Blogging is a particular form of writing. Though I’ve often thought that I blog primarily for myself, it’s not journaling. Blogging is a much more public thing, more open and accountable. By its form it looks for an audience and seeks approval. At its worst it can be just another ‘Look at me!’ And in the age of social networking, life is full of those. When I first began blogging seven years ago, I did so self-consciously and almost hoped no one would notice. For the most part the self-consciousness is gone, though the virtual stutter lingers.
Just recently I’ve re-read an essay by the great English novelist George Orwell, one that I last read twenty-five years ago. It’s titled Why I Write and is included in a collection of his essays under the same title collated for the Penguin Great Idea series.
Orwell begins the essay with an unnerving admission:
‘I think from the very start my literary ambitions were mixed up with the feeling of being isolated and undervalued. I knew that I had a facility with words and a power of facing unpleasant facts, and I felt that this created a sort of private world in which I could get my own back for my failure in everyday life.’
To some degree, I begin in the same place. Writing is a way to speak — carefully, deliberately, sensitively — without being interrupted by a more brash or charismatic voice. It’s a way to be heard. Perhaps I would replace Orwell’s ‘failures in everyday life’ for inadequacies. I certainly have my share of those. Writing has always been a way to communicate when my ability in other mediums comes up short.
Orwell goes on to outline what he calls the four great motives for writing:
2. Aesthetic enthusiasm: the pleasure one takes ‘in the impact of one sound on another, in the firmness of good prose or the rhythm of a good story.’
3. Historical impulse: the desire to find, gather, report and store up for posterity.
4. Political purpose: the desire to ‘push the world in a certain direction, to alter other people’s ideas of the kind of society that they should strive after.’
Being honest about this blogging thing means acknowledging that it envelopes all of the above, each one rising to the surface at different times. Perhaps I’ll keep at it, hoping that over time the more virtuous of these motives will bubble to the surface. One can hope.