Essaying, aka the state of this blog

what we call poems being merely pictures

From time to time here, I’ve expressed concern about the solipsistic nature of blogging – which I connect explicitly to Strunk and White’s especial bugaboo, the “breezy manner.”

The volume of writing is enormous, these days, and much of it has a sort of windiness about it, almost as though the author were in a state of euphoria. “Spontaneous me,” sang Whitman, and, in his innocence, let loose the hordes of uninspired scribblers who would one day confuse spontaneity with genius. … The breezy style is often the work of an egocentric, the person who imagines that everything that comes to mind is of general interest and that uninhibited prose creates high spirits and carries the day.

Meantime, in the essay class I’m taking, the emphasis is on the essay as process rather than product; this returns to the definition of essay, which is of course to experiment or examine, etc. The idea is that the art of essaying occurs across genres – fiction, nonfiction, poetry, film, etc – and that it’s the way the author approaches a subject that marks it as essay. Genre boundaries have always been fluid in any case, and I think that blogging has potential to function in the same spirit as essay.

One of the things that struck me in grad school – in the first class I took, actually – was how resistant I was to forming a defensible position on just about any topic. I work in marketing and communications, and messaging is always top-of-mind, as is the need to be diplomatic in working with colleagues, the media, etc. I’d become reluctant to express a strong opinion. And a side effect of this was intellectual laziness. How could I be anything but, when my typical workweek night ended in a couple of Law & Order reruns?

And so I’ve tried over the last three years to be a more critical thinker, and to force myself to form and defend positions. Over a year ago, when I started this blog, it was not as an act of essay, exactly, but that’s more or less what it’s become, as I blather on about whatever’s top of mind in a Montaigne-ish sort of way (strong emphasis on the ish there). My self-imposed blogging schedule elevates this activity beyond what would happen in, say, my notes to self, which are repetitive, poorly-formed, and are meant to exorcise my neuroticism.

The thing I can’t fully resolve, and that bothers me most, is why I have chosen to publish these thoughts online. A part of it is deadline-focused, sure. A part of it is that I understand the need to have an online presence of some sort, in order to be a publishable writer. But all that aside, who really gives a shit what I have to say about anything?  It’s damning confirmation of the egotism in the S/W quote.

What concerns me most about the public forum is the knowledge that anything I post is only the product of opinion and/or quickie internet research. In recent entries, I look back and see many qualifiers to my position. This is because I’m aware that my writing here isn’t authoritative; that in fact I should probably be embarrassed by my own lack of rigor, which can’t be completely concealed behind a “breezy style.” Though the act of blogging often makes me feel stupid, I continue to post, which itself seems stupid.

Le sigh. Despite these reservations, I intend to continue blogging. Is there any other explanation apart from egotism?

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2 responses to “Essaying, aka the state of this blog

  1. Well, I think if you want to get away from the egoism of the endeavor, I think a blogging community is the logical next step. Publicity and linking to other like-minded blogs could socialize an otherwise personal outlet.

  2. That is true. Also: more work. That is the logical place to evolve, when I have more time.

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