Saturday, 14 November 2015

Keeping Track

Aptly back-lit by sunlight near the end of the day, my mum's yellow bed-jacket hanging out to dry. It dates back to 1953. She wore this jacket (a rather old-fashioned idea these days, with hospital patients being discouraged from wearing night-wear during the day) for all of her seven stays in the maternity home. On the rare occasions that I wear it, I remember a life well-lived; and never forgotten

Dear Reader,

Personal journal / diary-type blogging (I'm not talking about journalistic blogs or professional blogs, they are another animal entirely) seemed to hit its peak about nine years ago, just before I-phones and Facebook arrived I conjecture. But the personal blog has now tumbled down to the wire. It appears to me that only those who thrive on the writing process; chronicling, recording, journalling; are still writing personal blogs. Or am I out of the loop? I confess I haven't gone on a hunt for new blogs to replace the ones I used to follow / read; most of which have dissolved into the ether.

A lot of of my blogger-buddies are now Facebook and / or Twitter friends. I still have a blogroll and I occasionally read the blogs on it that are still active. However, most of the blogroll is inactive. Occasionally I'll check up on an old blogger buddy only to find that their blog has disappeared. Others are still there, but they speak from the past and it's like flipping through an old photograph album. Still others are faithful blogger friends (and I appreciate you dear friends - you know who you are!) who have been there with me since the start, but they are few in number.

The audience was kind of the point of a blog, but for me, only when it went hand-in-hand with the actual process of writing. The size of the readership maybe at one stage seemed to matter, but in these 'down to the wire' blogging days, not so much.

When I first discovered blogging in the early days of internet, it was a way of connecting with others with the same interests. When I was a kid, one of my hobbies was writing to penfriends (or penpals). At one stage, I had a pod of about six or seven other kids I was writing to – kids from USA, England, Australia, France … Even from the North Island of my own country, which, yes, in those days seemed exotic. With the advance of the internet, interacting instantly with people, no matter where in the world, through blogging, emailing, messaging, brought back that same engagement I remember receiving from penfriend letters, but with the added dimension of immediacy. 

For me, Facebook and Twitter have largely taken the place (and widened) this interaction. And it is a far quicker, more efficient process. One click that you have 'Liked' something tells whoever posted that you are reading and usually appreciating, what they are posting.

Back in the day I would read a blog, comment and expect that they in turn would be kind enough reciprocate. However, at the peak of this to-ing and fro-ing (I guess this would be about 2004 -5 -6?) I found that the whole process of writing a blog, reading other blogs and commenting, was taking 2 -3 hours at a time!

2 – 3 hours was too much to take out of precious time set aside for 'actual' or 'real' writing (i.e writing that didn't involve blogging). If I wanted to keep on writing stuff that didn't incorporate blogging, something had to go. And it did. I gave up reading as many blogs and gave up commenting. As did many other bloggers. Bloggers were suffering blog fatigue. A sudden drop in personal blogging occurred.

When my sister gave me her old Canon, that helped, because I started taking photos, then posting them on my blog and letting them do the talking. In this way, my posts didn't have to involve so much writing and therefore take up as much time.

It also transpired that a lot of my blogger friends (a lot of them writers as well) also found that Facebook was a better way of interacting with like-minds, than blogging – which in the end, only took time away from the real business: writing. However, I wonder if Facebook too is reaching a peak that will soon flat-line?

But that's ok – there's still plain old emails or even phoning. (Not a favourite activity of mine, talking on the phone … Just so you know …) Facebook's almost become a fuddy-duddy thing to do. I don't know what's replacing it, and I don't want to. I'll stick with Facebook for now if that's where friends and family are. (Anyway, I believe I've found it's true genius – locating lost cousins).

All this is a preamble to me trying to work out where I now stand with blogging.

Some conclusions are:

I still enjoy blogging. But not on such a regular basis as before. I don't want to become a slave to it. I like to be free to blog whatever the hell I want, so specialised topics, themes, subjects, regular poems ... and / or certain days-of-the-week posts, are out. That all smacks too much of being beholden, or driven and is not for me.

