Following Blogs

I have a friend who just recently decided to get on the Internet with a blog of her own. She started it toward the end of January and has written every day since. Her blog is called “Erasing the Bored,” and that’s exactly what she attempts to do with every one of her posts. She could have written about a multitude of topics but she zeroed in on Change and Creativity and her post is all the stronger for it.

I’ve been reading her post almost every day (and I always catch up if I’ve missed any). I enjoy reading her thoughts and gleaning bits of knowledge from her posts. I am officially a follower of her blog–she has 18 official followers already–but I would follow her blog even if I wasn’t. She has a voice that I love to “hear.” And she makes me think.

This got me to thinking about all the blog followers out there. Unless you have analytical tools that keep track of your visitors and what they view (see Google Analytics, for one), you would never know that they’d been there unless they leave comments or link to your post from their own. I have a blog on Word Press, too and it keeps track of your visits automatically. From that I found out that one of my posts, “The Future of Newspapers” drew 13 “hits,” but only one of them left a comment.

These ghosts that pass through our lives are our audience and we don’t even know them. That’s not so different from writing a book and not knowing who is buying it (hopefully) and reading it. But the Internet is so transitory and so secretive. People who followed mailing list conversations used to be called “lurkers” and that’s a little bit how it feels when people visit your blog without leaving a trace.

I do the same of course. We’re too busy to leave comments everywhere we go, not to mention that sometimes we just can’t think of anything to say. But now that I’ve become a blogger, especially one who hopes to be read, I can see that I’ve been remiss with the blogs I follow. I need to let the posters that I’m out here and that I care. That might sound sappy, but I’d hate for someone to stop blogging just because they think no one is reading the words they’ve thrown to the universe.

I have my blogs listed in my profile, except for my newest (and most personal) one: If you do happen to pay me a visit, leave a sign. It will encourage me to keep on blogging. (Although to tell you the truth, I’d probably keep on doing it anyway.)

Chutzpah and the Writer

Michael Schiavone says in his short essay on Glimmer Train’s website that he would “rather address my irrational fear of being followed (I always run up stairwells for this reason) than announce to a stranger that I’m a writer. The shame I endure should be reserved for ticket scalpers and animal abusers, yet I feel like a sleaze when I confess to being a writer.”

Now this is a writer who has been published in numerous literary magazines and won several contests, who has earned close to $5000 so far this year, and who has an agent “with a New York zip code.” But he fears that he will never consider himself a writer until he has a book on the New York Times‘ bestseller list, an appearance on Oprah and his work is made into a movie. But from what I’ve heard about successful writers, even they suffer from the feeling that they are never quite good enough. They fear that they aren’t quite there yet.

If we could only tell ourselves that we are successful as soon as we set pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. Because it is a major accomplishment when we are able to put our thoughts into words. Even if no one ever reads them. We need to recognize the sheer brazenness of the act of writing. It takes a lot of chutzpah, which is defined in Wikipedia as a “non-conformist but gutsy audacity.” And that’s exactly what it takes to be a writer.

We are already non-conformists because we assume that we have something new to say. There would be no point to our writing if we were just going to repeat what someone else has written. So we break out of the pack and set our sights higher than the average person does. To do that we need supreme self-confidence or we wouldn’t even try. The trick is to keep believing in ourselves throughout the entire process. We not only need the nerve to start writing in the first place, we also have to have the gall to send our work out for others to read. Even a letter to the editor in your local newspaper causes anxieties we’d rather not encounter–but we do it anyway.

Michael Schiavone titled his essay, “Must I Write?” and he concludes that he has no choice. No matter how anxious or depressed he gets about his (lack of) progress, he knows that he’s stuck; writing is in his blood. It feels almost genetic, the way that an athlete has a body designed for physical activity. Even when we fear that we are not the best writers that ever lived (and who really has that distinction anyway?), we feel compelled to keep on trying to express ourselves through words.

But it goes a step further than that, if we’re honest. We must write because we want to be read. This is the part of being a writer that we are reluctant to reveal to others: our need to be heard. It takes real chutzpah to admit that we want attention, even fame. But what’s wrong with that? What would be the point of writing if we didn’t care about communicating our ideas to others? That means putting ourselves and our words out there. We already have chutzpah or we wouldn’t write or call ourselves writers. So let’s just muster some of that outrageous energy and send our words out into the world. What do we have to lose?