Saturday, August 29, 2009

Do blog posts last?

I'm not the most prolific of bloggers, but I have been consistent, writing online for a few years now. This blog, like a number of others, is archived at the British Library; not, I think, because I'm a name worth keeping, but because of that consistency of subject - literature - and my continued commitment. It's not so surprising, of course. Writers have always been prolific informal as well as formal communicators, whether through letters, diaries or journalism. Poets, in particular, who are often annoyingly spare in their published works, can churn out large volumes of "collected letters" or similar. I do think, as well, that writers, in what ever format, are likely to be aware of some "public" audience even for private communications. It is in letters, and now blogs, that we maybe work out some of our first draft ideas.

I've been spending the last couple of days doing some "housekeeping" of my writing life. I've always organised my computer documents reasonably well, but it's been a while since I've gone back a couple of years, and pulled together writings that have been half finished, or forgotten. I found quite a number of poems from last year that I'd forgotten about; and then, for the first time in a long time, went back to my blog posts. Perhaps a third of 2008's postings can stand outside their original place. Looking through what I'd written, I can see my main references were to novelists - and rarely the contemporary - though I'm often talking about the contemporary literary scene. Looking at my notes from New Writing Worlds 2008 the references of writers at that event were far likelier to be philosophers or other thinkers. I'm perhaps a little suspicious of "thinkers", finding fiction and poetry providing a better philosophical structure for my world. Am I getting ideas second hand? I don't think so - I just have a great respect for the imaginative, the literary, the artistic in general. It seems to reinforce my feeling that too much contemporary discussion is around half-formed ideas and ideologies - the agendas of academics, cultural commentators, consultants and journalists seeming to have more traction in our current society than those of artists. Artists, of course, often take longer to make their point - and we live in a fast culture - yet Victorian England is better discovered through Dickens and Eliot than the essayists of the day.

Blogs are part of that "noise" of course, and I realise that one of the major limitations of the format is that a blogger often uses a shorthand - referring to books or authors or ideas - without ever addressing the thing he is talking about directly. Where is my essay on Martin Amis or Ian McEwan? It doesn't exist in any meaningful form...yet I talk (sometimes authoritatively) about both authors, and reference them often in my blog. A blogger assumes what knowledge our imagined audience has, and, in that context, we do not need to explain further. It's a strange paradox.

As always, I'll leave these questions hanging in the air, half formed. What was pleasing - going back over past blog posts - was how often these tiny cells would develop, or be repeated, to replicate until they had a life of their own; that life, it probably goes without saying, is in my creative work. These, I begin to think, are sketches, before I paint a fuller canvas.

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