Monday, March 15, 2010

Blogging slowdown

I've lost the urge to blog. It's odd and I'd like to examine it. In a blog post. I wonder if Facebook and Twitter have caused this. I can express myself instantly and, if I want, get instant feedback. I can do it with 140 characters. I don't have to craft a blog post. There is definitely that.

Also, when I first started blogging, three people read my blog. Maybe. Now it's all a bit out of hand... so much so that the other day I noticed how stupidly crowded the right hand side of my blog was with SO MUCH INFORMATION. So I pared it down, got rid of some of the millions of links and blurbs about this and that. And now I feel a bit calmer. It feels a bit more like a blog and less like a mass advertising hoarding, a ME ME ME fest.

But still. I'm not enjoying the blogging when it comes to writing about me and my writing, my process etc... I'm posting a lot of interviews with other people, which is great. But a blog = "web log" = a log of some sort, a chart of progress, of daily/weekly changes. And I'm not logging any.

I'm boring myself here. Maybe it's because I don't really have anything to write about. Don't I? I am sifting through Southword submissions, hugely appreciating how many people take that courageous step of sending work out into the world to take its chances. I'm agonising over the 6 stories I have to pick - how only six, how? I'm a little nervous about judging the Bristol, Brit Words and Sean O'Faolain comps. How come I get to judge? And I'm trying to feel my way into this writer-in-residence at the Uni's Science Faculty.

That last is frightening and exciting. I had a great meet with two biologists today and think I may embed with their lab for a while. But what if... I don't write anything? What if... nothing comes? What if... they hate it?

I am reading an amazing new book called Art+Science Now by Stephen Wilson which has shown me how absolutely naive and ignorant I am about what is already going on in art/science collaboration. Amazing and inspiring art of all kinds from all spheres of science. This book, which doesn't include writers, has really opened my eyes, and has a wonderful resources section at the back. Loads of artists have spent time contemplating science, learning about it, learning from it, contributing to it. And here I thought I was inventing the wheel.

I guess I don't know how I fit in. Are there no writers here because science fiction sort of covers fiction+art+science? But I don't fit into science fiction. Where do I fit in? But surely the point of art is that it is done by those who don't fit in - that creates the friction, the innovation.

Well, this blog post took an interesting turn. Seems as though I am a little concerned about things. About all this newness. About how, if I am someone that others have asked to pass judgement on creativity, I am supposed to feel about feeling insecure about my own. I definitely want new challenges, I crave them, but at the same time, I flounder a little in the face of too many at one time. I would like someone to impose a framework - yet if they did I would probably fight against it. But then, don't we all need something to fight against?

I'm getting wonderful invitations all the time to do readings, to talk about short stories - in Bristol, Brighton, Bath, London, Birmingham... But there is that part of me that hasn't caught up with all this. It all seems to have happened so fast. First day at school, over and over. Yes, it's all good. It's all good. But sometimes, all good is the hardest to deal with.

Ok, that was a log of some sort. And I even feel better. Thanks for listening.


CL Taylor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Marisa Birns said...

I find that many times just talking about things out loud with people helps one to find one's footing again.

One problem might be that bloggers think they have to write something every day in order to keep in touch with everyone.

But, you're right. Twitter and FaceBook help in that regard. I'm able to talk to people in both places.

But, of course, my blog is just a place where I post my short stories and I don't have to write about the process.

Your blog post did take an interesting turn, and you shared your concerns.

Oh, yes. First days ARE really all good . But there is so much smiling going on at those first days so that by the time one gets home, the face hurts.

And you have to remember all the names, all the rules, all the paths to the classrooms.

It is the hardest thing to deal with.

But it is also one of the best.

CL Taylor said...

I think it's natural for blogging to lose its shine every now and then - particularly if you haven't got much to say or, more pertinently, haven’t got anything you want to share.

My own blogging history is now so sporadic it's roughly once a month. Maybe I burned myself out posting every day for 25 days during my Virtual Book Tour last October/November or maybe I'm just enjoying ‘real’ life a little too much?

Either way - don't worry. Your blog is here if and when you feel compelled to blog more regularly.

Tania Hershman said...

Marisa, actually my experience of first days at school was rather more traumatic, no smiling, lots of shy skulking in corners and nausea in the pit of my stomach! But newness and firsts are good, right? What a great blog you have, you have quite a following!

Cally, you make me feel better. I bet the Virtual Book Tour burned you out, I did it once a week for 11 weeks and that was enough. 25 days in a row?! By the way, congrats on Book 3!