It seems that blogging has been the perfect vehicle for me to post photographs. But whereas writing is 'what I do' – and to a certain extent defines who I am - photography will always be just a side-line; a hobby. However, in my posts, I can use photography to express myself - without having to write as much as I do when I am working on my novel. (I don't feel like writing huge amounts in a blog post, on top of having just written fifteen hundred words, for instance). This may mean not posting as often. It may also, paradoxically, mean that when I do post, I will write more now, because I won't feel as pushed for time, or that I am working to a deadline.

As far as readership goes. I am no longer going to follow the advice of blogging-experts and try and 'hook in' Facebook friends, or Twitter followers. If people want to read my blog, they will seek it out. If they don't, then that's fine by me. This is going to be an interesting exercise for me – to write as if there's no-one there, and at the same time, as if the whole world is there. In a weird way; it's like starting again. (Google Plus – and I admit I have no idea what that particular mysterious little engine is all about - is maybe another way of reaching people: letting people know I've written something. But even then, I've yet to be convinced it attract readers … I may be wrong. Go on, prove me wrong!)

I will blog because it's what I do. I have always chronicled – from teenage years, I have written journals and kept accounts of what it's like to live in 'my world'. If there are others who find this as engaging or as inspiring or as riveting as I do – then they are my kind of people / reader and I'm happy to have them aboard. 

I will continue to write reflectively, rather than an opinionated account of what I think is wrong with the world. Politics will seldom come into what I write. Facebook is where I vent politically and even there, it's only occasionally.
The posts will be un-apologetically personal. In some instances, as personal as my family will allow. Understandably, they don't like me to divulge too much to the world - especially where it impacts on their own personal lives - and I totally respect that, and willingly (naturally) comply. Therefore, the posts will be personal, but when that intersects with family, I will adhere to the non-full disclosure clause.

I know this sounds upside down, or ironic, or counter-intuitive, but as I have already stated, from now on when I do post, I will be writing more that I have in the past. Photos will still appear, but my photography has lessened and hence the photos will be less. Maybe to a certain extent, I have photo-ed myself out. There seems no point in photographing the sea, trees, flowers over and over again.

My posts may now (I'm still unsure about this – this post is a bit of an experiment) take the form of a letter. Is this me going back to the penfriend idea? Whatever. I want to change my style a little. Time for a cool change. 

Finally, this may sound odd, but I would like to say Thank You to Blogger and the team, for creating the whole concept of Blogging. They won't ever get to read this, but I'd feel like an ungrateful swine if I didn't say 'Thanks' to someone in the 'blogosphere'; that amorphous, internet-webby-cloudy-thingy, who are responsible for this whole blogging era (and consequently, the post-blogging era - whatever that turns out to be). 

My life thus far has been pretty full. Pretty wonder-full. Sometimes I feel it moves too fast for me to keep up, but blogging has become an integral part of my being able to at least 'keep track'.

Take care out there,



Avus said...

Kay, what a completely thoughtful and wonderful letter. You do so much chime in with my own thoughts on blogging and I agree with everything you say- except Facebook, which I abhor - writing a blog allows more "spaciousness" and invites extended comment. But I suppose that is exactly why blogging is no longer popular. Many have not the time for it and your quick "like" on Facebook does not satisfy me - I enjoy the conversation with a respondent.
There: on Facebook I might have clicked "like" to your message and not spent time writing this reply which I think your input deserved.
Until I reached the end of your letter I was dreading that yet another old friend was relinquishing their blog. I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw that you will continue.
I, too, will blog so long as I get a response (and even if I don't) Putting a thought/idea on "paper" I enjoy.

Kay Cooke said...

Thanks Avus. You are one of the faithful friends I was talking about, of course. Thanks for your comment, much appreciated. I wonder where it will all end up the Facebook trend? I believe it will scatter into different directions soon. The young ones don't seem to like it. There will likely be a myriad ways to communicate and network on line. But blogging suits me because it involves expressing myself in writing and as you say, putting thoughts / ideas on 'paper'.. Thanks again.

Avus said...

As a "PS" Kay, I have referred to your blog and your letter on my blog. I hope you don't mind. It is meant appreciatively!

Lucy said...

HI, followed Avus' link and very much enjoyed this, which reflected much of my own experience and conclusions.

It's been good though, hasn't it? I wonder what future historians will make of it, if anything!

