Friday, June 24, 2005

Hey Googlebug!

Got to get on Google. Hey Googlebug, wheet-wheeeet. Over here! Good boy, nice boy. Suuuuwweeeeeeee! Where are you, Googlebug ole pal ole buddy? Got on Yahoo, so why not you? You da man! Aw c'mon, G., I bin good. Feed me, feed me already.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Gee, maybe I should have called this blog "write across the table" instead of "write to say it." I wanted the name to have something about writing in it, because that's mainly what I wanted it to be about. (The first name I tried, "just about write," which I thought was devilish clever, backfired when I tried to access that url and it returned an x-rated site.)

With no readers now for three days and counting, I'm getting a little discouraged, but not much. I read somewhere that even the most popular blogs seldom last more than two years. And I remember that the reason I started doing it was for the fun of the writing itself. I haven't much control over who reads it, but I can control what I post. I can't control when the post engines crawl it, but I can control how much I post. I can't control whether others link to it, but I can control the content and have fun trying different personnas and genres online. All in all, I'm grateful for the space and the chance to experiment. It's an ego-boosting and a humbling experience at the same time.

The diary without the little lock

Remember those padded-cover teen diaries with the little foldover flap that locked with a key? Maybe they still sell them. I never used one, so I don't know. But those locks were laughable--not even daunting enough to keep out a determined little brother or sister, let alone Mom.

What struck me about them, though, was what that flimsy little lock said: "Private! Not to be read without expressed permission by anyone, and that includes you, Mom!"

But why write a diary just for yourself--or a journal, if there's any real difference? Are there any advantages to writing just to yourself as opposed to writing for others to read? Yes, I think there are. For one thing, it's much easier. Like lounging in your pajamas and slippers, you're completely at ease about what you set down, even if it's peckish, overly dramatic, vitriolic, immature, ungrammatical, misspelled, incoherent, rambling, overstated, stupid, childish, or any other characterization you'd use to describe it, because you can be completely candid. No one will read it but you (if you trust in the efficacy of that little lock, that is). You can truly be yourself.

There's no one to argue with what you say, no comments to consider, no editors to impress, no censorship or libel laws to observe, no toes to worry about stepping on. Your subject matter can be whatever you wish, but it's usually about yourself and your day. Who said what, how they said it, what happened and how it made you feel, and what you might do if it keeps on going the way it seems to be headed. No one will hear you.

You can snicker and curse, confess everything, cry your heart out and laugh till you split your ribs, and nothing bad will happen. The little lock keeps it all inside, tucked away from prying eyes and cruel minds who might take advantage of you or hurt you if they heard the outpourings of your heart.

Further, if you become regular enough in writing privately, you may develop a great sense of freedom, ease, fluency and joy from doing it. You never need to worry about what to say or how to say it; since it won't be read or published anyway, there's no need to edit or revise at all. If you say things you decide you don't mean, no matter; you can chalk it up to your changing moods and go on. Eventually you will probably get to what you really meant about something because it seems to resonate differently as you write it. It seems more true.

So a diary or journal can give you moments of epiphany. You can use it to reflect upon things that happen and better understand what you experience.

In my own experience, journal entries usually began sounding the way I thought I believed or felt about something, but often felt more false as I went on. And in several paragraphs or pages, there would be something I'd notice. "That's not right, that's not accurate, that's not the way it really is," I'd think. And I would dig down a little deeper, strip away the rationalizing and ego props, and reverse my direction. It was as ridiculous to lie to my journal as to try to lie in prayer; who would I be kidding, anyway?

Therefore, I still believe that personal, private writing does have advantages. But it has disadvantages also. I earlier noted here how my journal effectively sealed off my writing for publication, stifled my manuscript writing completely for many years. After a time I lost all interest in trying to write for others to read.

And I also didn't realize that by writing solely for my own reflection for so long, I had lost my "public" voice. What used to be done with conversational ease became a traumatic experience when I first tried to put my thoughts into words even for this blog. I found I had stage fright. I was suddenly aware, My God, someone else might actually read this! For the first time in ages, I felt the need to edit, to revise. I had to force myself to get through that first post (June 12). My mind was filled with imaginary readers.

