of Pilgrim:
I used to have a cat, an old fighting tom, who would jump through the open window by my bed in the middle of the night and land on my chest.... And some mornings I'd wake in daylight to find my body covered with paw prints in blood; I looked as though I'd been painted with roses.
I looked as though I'd been painted with roses. There's an image. I believe it. However, learning that Dillard "made up" this part about the cat doesn't faze me. Although it's enriched with a good deal of naturalistic data, Pilgrim isn't "about" the natural world — it's about what it felt like to spend time alone in the natural world.
My sister asked me a few days ago if I'm planning to polish and publish any of the pieces that appear here on Wild Keys. My answer at the time was, essentially, of course.
But I find myself rummaging through different aspects of the question. I don't take it as an oversight (the pieces have just been published — here they are) but as a statement about their worth: that, knowing me as the lifelong in-print aspirant that I am, Martha wonders if I intend to "do" with these things.
What indeed. Some are tiny slices of larger projects that might someday be print-published works. Some continue thoughts that were started in works that have already been print-published. Since publishing in the traditional sense is only partly within my control, my focus lately has been on everything but publishing. And as I get more and more connected on the web, I find myself caring less about the formality of publishing and more about participating in the larger conversation. I feel less fussed about the ownership of my words and more interested in what got me writing in the first place:
I want to get down (write/tell/show) what it (life/consciousness/dailiness) feels like.
...which looks to a mixture of the traditional amateur, performance, patronage, and commission forms of payment.
Both Mark and "How Does the Artist Get Paid?" author Dan Bricklin raise important issues, but instead of drawing conclusions I am reminded of "The Sabine Farm," a poem in Anthracite Country (which I rate as one of the best single volumes of poetry ever), by Jay Parini:
You spoke of Horace on his Sabine farm...
... Through confident, warm years,
with kingly patrons tending to his needs,
he dug the perfect furrows of his perfect odes.
I know a few of us would surely prize
that farm. ...
My friend, we follow in the Roman colter's
wake but in our own ways, not really farmers,
but poachers on the farm Maecenas granted.
....Caesars in their private jets
want nothing of us now. ...
I pay my debts, as you do, with a shrug
and turn to cultivate the ground, protected
by the barbed-wire fencing of our prose.
Unpatronized, we groom this inward land.
Apr. 15, 2003 — For those who like their TV/blog overlap with a more professional polish, check out the CBS show “Judging Amy,” which I understand from Lisa Firke is featuring a character with a Weblog. This is the first instance I know of a fictional TV character with a blog. Can Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks in “You’ve Got Blog!” be far off?"
Ubiquity of the blog
A significant subplot of last night's Judging Amy revolved around Donna's blog. My favorite entry was the one about how ants always fall over on the same side.
I was amused to see that blogs have found their way into primetime (which they may have before now, but this is the first time I noticed.)
When I googled to see if this factoid about ants was in fact true, I failed to find any specific reference, but I did discover that some people spend a lot more time thinking about ants than you'd expect:
Consider this entry at LitDotOrg.
One of the biggest blog cliches has to be the lament that "this is the most boring blog ever."
Well, tongue firmly in cheek, here it is:
the dullest blog in the world
Postscript: Best of the Trackbacks
Apr. 15, 2003 -- Weblog Central at MSNBC.com -- For those who like their TV/blog overlap with a more professional polish, check out the CBS show Judging Amy, which I understand from Lisa Firke is featuring a character with a Weblog. This is the first instance I know of a fictional TV character with a blog. Can Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks in "Youve Got Blog!" be far off?"