The Blog As Pensieve

I’ve been doing this blogging thing for a while now and, from time to time, the question arises, “Why do you blog?” My answer has changed several times in the time that I have being doing it.

At first, it was intended to promote my writing and to show the manner in which I do it. From there, the whole blogging escapade grew into an online social phenomenon wherein fellow bloggers were followed avidly, interacted with in forums, and greatly enjoyed.

Friendships were built which are still strong to this day and much was learned about the curious process of blogging itself.

It may well be true that it was Twitter that took the heat out of this high-intensity interaction, for me at least.

Twitter arose and provided more immediate and more intense interaction between bloggers and non-bloggers alike. It suited me and it drew me in. Something had to give and that something was the level of blogging interaction I previously maintained. What used to be a blog which was posted to thrice-weekly is now a weekly event and, although I regularly visit and read all of my friends blogs, I don’t comment as much as I used to. I sometimes feel at a loss for something to say even though I may have enjoyed their post very well.

But, despite this change, my blog is still a living thing and a very important part of my life. Ask me today why I blog and the reason is markedly different to the one I might have given a year – or two years ago – perhaps next year, it will be something different again.

For now though, I see the blog as a sort of jigsaw puzzle. A box where each post is a small odd shaped piece that goes to make up a picture of me.

For want of a better image, I see it as a sort of ‘Pensieve’ which, in case you don’t know, is the font/receptacle which Dumbledore had in Harry Potter to store his memories in. Whenever he wanted, he could draw one out – rather like a mucousy snot string (sorry) – and review it. But, more relevant to my point, when he himself was gone, Harry could dip into it too and learn some things about Dumbledore that he hadn’t known before. In the case of my own little pensieve, these are not necessarily huge revelations or truths. In fact, they are often just shitty little things such as my feelings on music and driving or why I think I’m a dog. Each post trivial and passing for sure but each post also with some germ of truth or personality in it to help build up a jigsaw puzzle picture, just like the one on the box.

Our parents are often largely a mystery to us. Sometimes all we know of them are the people they have become after we came along. Before that, what have we got? A photo from Butlins? A letter or two scribbled in haste.

This technology here will be dusty and defunct by the time our kids might start to seriously wonder about us, what we were really like? But there’ll probably be some way of reading it still. Some gizmo in the attic that will prise open the files that used to make up that internet thing from way back when.

Maybe, someday, someone will leaf through this stuff and know me a little better for it.

Who knows, we may be the first generation to leave a fairly solid picture of who we were by the medium of our personal blogs, our online jigsaws, our pensieves…

Next time, I shall be ranting about why gobshites drive into those yellow boxes when they can’t get out the other side.

That should help build a picture, shouldn’t it?


Charlie Sellars said...

No matter what the reason, I'm glad that you write these blogs. They have ,along with your masterful Tweets, given me the opportunity to get to know a little better an exceptional person.
Not trying to blow smoke, just stating the facts and thanking you.

Ken Armstrong said...

Thank you Charlie. That's really very kind of you. :)

Rachel Fox said...

I haven't got near tweeting. Have you really got something out of it?

Ben said...

Hi Ken,

I know what you mean - I don't blog or comment anywhere near as often as I used to. I guess I've said a lot of what I wanted to say, and not many new things happen from one day to the next. That, and my job has significantly reduced the amount of time I have to spend on this stuff. On the other hand, I have spent a lot more time on my projects (especially CMF Ads) since I first started blogging.

Ken Armstrong said...

Rachel: Hiya. You know, I really have. It's got its downside though, it's a time eater for sure. But I do like it. I like it here too though.

Ben: I don't think our reduced bloggage is anything to beat ourselves up over, do you? I still love it and it's never a chore.

Susan at Stony River said...

Great post! A pensieve does seem like the perfect image for it. I love your posts; you've made me laugh and think, and only you could have gotten me onto Twitter!

I've been scanning my mother's old photo negatives onto DVDs, and you're right -- I'm looking at this young woman in her 20's and 30's, with a dog whose name I don't know, in front of a house I've never seen, or with her arms around ladies I never met. Her whole life has left the world with her, and these pictures that were memories to her, to me are just clues to a puzzle I'll never solve.

I don't have time for blogging anymore really, and would rather put the time I spend on it to something else. But it would be an awful wrench to leave the friends and blog-family behind -- like moving away to California or something. Tempting, but too painful to really do.

