Yesterday I spent the full day and evening Internet-less - mostly in San Francisco, about 50 miles away - and so I forgot about my commitment to continue the Open Letter post. (I'm on it....)
It only occured to me after my first meeting with Renee Blodgett (whom I met in person briefly at a Supernova dinner before I read her blog) that all my one-on-ones were with bloggers (I'm not counting the evening seminar.) After Renee, I met with Jory Des Jardins and Jerry Colonna whom was visiting from New York.
I'm pretty focused these days and rarely have time for face-to-face meetings with folks that aren't already long-time friends, but there is something particularly special about meetings with bloggers as it's easy to feel like long-term friends when their blog is an expression of their intimate voice.
Eros will have naked bodies; Friendship naked personalities. - C. S. Lewis
Jerry said that most of his writing pre-blog was in essence to put himself out there as a credible authority. And I think most people view writing for the public in this manner - a great way to build credibility, become a guru, display your expertise and how smart and knowledgable you are. And I know many folks write to influence and persuade others to their point of view - without a second thought to whether they themselves are influenceable and permeable to new ideas. Jerry said that style of writing only seemed to further a sense of separation from others for him. It was only after he started writing a blog that he realized why he really blogged.
Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon.
Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted,
And human love will be seen at its height.
Live in fragments no longer.
Only connect... -E.M. Forster, Howards End
Why we blog initially and why we continue to blog are often quite different. I know that's true for me. I abandoned my first blog for many reasons, but I think one was that I didn't have any sense of connection alive with it; I was just typing into a screen, hitting publish and it was going out to the ether and that was that.
Blogs with a personal voice connect you intimately to other people in a way no other media I know does. Om Malik is wrong about the demise of personal blogs. The big get bigger, he says (hmm, sounds like short head not long tail thinking) - so what? Personal blogs typically aren't about mainstream bigness and mass popularity. For many, they're about dismantling the artificial walls between us so the world is a bit smaller, up close and touchable. The voices that resonate with you will be found one way or another with or without an award or Yahoo. And I know I've experienced the mysterious gravitation pull of finding the right post in the right blog at precisely the right time.
The personal blog is soooo needed I'd venture the trend is in the other direction: a blossoming of more personal blogs in the further outreaches of the ever-lengthening long tail. The author of The Culting of Brands states the premise of his book is "to examine the universal needs (to belong, to make meaning, to create identity)." Those deep universal needs have hardly been answered and thus are hardly going away.
There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread. - Mother Theresa
People are hungry, and one good word is bread for a thousand. - David Whyte
Nestled among books on the canyon country and Southwest deserts, The Best Spiritual Writing 1998, peeked out in the cozy bookshelves lining the living room of the The Dreamkeeper Inn in Moab (highly recommended) and I read within that Augustine was the first memoirist in the West and for him:
Prayer is his articulation of wholeness and his acknowledgment of brokenness.
Ah, that so clearly states so much of why I write. Yes, writing is my attempt at an articulation of wholeness and my acknowledgment of my brokenness. The book also stated that:
Augustine was already ten years a baptized Catholic when, at age forty-three, he paused in the midst of a pressured, exhausting life, to write his book as an act of renewal. Like any midlife memoirist, he was using memory not to look back, simply. He had to look back in order to go forward. - The Best Spiritual Writing 1998
I have had to cut down severely on my blog reading as I get more and more personal email from readers, but I find I cannot dare to delete blogs from my regular reading with a personal voice and story and those that blur the lines of professional media and personal memoir. In fact, in January one of my 'resolutions' is to write more creative non-fiction stories.
The author of the medieval mystical treatise, The Cloud of Unknowing, says the heart has "a naked intent toward God." That nakedness cannot be articulated by an institutional voice, nor by one upholding an orthodoxy. Even if the writer is in fact an orthodox practitioner of a faith, the voice must be individual, must be personal and inevitably autobiographical - though it reaches out for what will subsume it and render it impersonal and anonymous, absorbed by the oneness it longs to become. - The Best Spiritual Writing 1998
The act of blogging is a communal act; sort of a breaking bread with others. Every day we make time in our hectic lives to eat. And I find I will make time for that which nourishes me. I am thankful for the bloggers that feed me regularly and the readers who write me (I savor everything even if I am not able to reply) and re-mind and replenish me.
In everyone's life at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit. - Albert Schweitzer