Kay Cooke said...

Avus - My pleasure and an honour - thank you!

Lucy - Thanks for commenting. Yes, I wonder ... And yes, it's been good.

Roderick Robinson said...

"Only those who thrive on the writing process" (still blog). I wholeheartedly agree. Late in life I've taken to writing novels (four finished) short stories and - who'd have thought it? - poetry which I call verse; theoretically I shouldn't have time to blog, given the creaking wheels of time's wingèd chariot. I'm old. But I need some form of community too; like minds, and they're hard to find through conventional social mechanisms.

I started blogging in 2008 and my list of contacts now looks more like names on the village war memorial. More are inactive than active (Avus and Lucy are both survivors). But I keep them on as a reminder of jolly times. Jolly articulate times. People willing to take hold of the metaphorical baton, run with it, then hand it back; people who could pick up an allusion; who'd read books; who could form an original opinion; who, to quote Martin Amis, were foot-soldiers in the war against cliché.

I've visited NZ three times and concluded that Port Underwood (such a humdrum name!) is the most beautiful place on earth. Said this to one of the residents then, irritated with myself for spouting the obvious, asked to be told about somwhere in NZ that wasn't beautiful. "Try Hamilton," he said.‌ But I never did. Perhaps you have. I'll add you to my contacts and check you out: not regarding your ability to write, you've proved that, rather your stamina.

Kay Cooke said...

Hi Roderick I shall reciprocate and put you on my blogroll too. Thanks for taking the time to comment. Much appreciated. I like what you said re keeping people on your blogroll as a reminder of 'jolly times'. Me too! (Some of the blogs are my kids travel blogs, which were wonderful to read). Some of the 'dead' blogs are friends I communicate with in other mediums, still others are people who have completely disappeared and who I miss a lot! Hamilton was rather a cool place when I spent time there back in 1974-5. Being from the south of New Zealand, I loved it for its warm climate. So maybe even Hamilton might not have met your 'not beautiful' criteria. Looking forward to reading your blog. Thanks again.

Anne S said...

I regret the unpopularity of Blogging in favour of the instant gratification of other social media sites. I do regularly check out Facebook, but find it excruciatingly trivial and never write anything on my timeline.

I still prefer blogging as it allows one to express oneself in more detail and with aforethought.

Whether I have readers or not does not bother me, as my Blog is for me to write on. I love writing about the things that interest me, and enjoy constructing sentences. It's also a place where I can display my photos.

I've noticed that us old time bloggers seem to concentrate on our personal obsessions these days and have become more specialised in terms of topics written about. I seem to be writing a history of Australian Horse Racing as I use my blog as a source of information on past races and write about it as it happens.

Anyway I totally agree with your thoughts on the demise of Blogging and like you rarely look for new blogs, but still visit old blogs I've followed for years to see if they have posted anything new.

Kay Cooke said...

Hi Anne! Thanks for your comments. I enjoy your posts and like to see the horses. You take some great photos. Your reviews of music / concerts you attend are also interesting and informative. Your book reviews are insightful and useful. That is a pertinent point you've made about bloggers concentrating more on their particular interests - or obsessions! - these days. Maybe after all that posting over the years, the real sauce has now been reached!

kj said...

ah kay, you've nailed a truth that i find sad. i miss the larger community of blogging: when we all begin, wow was it special. then and now i felt a responsibility to somehow keep in touch and reciprocate, but never because of obligation. one of the smarter decisions i've made in life is to not let the things i love become chores. that includes blogging, gardening, and writing. sometimes even cooking.

i blog for the reasons you blog: it's a personal journal and a creative endeavor. i appreciate so much that you've written this "letter" and i'm glad to know we'll still be here, from time to time, doing and sharing what we love and think about.

it is my privilege to be your friend. i hope you know that.


Kay Cooke said...

kj - I certainly count you as one of my friends too! And yes, it is a privilege. Thanks for your response. As warm and open as ever. I love the philosophy of never letting what you love become a chore and was even able to apply it this week! Yes, I'm glad too that we can still visit each other's blogs.

Clocking Out

 I have been neglecting this blog for some months. I think perhaps I should face facts and accept that it is indeed time to retire this blog...