Friday, July 15, 2005

My Obsession with Blogging

I've already done a few of these self referential “blogging about blogging” type posts, and I’ll try not to do to many of them for obvious reasons…

But, I've noticed, and I’m sure you have too, that lately I've been blogging more than anyone else I know. (Matt Lind might be nipping at my heels a bit). And I’m sure a lot of you are thinking: “Is he alright? Has Joel become one of these people who spends too much time on the internet to the exclusion of actually living real life? Has he become one of these bloggers with an inflated sense of self-importance? Isn't there something better he could be doing with his time?”

(I guess the short answer to all of these is probably yes, but allow me to offer some explanations).

There are several reasons why I blog frequently. For one I’m in a foreign country and sometimes have a lot of unusual experiences I think are worth blogging about. I also can write more freely because a lot of my subjects can’t speak English and will never find this blog.

There is a sense of isolation from living in a foreign country, and I use this blog as a means of self-expression.

Also, as I am currently in a period where I am confused about what direction my life will take, I use this blog to help make sense of things. Or in other words, I think I seek to somehow justify my existence by documenting it.

But I think the biggest reason is the most obvious: I blog because I have time to blog.

As an Assistant English Teacher I have a fair amount of free time on my hands every day at work. Most of the classes I teach I’m not required to do a lot of preparation for, so during free periods there is a lot of just sitting at my desk.

I used to study Japanese, but recently I've lost motivation on that. I read a bit, but there’s only so much of that you can do. I’m not supposed to tie up the school computers, so I can’t do e-mail or surf the net during this time. But I do have my own computer. It’s an old clunker with no internet access, but perfect for writing posts like these, and then later transferring them online.

So that's the big reason for my blog obsession, just time on my hands.

However, I did also find a passage in a book (“How to Write, Speak, and Think more Effectively” by Rudolf Flesch) that I think describes me quite well. I’ll quote at Length: (Oh, and fair warning, this lengthy quotation contains a quotation within the quotation. Hope that doesn’t confuse anyone).

“Thinking back over the years, I arrived at the conclusion that about one out of fifty adults Americans suffer from graphomania—which is defined in Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary as a ‘morbid desire or mania for writing’….
There is some statistical evidence for what I just said. In 1949 someone took a public-opinion poll in the city of Louisville, Kentucky, and found that 2.1 per cent of the voting population ‘wanted to write’. I don’t doubt that this figure is true for the country as a whole. There are about 2 per cent graphomaniacs among us—people who have desk drawers full of stories and essays and unfinished novels, people who fill evening classes in creative writing, people who have the dairy habit—in short, people, whose nervous systems crave the activity of putting words on paper, just as those of alcoholics crave liquor.
Of course among those 2 per cent there are a few that are successful and have made a name for themselves as authors. But they too can be classified as neurotics, just like their more unfortunate fellow writers who get nothing for their efforts but rejection slips. Dr. Edmund Bergler, well-known psychiatrist and author of the book ‘The Writer and Pyschoanalysis’, states categorically that he has never encountered a normal writer, either in his office, or in his private life, or in examining the life histories of writers. There is no such thing as a normal writer, he says: normal people just don’t feel impelled to write.
I could illustrate this verdict with literally dozens of statements by famous writers who have described their neurotic attitude toward writing. I’ll just quote one, which struck me as unusually pathetic when I read it. This is from the essay, ‘Voyage with Don Quixote’ by Thomas Mann, the late German Nobel prize winner, written during a slow boat trip across the Atlantic:

May twentieth: I ought not to do what I am doing: sitting bent over to rite. It is not conducive to well-being, for the sea is, as our American table-mates say, ‘a little rough,’ and though I agree that our ship moves quietly and steadily, yet her motions are more felt up here on this desk where the writing room is than they are below. Nor is looking through the window advisable, for the rising and falling of the horizon attacks the head in a way well known from an earlier experience but forgotten until now. Also it is not very healthy to gaze down upon paper and script. Curiously, obstinately persevering is the old habit of settling to composition so soon as breakfast and morning stroll are over. It persists under the most contrary circumstances.
Isn't that pitiful? Here is Thomas Mann, sixty years old and world-famous, and yet unable to enjoy his ten days’ trip to New York without the daily dose of his writing drug. (Having no other project on hand, he decided to reread Don Quixote and write a long essay on that.)”

End quote. Although one could quibble with Flesch’s figure of 2 percent, (I think the explosion of the blog phenomenon shows that this graphomania sickness affects much more of us), I saw myself as someone who fit into his description. At just about every point in my life, I've had some writing project going, whether it was writing amateur novels, diary, Chimes articles, or writing long winded e-mails (and often several of these at once).

And looked at that way, blogging I think seems much more productive than a lot of these other projects I used to spend so much time on, such as personal diaries or long unfinished novels that no one else will ever read.

Of course I think this graphomania description applies to several of you as well, and it’s just that I’m the one with time on my hands right now.

And also perhaps Brian Bork hit the nail on the head a few months ago when he noted:

I've been doing this blogging thing for over a year now, and as I looked over the archives of this blog, I've noticed that there's been a bit of a decrease in the quality of writing here. Funny how that works - When I started this thing, I was working a shitty job, crammed under fluorescent lights until 2 in the damn morning. My writing flourished. Now, it would seem that I have all the things important to being a good writer: stimulating academic environment, cushy bookstore job, plentiful coffee, new penchant for poetry and the warm glow of 60 watt bulbs. Yet most of what I've tried to write these past few weeks has been froth. Go figure.

Perhaps when you feel like your life has purpose and direction, and when you are busy with other intellectually stimulating projects, there is not so much need for self-expression. But when you are stuck at the office wondering what you are doing with your life, writing becomes a great release.

1 comment:

lucretius said...

Joel, I hear you on this one. I completely consider my blogging to be a form of free public therapy. A kind of AA for the derangements of post-modern modernism.
Of course, my blogging obsession has also come from my two months off in the summertime which I have chosen to fill by reading, writing, and seeing movies.