I didn't know then that it doesn't really happen that way with blogs. Unless you really promote them and play games with link-swapping and spider-baiting, there's no vast readership out there just waiting to pounce on your vulnerability. People have their own concerns and in most cases couldn't care less what a newbie might stammer out. My first week I got 95 hits, but only nine legitimate visits (the other 86 were me, checking and playing with posts and settings).

Those nine visitors all came on June 21 for some strange reason. Maybe I had a popular blog ahead of mine, and rode that writer's coattails onto mine, since they all came from my fellow bloggers at this host site. At least that's what I suspect.

What I noticed most about the difference between writing a "journal" online and writing my longhand journal to myself, however, wasn't only that I lost my fluency and natural ease and have to gradually find my public "voice," but was rather that my content changed drastically. I felt I had no reason to voice things I scribbled unabashed to myself longhand, and really private thoughts, whatever those are, had little place here. No, I decided, I wanted to behave myself more in public, however few that public may be. And I didn't want to bore others with either personal war stories or whines and tattletales. I'll keep those in my "locked" journal, to myself.

No matter what the blogsites' signup pages say about a blog being "anything you want it to be, whatever you want to say, however you want to say it," blah blah blah, I don't think I'll ever write here with the abandon of my journal. How could I? It's not "locked" against being read by others. I suppose I could lock out others and make it completely inaccessible, but what's the point of that? I already have that venue.

So even though I call this an online journal, I don't expect it to replace my private one. What I think I would like to say in this blog are things I'd like to say across the table at lunch with my friends, in as informal and conversational way as there. It can be my "diary without the little lock."

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Writing lets you see around corners.

why is a fire engine painted red?

I don't remember who taught me this, but they said I had to say it in one breath (I still can):

"Why is a fire engine painted red?"
"I give up. Why?"

(Take one deep breath) "Because a fire engine has four wheels. Sometimes it goes around the corner on three. Three times four is twelve. There's twelve inches in a ruler. Queen Victoria was a ruler. She ruled the Seven Seas. Seas have fish. Fish have fins. The Finns are always fighting the Russians. Russians are red. And the fire truck's always rushin' to the fire!" (Don't forget to inhale!)

Can you do it?

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Though blogging may have the staying power of silly putty, it feels palpable enough. And it's so easy to begin and add to that it has been exploding at bytespeed. Apparently anyone and almost everyone can do it, and it should come as no surprise what has happened as a result:

With a hot new venue accessible with a few keystrokes, the prepubescent crazies who took over the chat rooms with their emoticons and smileys a few years ago and the personal voyeur camsites that mushroomed shortly afterward have rediscovered the power of the written word and flooded into the big room with newfound literacy. And of course the political fringies have poured in to spew their extremes, the writer wannabes have finally found a guaranteed publisher with no rejection slips, and the sensitive souls have found a sympathetic shoulder for their soft simperings. All the tribal interests have gotten the message: the blogosphere is now where it's at.

In other words, whatever we were doing before blogs, chances are we are still doing. Nothing has changed; we just have a new way to be the way we were, the way we are, the way we may want to be.

It's a big room, a wondrous room of many voices. In time some clear ones may emerge above the general din, but I love the diversity of the din itself, the democracy of it, the freedom to choose whom to read, comment to, subscribe to or ignore, no matter who they are or what their background may be. It may be very close to the ideal of free speech envisioned in the Constitution.

And speaking of freedom to say what we think, thank the founding fathers' deistic gods for that first amendment! What might they think of this "blogosphere" we've made, with everyone talking at once yet the chance for an individual voice to be discerned? without interruption, without censorship, by any who want to? It is truly amazing.

If ever young students needed a further incentive to learn good writing skills, this blogging thing might be it. It is so empowering--the modern equivalent of the trusty "equalizer" of the Old West. It makes everyone the same size.

what a world, what a world

"What a world, what a world," Grandmother used to sigh when she sat in her chair in the living room, looking out the French doors.

