I started this blog in April 2007, on Blogger, titled “A Writer Reads.” Over the last five years, among a lot of extraneous posts, I’ve written some 50K words about several hundred books, mainly fiction, approaching each as a writer—what is the book about? Why is it interesting, craft-wise? Where does it fit in the literary tradition?
But now the blog’s purpose has come to an end, both this blog for me as a writer and the blog in general as a cultural technology. I appreciate the readers who have stopped by over the years, and invite anyone who likes to keep in touch with me via email: jonsealy [at] yahoo [dot] com.
Blogging as social media
Things happen fast online. In 2007, Web 2.0 was a new phenomenon. Blogs were on the rise at an exponential rate. Social media existed (Facebook’s NewsFeed was launched in 2006), but connecting online was still novel. Blogs served a kind of social media function.
Jumping on the bandwagon, a number of graduate school friends and I created our blogs and posted our thoughts and commented on each other’s pages. It was a network, and we were linked by the “blogroll.”
Since then, several things have happened. Twitter (launched in 2006) became mainstream; Facebook granted more control over your wall so that your Facebook page could serve the same function as blogs had in 2007; and a number of other social media sites emerged, including Pinterest, Instagram and Tumblr. Each of these forums offers a better way to connect, socially, than a blogroll or an RSS feed.
Perhaps most importantly, mainstream media got on board the bandwagon. Sites such as Forbes and The Atlantic have great blog content, to say nothing of all-online forums like The Millions and The Rumpus. Online content has exploded to the point where we need filters. The role of mainstream media is to filter out us masses. Individual blogs, now, are like sparks firing in a wide and lonesome universe.
‘A Writer Reads’
Back on Blogger, I titled this blog “A Writer Reads.” I was in graduate school, in my apprenticeship years, and all the best writers I talked to said the same thing, that the secret to being a good writer was to read a lot and write a lot. In those years, I’d set a regimen to read 100 pages and write 1,000 words each day, at least five days a week.
Having a blog to report to was a way to keep me on task, and over the years I’ve thought of it as being my version of Henry James’s Notebooks. Now I’ve got a library of books in my living room, and since starting this blog, I’ve completed three novels, one novella, and a book’s worth of short stories. Some of the stories have been published, and I’m shopping around one of the novels.
In short, reading and writing have become habit for me, and I think I’ve graduated from my apprenticeship years, at least as much as any writer ever does. If you follow blogs regularly, you know that unless the focus is current events, blog-writers eventually run out of content. I could keep writing about books I’m reading, but it would be more of the same, and I feel my time is better spent elsewhere.
One reason I moved from Blogger to this website is because an editor once left me a comment saying she liked one of my stories she’d read elsewhere. I stumbled on that comment by chance many months later and sent her a story and an apology for not responding sooner.
Her magazine took my story, but I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss any other opportunities. I’m building my freelance business now, and I’m in still in what I’m calling the “look at me” phase. I’m marketing myself and trying to land clients. Right now I have some weeks of 75% work and 25% marketing, and other weeks of 25% work and 75% marketing. I suspect I’ll eventually be doing mostly work and occasional marketing.
So too as a fiction writer. I’m sending “look at me” letters to agents, trying to sell a book, but if all goes according to plan I’ll eventually be on the bookshelves rather than in my cyber-sandbox. But until then, my plan is to create a static home page for this site and archive the blog for the search engines until I have a book coming out.
Check out this article in The Atlantic about Facebook making us lonely. The writer starts with an anecdote about a B movie star who died and wasn’t found for nearly a year. Her network had grown wide and shallow.
On Facebook, we accumulate friends from all the nooks and crannies of our lives, but with several hundred connections, I believe it’s impossible to sustain anything meaningful. My recent posts there mainly have been links to interesting articles elsewhere, and when I log in I mostly do so to find some interesting meme, such as Texts From Hillary. A wide network, shallow connections.
The internet is full of such trends, sparks that flare briefly and fade just as fast—a Tweet, an infograph, a blog post. Trying to create a more sustained fire might be anachronistic, but in response, I’d quote the epilogue to Blood Meridian, which seems to be about a Gnostic hero carrying the fire in the face of an indifferent world:
In the dawn there is a man progressing over the plain by means of holes which he is making in the ground. He uses an implement with two handles and he chucks it into the hole and he enkindles the stone in the hole with his steel hole by hole striking the fire out of the rock which God has put there. On the plain behind him are the wanderers in search of bones and those who do not search and they move haltingly in the light like mechanisms whose movements are monitored with escapement and pallet so that they appear restrained by a prudence or reflectiveness which has no inner reality and they cross in their progress one by one that track of holes that runs to the rim of the visible ground and which seems less the pursuit of some continuance than the verification of a principle, a validation of sequence and causality as if each round and perfect hole owed its existence to the one before it there on that prairie upon which are the bones and the gatherers of bones and those who do not gather. He strikes fire in the hole and draws out his steel. Then they all move on again.
My wife says I’m a pessimist about humanity’s future, though I might argue it’s an act of radical optimism to attempt to make lasting art in today’s culture. With that thought, I’m off to the desert to try to make fire.