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Genesis of a Historical Novel

Thursday, April 17, 2008

the long-distance blogger

The third anniversary of this blog came and went last month without my noticing it. Three years on, do I feel that it is fulfilling its mission? Do I even know what that mission is?

It began as an experiment. Indeed, I think I might have set it up originally in order just to have an identity on blogger.com, in order to leave a comment on someone else's blog. I quickly filled in the forms and set it up, not thinking I would actually use it and maintain it.

Now look at me. I think my original thought was that a blog might help save me from laboring in utter obscurity. I would have a way of expressing the experience of working on a large, complex creative project, and maybe some people would take an interest in that.

I didn't realize how popular blogging was or would become. I've heard figures like 40 million as the number of blogs online. A few of them have real, undeniable value (I think about the pseudonymous blog called Baghdad Burning, written by a young woman in war-torn Baghdad, offering an inside view of Iraq unavailable even through the best professional journalists). The great, oceanic majority are like the parody of blogs and bloggers I saw in a segment on the Rick Mercer Report on CBC: nerds in dark rooms who have no life, typing about the pizza they're eating and uploading digital pictures of the pizza for others to look at, while also requesting that they create links to his blog in their own blogs.

Is this me? I felt a little bit uncomfortable as I watched the segment.

I do have one edge over the majority of bloggers: I can write. So I've got that going for me.

But as for whether this blog adequately documents the creative process, or whether that process (my process anyway) is worth documenting, I can't say. There is a self-absorbed quality to a personal blog such as this that is perhaps not entirely wholesome.

In the end though I suppose it's not for me to judge. I do have family and friends who check in on the blog, and that for me is reason enough to keep up with it. There are also others who have taken an interest over the past three years, traveling along with it for a time. I've enjoyed that attention. Then there are those who, for better or for worse, have landed on the blog after making online searches for specific kinds of information. Common searches that lead here are for information on "Shantaram characters", or the word-counts of specific books such as War and Peace or Gravity's Rainbow, or the symbolism of hermaphrodites in dreams--among various other things. The idea that people come here looking for factual information gives me a feeling of responsibility; I worry a bit about shooting off my mouth.

Mainly I feel that the blog is a document of how long this project is taking. I recall a book that used to be on the shelf when I was growing up: The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner by Alan Sillitoe. I never read it, but I found the title haunting. The blog, I suppose, is an effort to mitigate the solitude of the creative work, and in that respect it may have some slight effect.

But it is only slight. It is a long distance, and it is, in some sense, lonely.



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