Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Blogger's Block

Rhododendron at Allegheny Lodge

This weblog has been more miss than hit lately, due to upheavals in my technological life. After years of wishing, I finally bought a digital SLR camera, and it is complex enough to require much experimentation. It's also made necessary changes in the way I manage my hard drive "space," view my images, and edit them.

Just when I thought I was getting a handle on these changes, the phone company called to let me know DSL is available in my area. This was astonishing, and I expect it will enhance my computer experience eventually, but for now, it's made me reorganize my LAN, learn a lot about hardware and software firewalls (for both Linux and Macintosh), and spend hours reinstalling my Debian OS on two Pentium boxes. Soon, I'll have to change my web hosting arrangements.

These two technological upgrades ought to improve my Web presence and enhance my blogging experience eventually, but right now I feel a little overwhelmed and intimidated by the possibilities. Before, on a dial-up connection, it took about twenty minutes to upload an edited jpg file and an accompanying html file, so I had to prepare my material in advance. I wrote my html in Emacs (my text editor of choice, and the One True Religion). If I wanted to post a photo, I had to finish a roll of film, take it to the drugstore, get it back, scan the negative, and edit the image down to a quick-loading jpg file. This long process gave me several opportunities to review and edit the text, catch my habitual errors, and decide if the picture was worthwhile. Now I can upload any sort of crap as fast as I can type, and slap up any snapshot within minutes of clicking the shutter. I can review Web resources in minutes rather than hours, download podcasts and videos without planning my week around the process.

I don't usually have writer's block (or photographer's block), but this sudden wealth of possibilities has me frozen in place. I could really change the focus of my Web work, alter my pace, branch out into new content areas.... And while I've been dazed by all this, two of the bloggers I most enjoy have been musing on what blogs are, and what their blogs should be. Dave of Via Negativa recently observed:

The blogosphere has been billed as an alternative to the mainstream media, but in many ways, it's just as superficial. The emphasis remains on speed rather than accuracy, sensationalism rather than nuance, and two-sided conflicts rather than the full complexity of life as most of us experience it in our daily lives. Even for us non-political bloggers, there's a great temptation to simply post our latest snapshots, with a few accompanying sentences of breathless prose, and move on to something else. To try to see anything more fully, to observe it attentively and then take the time to describe or depict it with as much care and effort as we can muster seems almost counter-cultural. But if the bloggers I tend to read have anything in common, it might be precisely this, that they are dedicated to documenting what Barbara Brown Taylor refers to as "alternate reality."

Meanwhile, Lorianne of Hoarded Ordinaries has been examining the way her weblog has shifted its focus over the last three years.

...It's quick & easy to slap up a snapshot and say "I'm done blogging for the day"; it takes a bit more time, care, and attention to detail to craft a meaningful post that actually says something.

In my early days of photo-blogging, I justified my "quickie" photo posts by telling myself they were like postcards: although we all love to receive long, carefully-crafted letters, it's also great to get short postcards that assure us "The weather is great; wish you were here." In my mind, a frequently updated blog is more valuable than one that only occasionally posts new (albeit carefully crafted) material: in the blogosphere, frequent snacking seems to be "healthier" (and more popular with readers) than the bloggish equivalent of occasional elaborate feasts....

At a certain point, every writer asks herself, "What do I have to say that's unique to my background and expertise; what do I have to say that needs to be said?" ....these days I'm trying to watch which way the wind is blowing, trying to admit that everything, blogs included, change over time, with there inevitably being a time to be silent as well as a time to speak.

I promise that I will keep posting whether or not I figure out what my blog mission is or not. Perhaps the process will sort it out for me.

1 comment:

Dave said...

Well, you're the third blogger to quote or refer to that paragraph of mine. I wish I had added that some brief and/or quickly written posts can be excellent, and in fact a few of my favorite bloggers apparently habitually post in what I would consider extreme haste - they just happen to be brilliant and quick-witted enough to pull it off. Not me!

It's funny that getting DSL has so framed this dilemma for you. I guess I should be grateful for my 28k/sec then, eh?

Maybe your mission could be to portray Pocohantas County in such an unflattering light that the flood of tourists would dwindle to a trickle. You could just make stuff up, like James Dickey. The local chambers of commerce would hate you.