A friend of mine likes to point out, whenever he gets the chance, that blogging is a total waste of time. That friend, in case you’re curious, is Zipper Boy and I’m going to continue to keep his identity secret because he is still dating Zipper Girl might get back together with Zipper Girl.
He likes to send me links to stories in the Washington Post or the NY Times that illustrate why blogging is profoundly meaningless. Fruitless. A few days ago he shared with me this link to a story titled, “Blogs Falling in an Empty Forest.”
Zipper Boy once posted this image to my Facebook wall. Perhaps you’re familiar with motivational slogans from Despair, Inc. Zipper Boy loves these posters/calendars/T shirts/various defeatist keepsakes. I like the red mesa in the picture.
Since I have a relatively thick skin about these things, I usually take Zipper’s digs in stride, choosing instead to respond sarcastically to sarcasm with sarcasm. It’s a cerebral pissing contest that I briefly gave up for Lent.
But today I feel compelled to articulate why it is I blog Lance, not necessarily for Zipper Boy, who rarely visits this website and who confessed at lunch last Friday that he wants to start (of all things) a blog, but for myself and for other bloggers who might feel the same way.
I’m a ravenous and compulsive writer who kept a diary from ages 10 to 21. The diaries of course were private, as diaries are wont to be. However, every few entries I’d get a bug up my ass, and grow particularly fond of something I’d written and share it with my mother or my sisters.
As I opened the spiral notebook, covered in song lyrics torn from cassette tapes and stickers cranked out of gum ball machines, I knew I was breaking a diary oath regarded sacred by teenage girls for centuries. Who reads their diaries out loud to their mother? Who nags their sisters to sit still and suppress their gag reflexes during the melodramatic reading of a love poem, in which puppy love is compared to the flicker of a slow-burning candle?
Aspiring novelists perhaps.
But blogging is an entirely different beast, namely and obviously because it’s public – but also because it’s complicated. After spending the weekend redesigning the Lance I know now how complicated it can be. Forget the fact that you can upload photos and videos, link to other sites and tag entries. You can also manipulate design. I never thought I’d hack into HTML code, replace chunks of </?php and =_”top” with other </?php = _”top” gobblygook.
The art of keeping a diary has gotten so sophisticated that many fervent journal-keepers scoff at the hobby. They say it’s trendy. Rooted in fickle self-interest and unchecked hubris, penned by people suffering from delusions of grandeur who are on a quest to parlay their tedious monotonous existences into memoirs, reality TV shows, movie deals, or higher Facebook friend counts.
Much to the chagrin of TMZ, overexposing celebrities is becoming passé. A new brand of celebrity has risen: ordinary people overexposing themselves online. But who am I, a blogger, to criticize other bloggers? After all, I view the pastime entirely different now. Sort of.
I started this post to explain to my brain why I shouldn’t quit the Lance, why I should keep on truckin’ even though I’m convinced it’s distracting me from writing a novel.
I blog because I live far away from where I came from. Because my friends and family back in Western New York are curious about what I’ve been up to since I packed my life into an ‘87 Honda Civic and drove the Tennessee-Kentucky route to Florida. Because I miss these people and these people miss me. Because in some faraway text-based way my family and friends can connect with me through the Lance. Mostly, I blog for my mother, who reads every single one of these posts and whom I miss so much it hurts my heart just to type it. Some bloggers fear that their blogs will only be read by their mothers. I can only hope for so much.
I love writing so much that when I don’t do it, I get melancholy and morose, pent-up in ways only those suffering from constipation can relate. Writing for an audience keeps me on my toes, keeps me humbled, and this goes for newspaper writing as well. At least once a month I get an email from a retired copy editor on Longboat Key, who chides me repeatedly for my sloppy grammar. The last email I received was a full-blown lecture on my use of the word “shoe-in.” (Fyi: It’s shoo in and it’s an archaic term used to describe the perceived winner in a race, a word lazy journalists abuse on a regular basis.)
I blog because I work from home and miss interacting with coworkers. I’m a social bee. I love people. I love yakking and I love making people laugh. At every job I’ve ever had, I’ve been reprimanded for talking too much and being too loud and causing such a ruckus in the office that people fail to get their work done. I am an efficiency disease.
Blogging has kept me social from 9 to 5 on a weekday, when I’m sitting in my little home office with the pug sawing logs at my feet. Blogging has introduced me to awesome and lovely ladies. I say ladies because for the most part, I’ve befriended women via blogging (minus Jack from Delilah + Jack, the lovable and adventurous Canadian couple currently backpacking through Eastern Europe.)
There’s Tabitha, a loyal commenter whom I recently mailed a cloth book cover to so she can properly conceal her chick lit-reading material on the DC subways. She said she was afraid snooty political whores might judge her for poring over Confessions of a Shopaholic, so she started wrapping the covers of her books in gift wrap.
There’s Jill from Modern Mommy Blog, who once devoted an entire post to plugging my Lance, who has a little girl named Eva and an impressive appetite for politics. It’s because of Jill that I started using organic household cleaners and learned that Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer didn’t see the harm in a 13-year-old girl getting strip-searched at school.
And then there’s Sara and Mirella, hysterical girls with enviable funny bones. Every so often Sara drops me an email that causes me to whiz in my pants. The first time I read her blog I saw that she had posted a picture of a cake shaped like two tits. The boob cake immediately held my fruit-fly-attention span as my mom baked many boob cakes for deserving men (and women) when I was growing up. Sara and I have so much in common we send each other serendipitous you’ve-got-to-be-fucking-kidding-me vibes over the Internet.
My Lance readers have filled the coworker-void. When Joe talks about his day at the office, I brief him on the status of Sarah Schlothan Christensen’s amniotic sac.
Admittedly, I don’t read a lot of blogs. Many bloggers read dozens of blogs a day, leaving thoughtful comments that in turn garner a devoted readership with similar commenting habits. During the first six months of this blog’s existence, I didn’t read a single blog. I didn’t even know what Dooce was, other than something you drop in a toilet.
As a result, I can list and describe all my readers in three paragraphs, which is OK.
I blog because my sister’s best friend Carrie relates to my posts. Because she’s 22 and at a point in her life when growing pains start to really hurt, and breakups start to really suck, and friends start to move away and life starts to get big and serious. I blog because every time I revisit an old post, I’m revisiting old emotions and familiar reactions. I blog because I forget a lot. I blog because keeping a diary, public or otherwise, serves me well. It’s interesting how much and how little my perspective changes.
I don’t blog to make money or to pad my resumé. I don’t blog to air daily minutia or personal details. I save that for my mother and Ro.
Every time I start a post I aim to find the white space between what someone might like to read and what I might like to write. Every writer I know aims to do that space justice, and in that respect blogging is the ultimate exercise in writing. I treat this thing with the same discipline I treat paying stories, a tendency that has its pluses and minuses. No matter what, I find comfort in the fact that I can be more crass. More indulgent. More introspective. More ridiculous.
Blogging has taught me the art of self-discipline and forced me to pursue other things that require self-discipline. I created Lance to occupy my time while Joe was asleep and to develop a rhythm I hoped would carry over into novel-writing, which leads me to where I’m at right now, fresh from yoga class, staring at a fortune I pulled from a cookie 10 years ago, remembering how stoked I was to have picked a cookie with this prophecy: ”You are a lover of words. Someday you will write a book.”
Fortune cookies. Damn them for being so positive.
I promise I wont quit Lance, if you promise to read my book even if it is self-published and held together with binder clips.
Also, I hope you like the new site! I thought it was time for an upgrade.
PS. Top photo by Fenchurch. For her Flickr photostream click here.