Sunday, May 6, 2007

It's All About the Process

When I used to travel around and talk to people about writing, one of the things I often said was that the best reason to write is a love of the process itself. Writing is by its very nature something that must be done alone.

Or is it?

The ubiquity of the internet has turned -- is turning -- a lot of things we thought we knew on their ear. The writing process just might be one of them.

For example, here I am writing this after having had my usual debate with myself, i.e. To blog or not to blog. That IS the question. Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to keep on with this, or.... etc., with apologies to Shakespeare. To me blogging sort of a continual, ongoing Ego Tango, in which the rub -- as in "Aye, there's the rub" -- is the absence of the dancing partner. Blogging feels like writing, but it's not, not really, because we blog on the internet and the internet is all about communication, and generally speaking communication requires feedback.

Writing fiction neither requires nor allows feedback. I'm a writer. Yet when I get on the internet and start to write, I want feedback, and blogging is not a form that provides it. Of course there are the comments, if any, but many people (including me) read blogs without leaving a comment and I know from my private emails that there are people who have read this one without commenting. [Someone asked me recently if the comments on my blog were hidden, and I don't think so, but just in case they might be I went into the settings just now and made sure I haven't checked anything that would hide them.]

When I was a student and then a practitioner of psychotherapy, we used to talk about "processing" things in our lives, or things that had happened in group. The point of processing is integration. I think what I'm doing now is processing blog writing, because it's new to me and I'm still uncomfortable with it.

I'm uncomfortable because it feels too egocentric. I began this blog because I thought it would be good discipline to force myself to express various concerns in writing, and I knew that if I did it in the more public way of the internet, instead of in a journal kept by hand at home, I'd be more likely to continue it. Why? Because there's always the possibility that someone else might read it besides me -- otherwise why put it out there at all -- and I would feel an obligation to continue doing it for the sake of that other probably unknown person or persons. My record at keeping a journal is dismal, as I probably said in my first post here. I hadn't anticipated the ego problem that has come up.

I'll keep wrestling with it for a while, if for no other reason than that I believe it's connected to the newness of blog writing as a process. The internet is changing the world. It's changing the very way people think. I will give you one example, an experiment I did with myself last week. I bought the Sunday edition of a well-respected newspaper, because I've gone over to reading newspapers online and I wanted to see if I've impoverished my life in any way by doing that. It's a feeling thing, a feeling that I'm missing something by not having a newspaper to hold in my hand as I sit in my comfy reading chair. Turns out, if I am only concerned with content, then no, I haven't got less news in my life by reading it online. Actually I have more news, because I don't confine my reading of it to one print publication anymore. I get different angles on the same news in different places on the net, and sometimes different news items too. Therefore, if I feel that I'm missing something, what I'm missing is the old process of reading that newspaper.

It's a subtle distinction, but it's there. And like most things that have to do with life, in the end when decisions must be made, it's all a matter of time. How I choose to spend my time.

I promise to be here tomorrow, writing some thoughts on a Discovery Channel program I saw about Stephen Hawking, whose best-known book is called A Brief History of Time.