There is no such thing as a typical blog, just as there is no such thing as a typical book or a typical movie. There are all sorts of blogs out there. Photo blogs, rants, fashion blogs, food blogs, humour blogs, and on and on and on. Over the past few months, I have tried my hand at a couple of those. I’ve done a photo-post. I’ve done a fashion post. I’ve even tried my hand at a cooking-post. And now it’s time to try something new. A “Where the hell I’ve been” post.
You may not be able to find that heading under the list of topics on the wordpress reader, but, if you have spent any time checking out other blogs, you will recognise the genre immediately. It usually goes something like this:
“Wow! I hadn’t even realised it, but when I sat down to write this post, I realised that I haven’t posted anything for seven years. Sorry! I would have posted more often, but I set out to explore the Amazon on a unicycle, and a capybara ate my keyboard.”
There are many subgenres. There’s the “I’m too important” post:
“You may have noticed that I haven’t posted in a while. I do apologise, but I’ve been a little too busy. Over and above editing the Scientific American, and my weekly opinion piece in the New York Times, I’ve also been heading up a special task-team set up to find a cure for left-handedness in Latvian albinos. (It’s not a disease, I know, but they are too poor to afford those special scissors, and I just want to help.) My bad.”
There’s the “poor me”:
“First post in four months! Wow! I really had intended to post at least once every 37 minutes this year, but I twisted my ankle trying to kick a chair out from underneath a disabled retiree, and now it’s very hard for me to walk to my computer. And I’ve had a headache.”
And then there’s the “slightly bolshie writer’s block” crowd. In the past I have fitted fairly comfortably into this crowd. On the surface, their statement is fairly simple:
“I haven’t posted in a while. Sorry.”
But that’s not simple at all. Because what we mean is “Oh God! What is happening to me! I started this blog because I’m a writer! A Poet! An Artist! An unrecognised genius! And now I can’t even write my own name without a coffee break and a pep-talk from my therapist! I sit, and I sit, and I sit, staring at the empty screen, but the screen just sits and stares back at me, a single, all-seeing eye, the keyboard an endless, silent, many-toothed scream! Help me!”
I have no idea why we all feel this drive to apologise, but we do. For most of the people I see on this site, blogging is a hobby. We do it for free. For fun. For ourselves. We shouldn’t be sorry for not pursuing our hobby with enough dedication. You don’t catch stamp collectors taking out an ad in the classifieds explaining why they’ve taken a little break. Fishermen don’t phone all their friends to explain to them that they just haven’t been in the mood to get out on the water for a couple of weeks.
I think it has something to do with having an audience. The day you post your first piece, and see that someone else has looked at it, you become world famous. The day you get your first follower, you become a celebrity. And celebrity comes with a set of responsibilities.
Modesty may dictate that you turn to your partner and mumble “I’m just going to post something on my blog”, but secretly you hope they know you well enough to recognise the truth, that they know that you are really saying “I am sorry my love, but I must leave you now. I know that you will miss me, but my adoring public awaits. I have a follower in New Zealand, and thirty people read my last post. Thirty! These people are relying on me. I cannot let them down.”
So here goes. My first proper “Where the hell I’ve been” post:
I’m sorry (particularly to that guy in New Zealand-I know you had an earthquake recently, and it pains me to add to your misery) but I haven’t been posting very much recently. I do have a good excuse though.
Don’t worry; I’m not suddenly too important- the New York Times still isn’t returning my calls. My ankle is just fine, as is my head, and my keyboard remains relatively unsullied by giant, semi-aquatic rodents.
For the last fifteen years I have been a bookseller. It has been a wonderful thing to be. But the world has shifted, and, for me, it hasn’t of late been a wonderful thing to be any more. So now, as of Thursday last week, I am not one any more. I have resigned. I have found this process to be a little distracting.
Now it’s all over, and I’m back.
All around me, people are something. There are doctors, and lawyers, and cleaners, and cooks. There are swimming coaches, jewellers, shoe salesmen and chiropractors. And I am not anything.
Although maybe that’s not true. Maybe what I am right now is a blogger. Not the world’s most lucrative thing to be, but a thing no less. And I do like that it means something to that guy in New Zealand.
Any idea of writers block is more than taken care of for the foreseeable future. I can tell you about the magic of being a proper bookseller, and the tragedy of seeing that eroded. I can tell you what it’s like working for a company that values and trusts you, and I can tell you what it’s like working for one that holds you in contempt. I can tell you where I hope to be going, and where I’m actually going (I’m big enough and ugly enough to know that those are never the same thing.)
And, because proper blogging is always a two-way street, you can tell me things too. You can tell me where to find the most comfortable slippers. You can tell me how best to explain in my resume that I left my last job because I didn’t like the people I worked for any more. Mostly, you can tell me where to get some money without doing anything illegal.
But those are all issues for the future. Right now, I’m just writing a quick post. I have to. My adoring public awaits. I have a follower in New Zealand, and thirty people read my last post. Thirty! These people are relying on me. I cannot let them down.