Thursday, March 06, 2008

Writers' Negative Space

Occasionally I get comments about my blog's tag line (over there to the right: "Pretending to write but really just blogging."). Or I get comments from people who don't read the blog (because who has the time, really?) but know that I say I blog but I don't write. My lunch companion from yesterday sent me an e-mail in the evening: "...someone "who doesn't write, but only blogs"? Just finished "The Genius of Montaigne" from the 2/14/08 copy of NYRB. It's been decades since I've even glanced at the Essais, but it really sounds like what he was doing was, essentially, blogging!"

Another friend told me that she was reading a book by Scott Adams that he really just collected from his blog entries. (From Publisher's Weekly: " Adams builds his latest book (after 2004's The Religion War) out of entries from his blog, which results in a lot of short chapters and abrupt changes in topic.") She was suggested I make a book therefore from the sea of words washing around the Internet ether.

My point? [Ed. Note: You are a blogger not a writer so a point is not really essential. But do go on.]

What is blogging? What constitutes blogging? Can a sixteenth century essayist be said to be doing it? How about Pepys? And, more importantly, what is writing? When are we doing it? And, of course, when is it worthwhile?

I enjoy my morning typing. I place a picture on Austin Daily Photo. (Ah, the demands of my life. Every day. A darn photo is required from within the rough boundaries of Austin, Texas.) I can't resist adding words to picture. Then I sometimes type here. But is it writing? (Particularly when I have about seven readers.) Would it be better to be published on paper or associated with Montaigne?

People are desperate at times to have their words on paper. Preferably acid-free but anything semi-permanent will do. Memoirs are popular now and blogging is, mostly, writing what is true for the author in the moment. Supposedly. Of course, we have created such a demand for memoirs that people are making them up. James Frey was excoriated for exaggeration and playing loose with the apparently more or less true shape of his life. Now Margaret Seltzer has been exposed for making up a foster child/gang involvement story out of whole cloth. You know, I read the original NY Times story about this book and thought to myself that it sounded false. If I'd read it online I would have sniffed it right out, I think.

I don't think I would ever write a memoir. In fact, an uneasy feeling about what is true has stopped a lot of my unwritten fiction in its tracks. Someone I have read online for years has written a book and is in fact having a book tour event here in Austin on Sunday. I think Rob has had thousands of readers online, off and on. I read the book. I learned a few new things about Rob. But I didn't doubt the truth of any of it. Because keeping up a coherent story for a long time online is nearly impossible. And, of course, I've seen him and his family in person. And thousands of pictures. So the snooty editors and publishers and agents of the world would do well to take note that one way to be a little sure of the truth is to publish a blogger! Not that you can't be online and have secrets. But it's hard to tell a consistent lie over a long period of time. Think how hard it is to make a novel consistent. Then try to add little random bits on the fly without much time for editing.

The photo (of my reflection in mirrors in a the window of Uncommon Objects) is one of the few taken in this location that actually reveals that the shape across the street is a church. I used it because I wanted to show the ephemeral nature of truth and words for this Montaigne-like essay! Just kidding.

Stay tuned because I got another idea for writing an 'essay' here from my lunch date yesterday. A continuation of the title "Writer's Negative Space" we will explore creativity and the lack of senses. Or not. This is just a blog. You can't hold me to anything.

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