Actually I think I'm just trying to make a comment that's longer than your post (yeesh) but you got me thinking. I'll stop now.

Cleveland Real Estate said...

I feel the same even though I don't blog for myself... Sometimes I'm jealous of personal blogs or those that can freely express their own views, opinions and life publicly.

Embrace it! Some of your blogs have made me smile, think, wonder, laugh and even get teary eyed. It is a nice puzzle indeed. I doubt that last piece will ever be found. Half the fun is trying to find it or waiting for it to complete everything.

You and Twitter is another puzzle that is fun to watch. One of the best! (Uhm, if you're not following Ken on Twitter yet, you need to be)

Rachel Fox said...

Sorry to come back but could you explain why you found it interesting? It sounded a bit like ECT to me.

Jim Murdoch said...

I have to say I was a little sad to see you spend so much time on Twitter. I cannot for the life of me see what you could get out of it. That said I do subscribe to one feed, that of my daughter, and I delight to see her messages appear telling me about how she’s vegging out on the couch with the cat on her lap but that’s my daughter. It’s always interesting to see famous people doing ordinary things – I could watch Sigourney Weaver doing housework all day – but I really don’t much care who else out there has missed their bus or hates their boss. It’s the minimal nature of it. I could see using it to send off one line gags into the ether to cheer up your mates but that’s about it and that can be done with e-mail just as well. Or Facebook, not that I’m a great fan of that and I find it frankly confusing.

I also started my blog to promote my writing. It hasn’t worked out as well as I’d hoped (sales just about on a par with Krapp - ''Seventeen copies sold, of which eleven at trade price to free circulating libraries beyond the seas'') but I can live with that. I never imagined how much hard work would be involved in maintaining the thing and how much time I would also need to devote to taking an interest in those who read my blog. I had always assumed there would be a discreet distance between me and my readers but that’s not the case. I know almost all of them on a first name basis: I bet Stephen King can’t say that.

The thing that’s probably bothered me the most is the need to promote myself as opposed to my writing. I’m not especially shy but I am kinda private and I find being sociable online hard. Occasionally I reveal more than I’d like to trying to fit in and usually then I want to pack the whole thing in, lock myself in my office and do some real writing. That I don’t have the time for which makes me wonder why I’m blogging. Yes, I’m still writing, a good 1000+ words every day, but I got by for thirty-odd years without company. I don’t need constant pats on the back. I don’t need to put up half-written poems for people to pass comment on. I need to write. Typing feels like writing but it’s not any more than driving a simulator is driving.

My daughter does read my blogs. She tells me stuff I’ve written so I know she does. But I don’t really share very much about myself in them so I’m not sure how much she’s learned about her ol’ da that she never knew before. But I can see for some people it would work especially those who treat the thing like a diary.

As for your next blog. Seriously, Ken, is there anything more the world needs to know about your driving habits?

Reese said...

Whatever your reasons, I am glad you are here. Twitter has affected many blogs and forums, for better or worse. Twitter is more of a casual conversation on a busy street, whereas a blog allows you to get under some of the layers :-)

Ken Armstrong said...

Susan: You comment away, it's great! :) I'm surprised to read that you feel the blogging-pinch too. The posts seem to come as fine and heart-felt as always. Keep truckin'.

Ohio Real Estate: Thanks C. :) Calling myself a 'puzzle' seems a bit egocentric now but I only mean it in the sense that we are all puzzles, not just me. I really appreciate the warmth of the comment. :)

Rachel: Sorry, do you mean Twitter? Is ECT like electic shock therapy. Not being deliberately obtuse (honest) just a bit lost today. Come back to me and I'll answer as best I can... anything for another comment, eh? :)

Jim: I honestly think your blog succeeds splendidly. You have a focused, unapologetic way of going about your posts that brings me back and back.

The perception of twitter as a folly to tell people what's in your sandwich is an over-simplification. Of course there are people who do that but there is much going on. It's like telly is only as good as the programmes you choose to watch. So twitter can be trite or enthralling depending on the network you build for yourself.

It can also be the mother of all time-sinks so I'm not trying to convert anybody.

And, of course, it too shall have its day and pass. As with most things.

Reese: I think of Twitter as something of an ice-sculpture. You can make something there that has value and strength but the rays of the next day's sun will take it away... Thanks. :)

Jena Isle said...

