To Blog or Not to Blog
Updated: Jul 21
Let me start by saying I really do not like the word "blog." It is, well, loggy. It sounds like something you'd say by mistake when trying to talk while eating a peanut butter sandwich on whole grain bread without a lick of honey or anything else to make it less like rolling wet concrete around on your tongue. I'm not sure I didn't mix a metaphor there but you can see why, right off the bat, I am struggling, tripping over the very term that is used these days as if it were a real "word" and not a net-spawned portmanteau. I actually looked it up - to write this. "Blog" is in effect a contraction of "web log", coined by Peter Merhold in 1999 to describe what people were already using the net to do, namely make public what used to be the stuff of personal diaries or journals. A blog therefore is manifestly personal, reflective and immediate. Like a diary. As such it is not necessarily polished writing. I am reflecting on this today because, while I launched this blog in 2021, after many false starts, I published very few entries and then fell silent. The reason for this is simple and can be summed up in the term perfectionism, which I will leave you to GOOGLE, the alternative being that this becomes a dissertation on that one identifier. Instead let me add that add to perfectionism the possibility, indeed the inevitabiliyt of endless editing offered by the dual miracles of word processing and web page re-do, coupled with the instant availabilty of critque via social media before even setting one's fingers on the keyboard, suffice it to say here that I get stuck trying to get it right before I even get out of the gate.
Then there is the question of what gate to line up at. Dogs, history, horses, philosophy, kids, politics - local and international, teaching, learning, thinking, reading - poetry, prose, scientific, analytic, the fictional, the fantastic - I have been called a polymath, for I enjoy study and am fascinated by, well, everything in general, in particular how things work and enjoy a good story well told, in any genre. And oh - did I fail to mention music? I have an undergraduate degree with enough credits across various disciplines including piano performance and music history for three degrees. My graduate field of study was defined by that vaguest of nomeclatures, "intellectual history," and my education degree rich in potential "teachables" across departments. And apparently I have an "associative intellect." You can look that up too - you know I did. But how it applies here, to me, to this writing is, well - let me see -- where to start. Ah - there's an example, right there. Where to start? As I write my mind right here right now is flooding. I am thinking of the person who said this of me. Her name was Carol Corbeil, a Canadian writer whose career was cut short at the age of 52 by terminal cancer. I was participating in my first poetry workshop ever, under her direction. At that point the idea of being taken as a "writer" was not even a remote possibility to me, although obviously if I had enrolled in a workshop someting searching was going on, driving me towards going public with what had always been an epistolic impulse in the past. That is to say all I ever wrote before was letters, and, of course, as a student, papers. But I didn't think of myself as a writer.
Until Carol. She gave us, the participants in her writing group, daily prompts. We went away and responded, then read what we came up with. Being an "associative thinker" served me well in the context of poetry it seems, for from this exercise was born a body of writing that garnered some attention. For a while, I thought I was a poet, or rather; others who heard and read my work said so anyay. But for some reason, after a while, I just stopped doing that. And any writing at all. That's another story -- all of that. But I have to at least mention it here. Otherwise, I have no place from which to start again. And I seem to want to. Beginning this blog was meant to make that happen. It didn't. Because of - well, many things but that word "perfectionism" keeps coming up. I looked up "associative thinking" and found a definition that used words like "uncontrolled" and refered to a lack of "specific direction". "Wool gathering," "mind wandering," "day dreaming" -- these are almost perjorative terms for what, it appears at least for me is the starting place for poetry, or any other writing really. "Day dreaming" strikes me as offensive, for it implies a complete lack of will or iniiative. "Wool gathering" I don't feel so bad about. It seems to me that bothering to collect up the tufts of wool caught on thorns and brambles by a passing sheep - which is what the term when coined in the 17th centurey referred to - is not necessarily going to prove unproductive if you get enough bits from which to make something. From those bits and pieces can come a thread - which can be a theme. Thread can be spun into yarn, conjuring the images of a thick skein from which socks, scarves, sweaters or even tapestries can be won, also stories, albeit long, rambling and implausible being the adjectives usually asssociated with "yarning' as a narrative style.
But let me go back from yarn to thread - the turning out of a transluscent barely perceivable filament, like that from which a spider's web is wrought. Catch in it's matrix a drop of morning dew, itself glowing irridescent in the sunrise, its refractive lens the repository the entire spectrum of visible light, its curvature containing the entire world it mirrors. Then step back and see Arachne's entire construction, a miracle of engineering, precision and functionality, also pretty, if deadly to her prey. I guess that is what a poem can be - an entire structure, carefully composed in the end, but beginning with the spinning of if not a yarn, a thread. "Blogging" requires that I side step the uncontrolled association of the word "blog" with things like peanut butter and concrete, and set aside perfectionism for that impulse, in itself is thick and stultifying. The two things - association and perfectionsm are almost anti-thetical - asssoiation takes me everywhere all at once; perfectionism requires every connection to be plausible, explicable and explained and there - right there - is where the spinning now of porcelin plates held up by the thinnest of wires, those filaments now hardened in the service of a performance - come crashing down, the entire impossible gravity defining edifice reduced to a scattering of broken shards littering the pavement. And yet ... and yet... as the watching crowd dissipates, muttering it's disspointment, does not the mime hovering on the edges of the recital reach out to the juggler, asking permission to gather the debris. conjuring from the broken performance the possibility of yet another joining, and in this collaboration effect yet a new creation, a celebration of life as it is experienced, redeemed by the aesthetic joinery of - well - the associative intellect? I need to stop now, esle I being to spin, out of control, no longer the juggler but becoming the plate itself or even more discombobulating , all the plates at once. This is it: a beginning, and a commitment to hit "publish". If you've read and followed and are intrigued, then I've written reading. And if not, at least I'm writing writing. That, my friends, is a beginning. A final note: Carol Corbeil, (1952-2000), notable works, two novels: Voice-Over and In the Wings. She was a generous creative spirit who should have had more time to share her insight, her gift. If nothing else, I ought to get my crap together, write to bear witness to that, the generosity of a creative artist who had the courage to face writing life, asking that, only that, of me as if it could be real.