There’s one thing I have to say about blogging. It has so changed the way I write. When I first started doing this, back in September of ’03, there was an interesting constraint to the experience: the 2500 word limit imposed by AOL in the early days of "Journal Land." There I was, the one who could churn out four or five single-spaced pages of stream-of-consciousness in a bored hour or two at work, reduced to trying to express myself in what amounted to about four paragraphs.
Eventually, we were freed from the word limit ball and chain. Going forward, I found I had learned a good lesson, and I carried it along with me into the world of the expanded blog. I had learned how to edit. How to distill my prose down to an almost poetic economy of words. And how to stick to making one point about one subject, and not indulge in my usual butterfly-flitting-from-thought-to-thought style of writing. The hyper-examination of every word has worn off some; but I have been bitten by the editing bug. And the computer makes it so easy! I hardly crank out one sentence without backspacing, "control-x-ing," moving things around or just deleting large quantities of print altogether.
Gone are the days when I could jump on my train of thought and shovel whatever came into my mind into the boiler. Suddenly, it has to make sense. It has to communicate. It has to be more than bile, or tears, or hysteria. It has to say something. Writing has gone from the smooth flowing fun with words it once was for me, to being a stutter-step, start and stop process that decidedly does not flow. But I can’t blame it all on editing fever. What’s really to blame is that pesky thing called an audience.
Readers. Nobody ever read my writing. For years. Not since high school, anyway. That would be many, many years. Until now. Readership is a powerful drug. It changes everything. Everything. It has kept me coming back here, even when my heart was sore, when I felt I’d been rejected or misunderstood, when I was afraid I had alienated the world, when I thought I had run out of things to say. Even though my audience includes almost none of the people I started out with. Even though I don’t feel the same "relationship" I did with the first half dozen friends who fell into stopping by and seeing what I had to say. There is a relationship, nonetheless. And for a writer, it’s the only relationship that matters. Someone reads.
Now, I wish I commanded the audience of a Dave Barry, or even a Margie Boulet ("women’s viewpoint" columnist for the Oregonian.) Or maybe I don’t. Because I have a hard enough time trying to write things that are true, meaningful to me, topical, and engaging to the six people who read my journal. I work for literally hours on a 3500-word post. Editing, revising, re-reading, trying to make sure I’m really communicating. I think about people who write for a living…who have to crank out something good, concise, and interesting five days a week. Oh, my god….the impossible dream. Or writing a novel. At the rate I obsess for my handful of readers, it would take me 200 years to write a book.
It’s unfortunate that even a small taste of very limited success makes one crave more. I’m pretty sure I don’t have what it takes to ever get to the point where I might actually be paid for what I write. And, you know…I’m not sure that’s my goal. I write stuff here, and some of it is good. And I know that there is such a thing as making a living as a writer. But I don’t look at writing in those terms. For me, the reward is all about the communication; the connection to at least one other soul on the planet. Having readers is still new enough for me that I haven’t yet reached the point of wondering how I might profit from the experience. But then, how cool would it be to make a living doing the one thing that you have always felt the call on your heart to do?
The world is full of people answering calls on their lives not even remotely connected to their highest calling, to their native talent. We all make do. We all find our lives more influenced by who we know, where we grew up, what our families did, the expectations put on us by others, rather than the true voices of our souls. I feel fortunate that, as one of the misdirected masses, I have stumbled across the world of the blog…this microcosm of what I should be, what I would love to be. I can get the tiniest taste of what it is like to do what I am meant to do. Many people are not that lucky.