What happens between blog posts?
I ask because of Sokari’s latest comment: “Thinking about blogging on something and not doing it is a sure sign of blogger paralysis / disinterest / being blogged out or on the verge of a blogging breakdown.”
Although part of me agrees with this assessment, another part is interested in the processes of editing and self-censorship, the acts of valuation that determine whether a thought, a response, an opinion, or a theory should be disseminated as a blog post.
I invoke here one key distinction between writing and speaking: writing allows one to re-consider, to re-think, to re-phrase, to re-frame. Writing allows a much-needed lag. One can choose whether or not to join a conversation, disclose private information, or respond to a harsh critic. One can choose to comment on a post or to send a private email.
We might also consider the importance of those moments of silence—when blogs cease to exist as constantly updated documents and become records of a certain existence, an “x was here.” How should we respond to or interact with blogs whose authors have died from HIV/AIDS complications or those who are political prisoners? What kind of testimony or witness do those blogs contain? What is their afterlife? Who values them and how?
At stake is also a question of what a blog post might accomplish for the author and for readers. For instance, despite my reluctance to post on “academic topics,” I have used my blog as a pensieve (thanks HP!). Many ideas in my dissertation first saw light as tentative posts (what is the relationship between race and desire, between belonging and allegiance). I have refined many ideas, used and discarded others, have vacillated stylistically and theoretically.
I have stepped outside of academic conventions of writing, the citation, the complete argument, the counter-argument, and have practiced more idiosyncratic ways of accumulating and disseminating knowledge, even when I don’t fully know or understand what it is I am trying to say. The semi-academic blog has allowed me to be half-digested and half-digestible, to risk a kind of thinking that my training tells me should not be seen.
There’s something pleasurable and even magical about first fumblings—Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s The River Between continues to fascinate me because of the richness it dares to imagine.
And there is something intriguing about the unfinished blog (what is a finished blog? What is a complete blog post?).
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Perhaps, then, there are not so much arguments that come after the archive as ones that can begin to articulate themselves only after the work of archiving has begun, arguments that can situate themselves, or discover themselves, only in the interstices of the elements assembled here, arguments that can enact themselves as aftereffects of the work of assemblage, arguments, thus, that will find themselves serially disassembled and reassembled as that archive unfolds itself.—Ian Baucom, Specters of the Atlantic
To think of a blog, a series of blog posts, a blog ring, a blog community, or even thematic blogs as kinds of archive might seem presumptuous. To say that queer blogs or feminist blogs or Kenyan blogs (and self-descriptions are important) constitute an unfolding argument might be to create a false sense of coherence, yet no more false than such self-driven affiliations allow. After all, the blog, more than any other contemporary medium, represents a moment of individuation, a being and becoming idiosyncratic, even while exemplary. (My own blogging tics—parenthetical remarks, fragments, divided sections, switches in syntax and language, are hardly unique.)
Not to mention the turning of blogs, blogging, blog work into an “assemblage,” a kind of archive makes academic a form and format that ostensibly resists formalization. Yet, we know that archives are not only for academics. We live at a time when we have greater access to archives than ever before because of technology, when we can re-think, re-evaluate knowledge and history in unprecedented ways. We live at a time when, perhaps ironically, Time Life, with its edited histories (“the 100 greatest love songs!”) has become a paradigm for the kinds of histories that we individually and collectively create.
Events happen. We have become increasingly creative in how we apprehend and disseminate their happening, in how we record and narrate.
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What if blogging disinterest and blogging breakdowns are constitutive elements of blogging? How would we think about this?
I have suggested previously that I consider blog archives to be as important (if not more so) than continually updated content. Of course, new content is vitally important—as any number of politically-oriented blogs prove. But the student in me, the person interested in “story,” also relishes how blogs evolve.
How does tone change? What events receive continuous coverage? When do authors opt to use images or clips and when do they choose text? What kind of images accompany text and when? (Larry’s recent decision to edit certain images and posts because of his new teaching duties tells a certain story about pedagogy; my own decision, not announced, to be less explicit about sex and to write more expository prose tells yet another story, one about how writing academic prose has changed my own rhythms, the lengths of my sentences, has both clotted and unclotted my prose, knotted and unknotted my ideas.)
What rhythms guide blog posts?
Kenya’s recent history changed the tenor of some blogs—many posts opened with “I don’t write about politics, but.” And this “but” is important. What happens when a blog begins when one is a student and continues on to life afterward, when priorities shift? A friend recently completed her degree and is now facing motherhood. As a reader, I am now reading new, unexpected conversations (“I’m worried that following childbirth my vagina might not be as tight”); this is not a conversation that I expected, but it fascinates me.
Note: I’m headed to a place with spotty online access, so I’m reflecting, in part, on what it means to have blogged in a certain way, as I prepare for what might be a hiatus.
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What determines blogging rhythms? What has to be written about? What demands to be let out? What asks to be put aside, mulled over, re-written? How do we think about narrative vs. non-narrative posts? Should all blog posts tell a story or have a point, or can one simply post a picture of a kitten (I like kitten pictures as much as the next person)?
Finally, to return to Sokari’s provocative question: what determines whether one turns a thought, an idea, a hunch, or a story into a blog post? Perhaps talking about it over the phone scratches that particular itch.
I have written as many or more blog posts as the ones I’ve posted that will never be published.
Ultimately, for me, it comes down to writing: what does writing, public, semi-public, or private (for those whose blogs are password protected) accomplish that speaking might not? What do we choose to put down and what do we hold back? How do we value what is already put down (I have confessed, previously, my love for reading through an entire blog’s archives), and how do we value the silences that occur?
How do blogs evolve? Sokari’s and more recently Ory’s decisions to open up their blogs to other writers tells a fascinating story about how blogs enable communities of writers and readers to forge a shared purpose.
What about blogs that have no readers? What purpose might they serve for their authors? I retain the idiosyncratic belief that writing accomplishes something, and to think of blogging as writing enables different kinds of conversations about what it is we do when we blog. Not to mention, the process of writing a post like this, somewhat abstract, somewhat introspective (but not titillating) also invites speculation about what it accomplishes. It is, after all, way too long for most online readers and, even to my mind, not very compelling. So what compels me to continue?
What counts as a writing life? What counts as a semi-public writing life? And, as always, I reflect on what it means to try to create meaning (an argument, a point, a record) about living a certain kind of life as a certain kind of person, to write a kind of record, no matter how ephemeral.
On this, I return to Melvin Dixon’s wonderful 1992 speech, where he warns about the processes of erasure and censorship that constitute the de-queering eulogy, the citing of accomplishments that re-writes the late night romps with strangers, the queer rhythms of dance and play and pleasure and heartache and sickness and health that comprise queer lives, the daring to think differently (if not live so).
It is important to record not only how one has lived and loved, but also how one has thought about living and loving.