Sunday, September 12, 2004

Why write? Oh, right ...

Note to self: Writers who desire instant gratification, affirmation and public encouragement ought to take up stripping.

It's frequently asserted that blogging is a narcissist's game, and I will happily concede that there is an entire segment of the bloggosphere (... which in its entirety is arguably more an endorsement of the famed monkeys on typewriters verdict than Teilhard de Jardin's vision of a noosphere ...) that closely resembles communal, marginally literary wanking. Personally, though, I've been blogging for a number of years now in different venues, and in my experience there is nothing like a blog to rectify one's overinflated apprehensions of one's importance to the world at large and one's social acquaintances in particular: Frankly, no one's all that interested in reading the thoughts of his/her fellowman/woman. (There are a few notable exceptions -- amongst the anonymous ones, RealLivePreacher deserves a worshipful mention, as does a colleague in spirit of his. Others, whose links I don't have at my fingertips, are notable because they speak from positions of influence or expertise to a more or less well circumscribed set of readers.)

These bloggers distinguish themselves by a.) having something to say that people are interested in hearing, and b.) are for the most part excellent writers, with a deficiency in (a) being compensable through a particular strength in (b) and vice versa. After three years of blogging, from Kaernten to Kyoto, from L.A. to New Jersey, I'm ready to concede: I ain't got it -- either of them! (The short-fall on both counts is, I think, a kindness -- being a good writer with nothing to say or a person with an interesting story and no literary gift would undoubtedly be more frustrating and might actually deprive the public at large far more than being an average writer with nothing of interest to report.)

As such, blogs can function as testing grounds for potential literary endeavors. That obviously isn't always true -- plenty of folks are mentally sitting on wonderful novels but aren't suited to the literary small talk that's the essence of blogging. In my case, though, I suspect that if writing about international hijinx can't raise a readership, nothing will. Writing aims at eliciting a response -- good writings succeeds in doing so. That need not be an overt response, although I've personally, even quite recently, felt moved to write a note of appreciation to certain authors, but a writer who does not stimulate, does not engage the reader in dialogue (something blogs are especially suited for) likely has to ask herself some serious questions.

In my case, that question is -- why bother? Internet time especially when abroad (... and when not stranded, as I am at present, in a Hong Kong airport "cyber lounge"...) is expensive, both in terms of opportunity cost and in hard, cold dollars (yen, yuan, bhat, etc.) I keep a paper journal on me at all times and have filled a goodly number of daily pages with observations, reflections, ideas, conversations, experiences ... the pre-blog alternative to journaling clearly still works.

Ultimately, I think I value the couple of folks who do read this page occasionally, and appreciate having a typed record of some sort of this journey, especially since I type far faster than I write. To put to paper the lengthy dialogue between my housemates (... a group whose composition presents the perfect set-up of a joke: 2 hard-drinking Germans working for BMW, two Irish architects constructing a floating airport in Taiwan, an Italian girl run off to Japan to be with her internet boyfriend, an blonde, 5ft10, underage Russian who considers herself Japanese, a Canadian skaterboi, a French male model/actor, a Moscow mathematician living in Glasgow determined to prove the existence of God, etc. ...) would take several hours -- and a mere fraction thereof in type. Suffice to say, for now, though, it's been an interesting night of wrestling with the demons that befall a deeply spiritually discerning young woman whose religious background is confused, to put it mildly (... for starters, her Buddhist family was forced to receive Catholic-Christian baptism upon leaving the boats that brought them to Brazil ...)

How I wished I could have remembered those famous four spiritual laws or at least the Roman Road in the heat of the action! (... now there's a memorable confession! :D In the end, around 5:00a.m., I was reconciled to my obstinate distrust of evangelical shortcuts -- although I have no doubt that some of my esteemed colleagues could have done a far, far better job of talking spiritual shop. Suffice to say that God has a sense of humor, and there's probably hope of some kind for even the least winsome and most heretical of evangelists ;)


At September 12, 2004 at 1:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


You have fallen into the trap of ... "my blog's value is measured in how many responses I get". Fear not, we, the invisible masses, remain. We read, we ponder, we empathize... and for the most part, we do not respond. What drivel can I offer up in response to a day biking around Tokyo or having my underwear stolen by miscellaneous creeps?

Still, keep at it. Blogging is a virtuous endeavor, even on its own merits.


At September 12, 2004 at 9:08 AM, Blogger Ella Quint said...

You make me laugh! I fully understand the feelings of futility in writing and inadequacy in evangelism! And way to go, you have a good knowledge of George-speak! :) And yes, God does have a sense of humor. And yes, we are still here, as Arnold said. Yes, we do think about you while you're gone (I know those doubts too). Yes, some of us, even with the blog, will bombard you with questions when you return. Sadly, yes there are those for whom "out of sight, out of mind" is almost a creed, but yes, Maria, there is a Santa Claus. Or, at least an audience. ;) And perhaps a small but certainly committed circle of friends.

At September 12, 2004 at 10:11 AM, Blogger Paddy O. said...

"a.) having something to say that people are interested in hearing, and b.) are for the most part excellent writers, with a deficiency in (a) being compensable through a particular strength in (b) and vice versa."

Neither from what I can tell are necessarily what makes a person a writer. Quite uninteresting, poor writers have made millions of dollars over the years, while those who exemplify both languish in hidden cells, writing stirring words no one will ever read.

What makes a writer is sheer arrogant persistence, along with just enough interesting comments and writing ability that a reader doesn't get lost along the way. A writer who 'makes it' is quite possibly among the most arrogant of all individuals, because they are assured that their mundane thoughts and stories will be devoured by those who likely have similar thoughts and stories, but less gumption. They throw out words with the expectation their words are important, when 99% of the time they are not.

But that gumption makes others believe, that persistence hardens the writer to a world in which they may write profound thoughts that the world may never understand. And they don't care, for the words flow out in some cathartic response to a more often than not despised longing.

You have both a wonderful style and interesting things to say, so it seems to be a matter of gumption. Leaping out farther into the void will ease that worry. Beach the boats and burn them behind you, that's what I say.

Sometimes, we are significantly less interesting to ourselves than we are to others. The trick is trusting that when others say you are interesting to believe them and act like it's true.

A lot of popular writers aren't that interesting, only we think they are because others tell us so. McDonalds of writing... we like it because it's comfortable, and we know what to order without looking at the illuminated board.

Your thoughts and comments and experiences are wonderfully interesting, with your literary prowess a marvel, and more when one realizes English is not your native language.

Your journal, expanded, would make a delightful and unexpected travel novel. Most who write today write about the nice hotels, the typical tourist things. Yours is a new voice, and worth hearing on the subject.

Writing most of all has to be something which isn't done for any other reason than the demand of the soul within. My suspicion is your soul so demands, only your rational side argues against what seems to be an overwhelming task. To that I say 'screw it'... what has the rational mind ever given us which fills our being with peace and joy?

Write and let your soul be filled and renewed, and in doing so touch the lives of others who find their own measure of truth within your literary gaze.

At September 12, 2004 at 3:30 PM, Blogger Ella Quint said...

amen, patrick!

At September 15, 2004 at 10:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You claim you don't have anything interesting to say, but I don't believe you :P I've read hundreds of online journals and yours is the most interesting one I have come across. You have experiences of traveling the world and living in different places, which gives you a unique perspective. You also have a lot of insightful entries in your journal, like the entry you wrote about Mount Fuji. I thought it was cool how you related the theological ideas to the mountain.


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