For many of us who love the act of writing—even when we are writing against a deadline with an editor waiting for the copy—there is something monastic about the process, a confrontation with one’s thoughts that has a value apart from the proximity or even perhaps the desirability of any other reader.
[…] I am not saying that writers need to be or ought to be isolated, either from other writers or from the reading public at large. But writers must to some degree believe that they are alone with their own words. And writers who are alone with their words will quite naturally, from time to time, conclude that some of those words should remain private.
[…] What I fear is that many readers are coming to believe that a writer who holds something back from publication is somehow acting unnaturally. Nobody understands the extent to which, even for the widely acclaimed author with ready access to publication, the process of writing can sometimes necessitate a rejection or at least an avoidance of one’s own readers. That silence is a part of writing—that the work of this day or this week or even this year might for good reason be withheld—is becoming harder and harder to comprehend.
— Jed Perl
I, of course, don’t have to worry about the possibility of publication, so it would seem like cheap posturing if I were to claim that I wouldn’t want a huge audience even if I had the chance to attract one. Well, call me a poser, then, because it’s true!
Seriously, though, I do agree with his points. Even as a simple blogger, I can see the truth of what he’s saying. When I first started doing this, I really had no idea what I was doing or why. I was “raised” on the political blogs; in fact, writing about politics and current events was the purpose, maybe even the definition of blogging as I understood it. I knew that there were people who wrote in a much more personal manner, but I couldn’t for the life of me understand why anyone outside of family or close friends would want to read what amounted to an online diary. Very few people are talented enough to write compellingly about their personal lives, even if they do lead interesting ones.
I quickly realized that I didn’t want to be just another political blogger, but at the time, I didn’t have the confidence or even a good sense of how to write about other topics, so I took a hiatus for a couple years and spent the time trying to find different writers who wrote about offbeat topics, to help me envision the possibilities this format contained. When I finally decided to get back into it, I made up my mind that I was just going to write whatever I felt about whatever I wanted, serious or silly, coherent or surreal, and I wouldn’t make the slightest effort to attract an audience. Fortunately, that seemed to do the trick for me, and I was able to find somewhat of a voice of my own, free of the expectations of an audience or a desire to please one. Before, when I felt an urge to keep up with some standard, to talk about the same topics everyone else was talking about, I wasn’t enjoying it at all. It was a chore. Since giving up entirely on the idea of acceptance and putting everything out of my head but the desire to write things that I can be relatively proud of, it’s become increasingly enjoyable, to the point where I feel somewhat lethargic and less mentally focused when I don’t get to do any writing. I actually feel energized and alert for the next day or so following a good day of writing, regardless of whether anyone else read it or not.
So even if I were able to make an actual living at writing, I would probably still maintain a pseudonymous blog just for the freedom it affords. I’m sure there are rewards to writing for a substantial group of people who largely enjoy it and give you positive feedback, but I’m content to keep secretly typing away in my tiny little corner of the Internet.