"Murray is the best kind of literary biographer" – The Financial Times.
For more information about the books of Nicholas Murray
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Winner of the 2015 Basil Bunting Award for poetry

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Why Do You Blog?

Looking at the date of my last blog entry this might seem a question over which a little irony has been scattered.  I do find my posts seem to appear at longer and longer intervals.  A question put to me by a fellow writer in all seriousness when I started blogging was: why do you do it? I can't see the point. Presumably his argument was that a writer should, as Dr Johnson enjoined us, be writing only for money as any professional should.  I do write for money.  I publish books and articles and reviews and the quality, I hope, of what I write here is equal to what I write for 'published' occasions.  So why do it if you are not being paid?

I think payment isn't the issue, rather it is the nature of the writing and whether it is making the impact it should or whether one is merely engaged in a refined form of striking one's head against the wall.  By "impact" I mean doing what writing should do, having some sort of resonance or presence in the larger world, rather than being a silent muttering to oneself.  The evidence is that some people do read one's blog because you get feedback, occasional comments, and even solicitations from publishers and publicists who seem to think you might be a useful vehicle for them.  But things have changed since I first started this blog.  The "intelligent internet" as one might call it has exploded and there is an extraordinary amount of material worth reading (we don't need to add that it jostles against the 90 per cent of drivel).  Only this week I discovered a site new to me called Partisan which seems to be worth anyone's while to read: short, sharp, well-written and pertinent.  The original idea of literary blogs, that they would say the unsayable and be a free critical space in a world of whirling, skirling hype, may have become clouded and many are long-winded, self-referential and otiose, but there is still stuff worth reading.  The problem is the amount of it.

It would be very easy to spend all one's day chasing up links provided by Twitter and many links would reward the effort but when would one have the time to read anything else?  I think most of us are too exhausted by all this matter coming at us to read it all (this being one of the reasons why blog comments have declined in numbers, people are just too overwhelmed by the tidal wave of words to be able to swim against it).  I am constantly surprised by certain active minds on Twitter who seem to be tweeting 24/7 yet who are also writers and poets.  When do they find time actually to write anything?

A key element in literary publishing has always been the editor and editors can often be vexing for writers because they have a habit of saying: no, this will not do.  The internet never says no and all doors are wide open. I am currently reading Eileen Simpson's fascinating memoir of the post-war American poets, Poets in Their Youth (she was married to John Berryman) and their struggle to get past editors and get themselves published is a major theme in the story.  But as readers aren't we  glad that there are some gatekeepers?  The true literarybloghead would say very firmly no.  Gatekeepers are censors, partial or biassed establishment police officers who curb and suppress the free flow of thought and opinion (the latter what really counts for many).  Let a thousand flowers bloom even if some of them are rotting on their stalks.  There is a lot in that but in the end the sheer profusion is self-defeating.  We can't keep up and the jam is, in my view, spread too thinly.

So that is why I do not blog daily, or even weekly.  In fact the chance of monthly would be a fine thing.  I will continue to do so, but I still can't answer my friend's question, and I think I never will: why do you do it?


1 comment:

Andrew said...

"But a blog! Why do you do it?"
"Because it's there."

Not sure if that answer would bear much scrutiny - or then again it may be unendingly brilliant - but either way it would probably stop, at least momentarily, the interlocutor in his or her tracks, and score some points for cleverness. You might as a reward be asked to host for a day or so a real literary celebrity's Twitter account for a day and see how you got on. Presumably that literary celebrity would have to be Stephen Fry.