Back in January of this year, when I gave, sold, or lent out most of my stuff, moved out of my apartment, and went on the road, people kept saying, “Oh, you should keep a blog! You should let everyone know where you are!” But the truth is I didn’t particularly care if people knew where I was. I didn’t feel moved to chart my progress, geographical or spiritual.
Not only did I not feel moved to start a blog, for most of the 6 months I was gone, I didn’t even have internet access in the various rooms where I stayed. I liked this. For the most part, I enjoyed walking to the coffee shop or the local library to check my email, my dwindling bank account, the occasional headline.
It’s a very good thing to learn that you can get along, for awhile at least, without the world, and that the world can get along without you. I had a cell phone with 1000 monthly minutes. That was plenty. That provided more than enough communication with the world. I communicated with the people around me. I regarded the birds, and the trees. I communed with the Psalms. I wrote in my journal.
A blog is not a journal, or maybe I should say not my blog, nor my journal. My journal is private. It’s also meandering, unpolished, often mean-spirited, and messy. I can’t have an experience if simultaneously with the experience I’m recording it. As it’s happening, life is dull or uncomfortable or distasteful or exciting or sorrowing or joyful, but emotions, by their very nature, are such that you’re not aware as you’re experiencing them. You disappear and come back to yourself later and realize: Oh. That was a moment.
That why—the insistence upon asking, the responsibility of groping for an answer—is the heart’s call of the writer. To process experience inwardly, to see unexpected connections and glory and poetry and how that relates to all of humanity takes work and intention and patience and a kind of continual pruning of the will. To just say Here’s a moment and here’s a moment and here’s the next moment and here’s the thought or image or whim that just popped into my head is not to be in the present, it’s to be in the stasis of hell.
It’s to be Narcissus, perpetually gazing at his own image in a world too busy to look because everyone is looking at his or own image.I’m at least as much of an attention junkie as the next person. Since I’ve been back, I’ve updated my website, my amazon profile, my wikepedia entry, my FB profile. I, who have always been resolutely anti-blog (because I am a purist; I am a professional, doncha know), have started (obviously) a blog.
I’m interested to see how it unfolds, what I’ll learn. In two weeks, I’ve already realized: Oh okay, this is like everything else. It’s not going to make you famous. It’s not going to gain you a big “following.” It’s work and if you look at it in any other way than that it’s a gift then the blog won’t be any good, it won’t be you, and you’re going to be burdened by the fact that it’s work and pissed that no-one’s paying attention. In fact, one of the main reasons I started a blog at all was because I have so many unpublished essays, reflections, and snippets of ideas I figured: Why not start just giving them away!
In order to find ourselves, we have to lose ourselves. We have to hold the tension between carving out the solitude and silence we need for our work and our obligation, if any, to promote the work. We have to live in the absurdity of wanting to be noticed and publicly reflecting on the fact that we are being noticed—or not. We have to devote everything we have to creating excellent art, and have faith that if it’s supposed to find its way to the World, it will…