Your blog was one of the firsts that I have frequented. It's because you have a way with words. I 'm having the book reprinted, due to some corrections. please bear with me. Thanks.

Ben Farr said...

I've had the opposite experience to you in that it was Twitter that has started me blogging - well writing the one blog anyways, still working on that difficult second post! I don't think they have to be exclusive and can actually be beneficial to each other.

Very interesting what you say about your blog being a "Ken Time Capsule" - I like that idea, even if I didn't get the Harry Potter reference! For myself the idea was to get back into the practice of writing as I have let that go over the past few years. And if along the way I can entertain a few people/get a few things off my chest, well how bad?

You have obviously been able to do just that judging by your great following here. Keep it up, shall be adding you to my blog roll.


Rachel Fox said...

Yes, that was what I was talking about (Twitter). The only positive thing I have ever heard about it was re getting messages out of an emergency situation, political demo, riot that kind of thing. Can you give an example of one of your melted good twitter days?

I tend to get to things late! I really don't plan to start on Twitter but then I never meant to blog and I certainly never meant to go near facebook!

Ken Armstrong said...

Hi Rachel: I certainly wouldn't want to be responsible for enticing you to Twitter. One of the chief downsides is the amount of time it can take up, if you let it.

It's a tall order to speak (or write) sensibly about the benefits. I followed the same course as most people, I opened an account, was completely and utterly baffled and unimpressed with it, and left it alone for months. Then I came back, had a little dialogue or two and started to build a network...

For me, it's a dialogue, much more so than any blog or forum interaction can be. And dialogue has always been my main strength in writing. So I get to play to my strength there. I can chuck in a quick comment, link to a post (new or old) play a tune from 'Blip' to punctuate a point or even a mood. It's multimedia micro blogging, I guess. Downside (again) it is fleeting. The blog post lasts, the tweet rapidly fades away.

The quality of feedback and discussion I've had around my last few posts has reinvigorated my in my blogging. I still like the once a week post - I can spend time thinking about it and never feel under pressure to produce, once a week is easy and the blog remains alive and visited. Meanwhile some real-life work is rapidly coming together and coalescing in a satisfactory way.It's all good.

If you do want to try twitter, be selective in who you follow. Slowly build up a little network of people who use it creatively. I really have found it most rewarding. I probably spend too much time on it right now. But that too shall doubtless pass...


Rachel Fox said...

Thanks Ken. I really don't intend to go down this road yet but am interested in what others (especially writers) can get from it that is good and not a waste of time). I think maybe Twitter is best suited to people who are busy/on the move a lot...and I am not particularly in this stage of life. I am based at home most of the time and my concerns are very often the tiniest bits of life. One thing I like about the blogging is it gets me away from all that and to a wider world (but at the same time being part of my work - contemplating, considering, working things out). And here I am...contemplating, considering, working things out...


hope said...

Ah, here I go about to sound like a "cavewoman" when it comes to Twitter/Facebook. There is such a thing as too much technology... as in quality getting by the wayside. I like the layers a blog post offers. Sometimes, you don't want to come straight to the point. Sometimes you need to wander down a path before reaching the story's end. That type of trip is inviting. Interesting.

Honestly, neither Twitter nor Facebook interest me because we ALL have time management issues. Besides, from the horror stories I've read about Facebook lately [there is no such thing as private], I want nothing to do with it. Ironically, it is my own MOTHER who has nagged me to join. No thanks. With a blog I can visit you, comment if I wish or keep going. I don't need to sign up in order to view your brilliance....or your current stands on traffic and it's idiots. ;)

No, I love your blog because when I visit it, I feel like I'm sitting across the room from you in a comfortable chair, totally enthralled and waiting for the story to unfold.

They're good stories. And so is the man who creates them. Suspenseful tales take more than 140 characters. So does discovering the many layers of the writer. ;)

Laura said...

I think about that too. Who will read all this stuff I write someday. I used to think it would be my descendants but there aren't likely to be any of those now. So maybe my nephew, who likes to write and reads a lot, will someday write a book about me. Piling together all my old hand written journals, notebooks and blog posts.

Ken Armstrong said...

Jena Isle! I missed replying to you there. You and I go back a long way and I don't forget that ever.

As for the book , don't worry, don't stress. There's more to life... I owe you a book and I owe Jim Murdoch a book too. I'm going to 'wake up' and get these done for you.

Keep in touch.