Vanessa Gebbie said...

I guess it depends why we do the blogging stuff, too? To a large extent, the reasons for you doing it at all have been taken over elsewhere - you have a website which you can update yourself, facebook, and twitter, to spread the word about the books, readings, events in the life of TH, and other things.

I do not dare sign up for twitter. and I dont use facebook efficiently - I think it is so easy to get sucked in to the mill and I want to 'write'.

And my blog will have to stay 'me me me' because it is about me (!) and the ups n down of the writing life.

Yours has never ever struck me as that (me me me )- you've always been hugely generous with information, calls for comps, publications, events for writers - a great balance. Whilst at the same time, being honest about the ups n downs.

I for one would miss your blog if you stopped!

Tim Love said...

Blog-fatigue's often mentioned in the books. True, "blog" derives from "web log" but the larynx was once gills. Nowadays blogware is just a way to manage a website that needn't be topical. As you say, other modes of communication fulfill the more phatic needs.

I have Sci-Art fatigue. Cambridge is in the middle of its Science Festival - well-meaning parents trying to give their kids a buzz, the kids more interesting in collecting freebies. I went to "IMAGINARY: Through the eyes of mathematics" (for over-12s). A 200 page proof from the 1960s (important not only mathematically but philosophically, they said) was accompanied by pictures. I doubt whether the pictures impressed any artists. The maths was way over my head. My buzz soon faded. Perhaps the kids' buzz fades too: physics courses are closing down; Attenborough and Cold Case seem more influential than the Buzz when it comes to attracting people into science.

Will scientists like your work? My impression is that scientists are sceptics, but they also respect the peer-review process in disciplines related to their own. You have the credentials so they'll trust you. And in a way that's the problem - they won't say what they really think.

I think the non-writing "intelligent layman" is an untapped resource for authors. They may be more anti-lit than apathetic. Maybe they've been put off literature by being told that "so much depends upon a red wheel barrow glazed with rain water beside the white chickens" is great poetry. Maybe after having read Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont they're wary of suspending disbelief. Advertise a lunchtime meeting "Why literature sucks", inviting people to pre-submit examples of work that they think is produced by charlatans. It might open up an honest dialog on what Literature/Art is, and why people don't like it.

Things to avoid: a too-easy, too-early Sci-Art fusion. Things to read: Ted Chiang's "Story of Your Life" (according to Wikipedia he's published 11 (SF) stories in 19 years); read about what Witten (“the most brilliant physicist of his generation”) did until he was 20 or so.

Susannah Rickards said...

Hi T

The post you've just written is the reason your blog is so popular. Writing is isolating. Blogs bridge that gap. And so often it's a chance remark a blogger nearly didn't bother committing to print, which becomes a eureka moment for a fellow writer.

What's evident from from impressive/daunting To Do list is that it's all the peripheral important guff that surrounds writing. Where's your writing time? Where's your quiet space in the next few months. If you don't carve it out for yourself it may get swallowed up by requests to read, review, judge, teach. The alluring list can run on and on.

At least blogging is writing. Twitter and Facebook aren't. I'd say that's a good reason for keeping it up. Unless your writing time has become so crowded out that this becomes what you write in lieu of fiction, in which case, see you on FB instead!

Sue Guiney said...

This is all so interesting, T. I have struggled with the same. I have made a decision to only blog twice a week, but I find it's still in my head, pushing other things away as I wonder what will I write next. Also, I started the blog, in all honesty, to help promote my books. But with non new books to promote at the moment sometimes it feels like little more than "pr insurance." BUT I know I love staying in touch with my new friends like this. And I know what I can say and think about in my blog I could never do on facebook, or anywhere else for that matter. So I persevere (also knowing my following does not grow and is very small). And I know I would miss it if I stopped, and I would certainly miss yours if you stopped. Vis a vis science + writing, I have a proposal which I'll email to you now... xo

robin black said...

I think this is a fascinating post. I guess I feel like a blog is and should be whatever the author needs it to be at the time. I don't think you should feel at all bad about not being a point at which it feels less integrated into your writing, less helpful maybe to your work, than it did at a different time. (I've only just started blogging, with a grand total of 4 posts to my name, so I'm hardly an expert of course. . .)
This post has a great meta-feel to it. Not only because it's a blog about blogging but also because in it you raise so many topics that could themselves be expanded into posts - or into essays - if you wanted to. The insecurities about being among scientists; the question of whether feeling "different" or out of place is a bad thing for an artist or a necessary condition and more than that; the larger subject of how a lifelong career goes through very different phases at different times; the impact of a larger audience on one's sense of oneself. So in a funny way, this post, really is itself a web log of the things on your mind.
All of which is just a very long way of saying that I loved reading this, but if the flow and spirit of your work are taking you away from more frequent postings right now then I say, follow that and the words will appear in their rightful place. And I can't wait to read them!

