I miss the days when people used to blog.
I miss blog entries that were small snapshots of people’s ordinary lives.
This was back in the day, before even tweets became so serious, before its founders started thinking there was world-changing potential in 140 characters. (Not really.)
They’ve now been replaced by real snapshots on Instagram, or Facebook status updates, or tweets. As if people couldn’t be bothered to describe their food anymore except with a “mmm.”
I’m not sure that people do that anymore, or maybe I’m not looking in the right places.
Or maybe I should say “I miss the days when I used to blog.”
To treat one’s blog as a journal. To guilelessly write about the trivial.
I don’t think I have the stomach to write like that anymore, and perhaps I’m still mostly afflicted by self-consciousness, probably because of some imaginary audience, the one that tells you the imaginary stakes are too high.
A couple of months ago I finished the first volume of Karl Ove Knaussgard’s six-volume autobiographical novel, provocatively titled My Struggle. He has ruminations on death and fatherhood and his own father, but they’re mostly tangents, rivers of thought explored and abandoned. For the most part these are embedded in his recounting of the flow of everyday life — not in obsessive detail like Nicholson Baker, but big wide swathes of the ordinary. Getting drunk. Driving in a car with his brother. Figuring out how to score beer. Cleaning a bathroom. The novel is both wise and pointless and meandering and focused and an utterly compelling read.
To be solipsistic. To be self-indulgent.
Or maybe not. No doubt many young people out there still twitter away on Tumblr or Live Journal, and a critic would perhaps correctly characterize these as a thousand juvenile “I’m bored” posts, illustrated by a thousand selfies.
The critics would probably be right. We don’t need any more bad writing. There’s already too much of it.
But perhaps what is needed — no, what I need, is to be what these LiveJournal kids are that I’m not.
To be unafraid of messing around. Or messing up.
What this sort of writing allows is a certain freedom to write and post without embarrassment, rather than have to subject everything to the rigor of craft and structure.
But surely rigor is precisely the point: Life is all around you, and the process of recording it, of pinning it down, requires a certain discrimination, a discipline.
But the devil’s advocate in me pipes up: Perhaps that isn’t necessary, because life doesn’t work like that at all, without the artificial frame that “real” writers put around it.
To write about how the day unfolded and draw no lessons from it except the small pleasure of seeing one’s words before you.
Let me try to get this clear in my head:
This — whatever this is I’m writing about — is not about the discipline of writing everyday. That’s the point of NaNoWriMo, to get you used to a routine and setting up a foundation.
This is not about craft. Not yet, anyway; that comes later.
This is about getting the words out. Even if they’re fragmentary, half finished thoughts, let loose into the ether.
This is about the ordinary. Not the banal, mind you, but just the ordinary. Not even the beauty of the ordinary, either — that’s reading too much into it already.
I wonder if that sort of writing — writing about the ordinary, and not giving a fuck — ends up making you more playful, more open, more willing to try new things just because, more alert to narrative possibilities around you. Craft and revision must only come later if the words aren’t there in the first place.
To write as if no one was reading, and not to care if no one did.