I always laughed. "Grandma, you can only see about ten feet either way on the street! It's not exactly the whole world." Once in a while a truck from the stoplight on Jefferson Street would lumber by grinding through its gears, or someone would pass by on the sidewalk, heading downtown. That was the big action. Otherwise it was a still tableau: the street lights, the maple tree, the building across the street, and the filtered play of light and shadows coming through the sheer curtains. The "world" was only perhaps ten or fifteen yards across and a few yards high.

But it was a world, you see; it was her whole world, her window on reality. Oh sure, we had radio and television, a phone and the newspaper. But those are electronics and technology, second-hand information.

The fact is, as human beings we can't get a very big picture of reality directly in our lifetimes, and we probably couldn't handle it if we could. Our minds have only our senses to tell us what's out there. The rest we have to infer, learn from secondhand sources, remember or imagine. And no matter how much we stuff into our puny brains, it's a small slice of the What Is pie.

So we cast our lines into the vastness and turbulence, experiencing, wondering, imagining, remembering, trying to get a feel for the edges of it and the depth of it somehow, and make some sense of it and try to understand it. But we can't. We're not biologically equipped to be omniscient or omnipresent, despite having ever-more-wondrous tech toys to extend our view and range.

There's a reason for these human limits, I suspect. To bear the burden of all experience would kill us. For one mind to know everything would be impossible. To feel the weight of all suffering would crush us. To feel the rapture of all happiness would fry our circuits. Writers--especially poets--welcome the ride, eager to intensify the soul's boundaries to the breaking point. But for most of us, we learn to sense our limits and respect them. We stake out boundaries and make choices.

We put together a reality we can handle, a life that feels right to us, a view of the world that resonates for us as reasonable given our capacities and preferences. It's not Reality, it's just our reality. Our world becomes the one we know best, and what a world it can be!

Can't Help It

I got my crawl from Inktomi;
Now anyone can Linktomi.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Star light, star bright,
First star I see tonight,
I sorta wish another might
Read the blog I write tonight.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

You find yourself on a dark stage, groping around the curtain, then you step through. Suddenly you're blinded by the glare of a spotlight, blinded to everything except the microphone in front of you. You shield your eyes against the bright fog of light, and hear them. They are out there beyond the footlights, many of them, perhaps hundreds--thousands. They're not exactly waiting for you; there's a lot of chatter, laughing and shouting and general din. But you're in the spotlight; you have the microphone; you can be heard by anyone who tries to listen. You get up your nerve and begin speaking.

Then you hit publish, view your blog in a new window, and rush to your Profile for confirmation. But next to your blog name you still see "recent posts: n/a" and "total posts: n/a," and realize once again that the microphone was unplugged, as it has been since you began this blog a week ago.

Well, happy birthday. I look forward to seeing the postings "automatically update," as the known issues states will happen when the server has a chance to stabilize.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Not Much about "When"

Everybody tells you what. Most also add who and where. Some add how, and a few explain why. But of the journalist's whatwhenwherewhowhyhow basic information principle, I suspect that when gets by far the shortest shrift.

The hosts of this blogsite, bless their hearts, have noted in their help screens that this blog, like any web page, will be searched by Google and other search engines (unless I change the preference settings). When I began June 12, I naively assumed that such search would happen in something less than geological time. After all, this site is Google's blogging site. But no one promised when the googlebug would crawl my site.

A bit of surfing enlightened me about my chances of being read by humans anytime soon: not too good. The hosts tried to provide readers from fellow blogspot bloggers with their profiles. There, the idea is that by listing your interests, you will be listed with others who have listed an identical interest, and with a little logic you can pull up their blogs also.
Since there doesn't seem to be a list of blogs on blogspot, that seems to be the only way to find anyone else's ideas. (I could be wrong about this; please forgive my newbieness and enlighten me if I am.)

But though a new blog on blogspot is available in minutes, chances are it won't be read for some time. It seems like having set up a lemonade stand in the middle of the desert. Even if the lemonade is good, it could be awhile before the parking lot is full. The googlebug hasn't crawled this way as of this post, to my knowledge, either automatically or by my request directly.