Tania Hershman said...

V - thank you! I can't imagine stopping blogging, but I guess its nature is changing. And you're pretty generous on your blog too, with loads of interesting writerly stuff!

Tim/Litrefs: I love "but the larynx was once gills", very true! And sorry about your Sci-Arts fatigue, I am so new to this, so new to this country, it's all thrilling to me. I like your idea about Why literature sucks - and i certainly take your point about too-easy, too-early Science-Art fusion, I am very wary about that. I don't want to do this slapdash. Will check out your recommendations.

Susannah, thank you for saying that about the chance remark on a blog that inspires someone else, I find that very inspiring and it's certainly happened to me. And yes - no writing space, can't see much for the next 6 months, which is a bit scary! I will just have to make it work.

Sue, I love reading your blog and checking in with where you are, that's really the point of most blogs, isn't it? I used to draft blog posts in my head, I seem to have stopped, but perhaps that's because there's all this other stuff in my head!

Robin - I must say that all 4 of your posts have been fascinating, insightful, so keep at it! Yes, this post did seem to turn into a catalogue of my mind's obsessions right now. Glad you enjoyed reading it... and I am sure, now that I have got this off my chest, I'll be back here more often!

Vanessa Gebbie said...

Me again. I came away wondering if saying I'd miss your blog if you didn't do it, was selfish? And yes, I think it is. After all, you are engaging with the writing community so much, via everything you are doing. Twittering, facebooking, and reading as editor for Southword, reading for Bristol - and wow - how many stories for Sean O F?? Paid or not... it all eats away at our most precious posession - time.
So I guess it is also selfish to say what I am going to anyway -
You will not be remembered for writing a blog. Or twittering. or facebooking. Or reading for comps, an judging them.
You WILL be remembered for your writing, your take on things -which is absolutely unique.
Please remember to water that little plant now and again, give it a little air.

Tania Hershman said...

V - excellent point. I very much doubt my blog posts and tweets will go down in posterity! Thanks for getting me back on track.

Rachel Fenton said...

Oh, Tania - not for the first time have i read your blog and thought - phewsh, it's not just me!

I too have had serious unexplained blog lethargy. There are, of course some obvious (to me) reasons, but there is a contradiction in me which I don't understand. I enjoy it when I am doing it (blogging) but it's summoning up the will to actually post something which gets to me. Sometimes I forget it exists altogether. Maybe it's just a memory thing with me. I don't tweet or facebook either though so feel I need to blog. And there's the rub. Also - at the moment it's eating into my precious writing time and I want to write so much more than I want to blog!

Anyway, thanks for making me feel normal!

Tim Love said...

"You will not be remembered for writing a blog" - blogs are so new that it's hard to know. The hegemann affair has helped a blogger to be remembered. Stephen Fry's ventures into podcasts etc have widened his fanbase. Ron Silliman's blog not only gets half-a-million hits a year but is routinely cited in paper publications. George Szirtes Website has established itself as a literature-orientated cultural journal. Early days yet, but my impression is that a blog can boost the fame of people who are already names, and is especially useful if you want to expand into a new country or break out of a genre.

When it comes to readership, I don't think we should over-estimate paper. When I get a poem in a mag with a print-run of 300, I don't expect it to be read by more than 50 people, if that. Might just as well blog when the numbers are that low.

"Anyway, thanks for making me feel normal!" - blog fatigue should come as no surprise: google for the term or look in "how to blog" books to read more about it.

Group 8 said...

Blogging is a chore, I understand. I feel the same a lot and regularly vow to stop. Still at it though...

Re. 'But there is that part of me that hasn't caught up with all this.'
Sorry to say one never does really catch up. I get busier year on year and the time flies past, with each event whizzing past in a blur of people and chat. My strategy is not to think too far ahead and only about the next reading/event. That way I don't get too overwhelmed.



Well, this is one Hershman that ain't a-gonna tweet though moi 'tis
burnin-out on blggin', too.

Stay on groovin' safari,