Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Trouble with Blogging

The trouble with blogging is that, at some point, you discover that you have become a blogger. As with many things, I knew this from the beginning but only on the level of language; in time, however, one begins to know the meaning of these words on a more experiential level and they acquire a different, somewhat more oppressive, weight.

So what does it mean to be a blogger?

It means that the momentum of one's blog becomes all-important. If one has nothing to say of unique import on a given day, there is always something or someone else to write about -- on the occasion of a news story, a birthday, an anniversary, a death, a centenary. The trouble with this approach, I find, is manifold: one begins to exist, as a writer, only to respond to each day's random stimuli; if you show a knack or compulsion for the art of eulogy, one's readers begin to expect a response to every new passing, to the extent where one risks being offensive when one overlooks someone, owing either to lack of passion or simply feeling "deathed-out"; and because of all this, the subject of death becomes even more inescapable than it is in one's daily life.

It means that, being a perfectionist, I am forever tweaking blogs that have already been posted. Because this material has already been made public, because it has already been read by hundreds, because it is now another day (if not another month), these belated reparations feel more compulsive and neurotic than the corrections I habitually make to any piece awaiting publication. This paragraph is, in fact, being added to a blog already posted a good 15-20 minutes ago. If you read it hot off the press, so to speak, you missed it... but here I am, adding it anyway -- for you, for posterity, mostly for me.

It means becoming interested in the art of blogging and the ongoing state of that art, which in turn means performing a frequent, if not daily, circuit of other bloggers' activities. Some blogs I admire for their reliability, others for their ideas, some for their kindred nature, and still others for being quite unlike anything I would do, but which I nevertheless admire for the obvious craft and skill with which they are written and the singular spirit that shines through them. (Sheila O'Malley's THE SHEILA VARIATIONS is a fine example of the latter.) I also frequent some blogs though my basic response to them is resentment -- pages that attract enormous daily attendance while giving people practically nothing of value.

Yes, since I began blogging, a lot of my day has suddenly become checking to see what a family of other bloggers are noting, discussing, or blog-a-thonning. Some of these I discover by tracing referrals, the pages from which my blog's visitors come to me. These sometimes take me to interesting blogs in many different languages, some of which link to essays I've written here, and sometimes to places that have reproduced my material in its entirety without my permission: a handy tool. Consequently, I'm reading more than ever, but on a computer screen, which -- like the television screen -- the writings of Wilhelm Reich and his disciples claim are composed of an evil, life-draining energy. Based on how I feel at the end of a day, I suspect these claims are well-founded.

It means checking GreenCine Daily several times a day to see if your latest blog essay has been deemed worthy of a mention, either in "Shorts" or in a topical paragraph of one's own. As one goes back again and again, gradually feeling the weight of the hat in one's hand, one coincidentally accumulates an absurdly long list of other blogs and online articles/essays/editorials that must be read. And it means spending an embarrassingly disproportionate amount of time wondering why one blog got the attention, while that marvelous blog one wrote about Raymond Queneau and Louis Malle's ZAZIE was dropped down a well so deep the splash has yet to be heard.

It also means contending with Blogger on a daily basis. I like to illustrate my blogs and hate it when I finish a blog but can't post it for hours because Blogger's "Add Image" feature is behaving uncooperatively. Many have been the times when a two hour blogging day has turned into a three or four hour one, simply because I want to add a picture. (I couldn't add the picture of Claude Jade I had hoped to use with my closing paragraph.) My time's more valuable than that, or should be.

In a nutshell, then: Blogging means overwork, neurosis, depression, radiation. Plus, as I've griped before, there's no money in it.

Balancing all of this on the opposite scale, of course, is the pleasure of sharing news or expressing oneself to a large number of interested people -- the pleasure of publishing -- instantaneously. This blog also attracts a healthy and dependable daily attendance, for which I'm grateful, though success adds in its own way to the pressure to produce. Last week, our Joe Dante Blog-A-Thon attracted the largest daily attendance Video WatchBlog has ever had: over 1,500 hits. (These Blog-A-Thon things really work. What I don't understand is where those extra 500+ visitors go when there's not a Blog-A-Thon on; another obstacle to sheep-counting at bedtime.)

All of this has been on my mind because I've been feeling the need of late to cut back on my blogging activities, if only to make some serious headway into that new Thomas Pynchon novel. And now, to help gently force the issue, the first of a couple of rather large projects I've invited is now before me, awaiting my complete and immediate engagement. The deadline I've been given is tight, so I expect to be blogging less over the next week or so. I've given you close to a thousand pages of material here to explore more closely in the meantime, so don't be a stranger.

And, yes, naturally, I am very saddened to hear of the passing of the sublime Claude Jade. In the 1980s, a local theater ran the entire Antoine Doinel cycle over four consecutive weeks, and I saw a new chapter each Friday in the late afternoon -- I still think it's the ideal way to approach the series, and it's impossible not to fall in love with Claude Jade during the process. In lieu of what I might have written on this occasion, I commend to you Joe Leydon's tribute at his MovingPictureBlog.

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