In fairness, I've looked up a few blogs by date of their postings and notice that eventually the engines do get around to it. It's just a matter of not knowing when, and no one suggesting how long it might take. A few have said that some sites are never listed at all. I guess it isn't as automatic as the help menus suggest.

I got an automatic reply from Google that suggested I was basically impatient, and could speed up the chances of the spider visit by getting my blog linked on more sites and by making it more interesting. Hmm. Thanks for your personalized critique, O Great Wizard, and never mind the man behind the curtain. I'm learning: automatic replies on the internet are very courteous and prompt, instantaneous, in fact--and can afford to be. There's nothing behind them. No one minding the store.

But I really can't complain about my costs so far in this experiment of writing whatever I want online. True to Blogger.com's word, they have been free. And they have indeed done a great job of making it easy and attractive to start blogging for anyone who wants a web page. What few limits there are are ample and reasonable. It seems a little roundabout to get to other bloggers so far, but it's probably my inexperience showing.

So when will The Spider come crawling? Perhaps, like the preachers told us, when I least expect it.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

It must be summer

It must be summer. Mark's moving to New York (or L.A, or D.C.--not sure yet), Scott's working a summer job at Disney, Barb's changing to a new media center, The Fam is going to the old farmstead in Indiana, Dr. Steve is batching it, CJ is AIMing us every day since he's out of school now, Rhonda's telling us all what colors we're to wear at Cedar Point so we can be recognized, and Kitty's got more fleas. Whatever was on the brink of changing a month ago has gone on over the brink, and the whole world's in flux. And I, who wrote nothing outside my longhand journal for decades, have a blog. Hell has frozen over, and that hot day in January has come. Michael Jackson has been acquitted and Deep Throat revealed. Whatever bizarre things remain to happen will probably happen before October. What is it about summer, anyway?

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

this is amazing

Wrote my first blog last Sunday just to break out of my longhand journal of about four decades, just to get a feel for it. It wasn't what I expected, that's for sure. I found myself instantly scared to death. For the first time ever I had words and feelings "out there" for the whole world to see and respond to if anyone wanted to, and it was very intimidating. Never mind there are millions of others out there doing the same thing; that fact wasn't "real" to me. Where I was coming from, I was the only voice, and there was no one to argue with me.

I've never joined many chat rooms or discussion groups, so I'm not used to getting or giving flames or other exchanges, but I thought I'd better open up to it, at least for now. I figured what good would it do to start a blog if I didn't want anyone to react or comment? I had already been doing that in my journal. So fire away, world. I'll be glad to hear from you.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

personal journal: nirvana or manuscript stifler?

I used to write lots of short stories and poems till I began a private journal. The stories and poems never got published. The journal, which I began as a notebook to help my writing, became instead a freewheeling, uncensored, unrevised forum for whatever I wanted to say: ideas, feelings, gripes, interests--anything that came to mind.

At first the freedom from editing or rejection was liberating. And I loved the easy fluency I found, the flow and unselfconscious style I developed. But I found that the more I wrote in my journal, the less I wrote for submission. In time I lost interest in writing for publication completely. The journal became my only writing outlet, a substitute for any stories, poems, or essays I had written so easily before.

I wondered if others had a similar experience. Is personal journaling always a good idea for a writer? Or can it stifle creativity and become a too-easy-to-please listener, insulating its author from challenges he may need more, like feedback from others, disciplined structure, focus and development of ideas, fleshing out of detail because it's needed for others to visualize, even though I might not, since I'm writing it? I honestly don't know.

Online, it seems everyone promotes journaling as therapeutic and stimulating for ideas and creativity, great for hatching great writing to share. Privately, I'm not so sure. For me, it seemed to erect a writer's block like the Great Wall of China to anything I tried to write outside it.

In any case, that's why I started this blog. I'm tired of just "talking to myself" in my journal and looking for ways to be read--not necessarily published or paid. At least I'm ready to listen.