I had the tremendous pleasure of meeting Nick Walker last week, who is co-founder and staff writer of Talking Birds theatre company. In one of those great conversations that could go on and on, we talked about all sorts, including writing and blogging. Amongst other things, Nick told me about the retro journaling he’d been doing (a term he may have coined) – where he published journal entries he had written exactly fourteen years before on a tour around Italy. I looked it up today, and found this.
In this age where the information we create and publish can be endlessly disseminated, I often wonder/worry about where my words go. I embrace this lack of control as the means by which my words start to have a life of their own – leaving the tangled nest of my mind. I also assume that the clean-up job is impossible – that finding and removing traces of my writing from the wide world of the internet is a feat so incredibly complicated that it is futile.
The idea of transience has always fascinated me in art – the work that exists for a moment in time, that cannot be seen before or after, except indirectly, through mediums of people and legacies of images and words. Applying this same notion to a blog is incredibly interesting, and gives rise to a heightened awareness of the impermanence of webpages – something that we all know is the case, but can easily forget in the trappings of an ‘it’s only a google away’ culture.
For someone like Nick, whose writing comes alive for a finite period of time as it is performed and enacted, fixing the life of a blog would be second nature. This leaves an interesting gap between different types of writing and highlights some of my tendencies as a reader/viewer/consumer of words. I read blogs in much the same way as I read books – privately, as the mood takes me – and though the physical reading ‘space’ is different with a blog (as it generally requires an internet connection), the intellectual space that I inhabit is much the same. Yet there’s a conscious difference when I enter a performance space or even when I soak up a conversation. I expect, with a book or a blog, to be able to revisit the words, if not repeat the experience of reading them.
Blogs have a significant measure of currency in that they are temporally specific, at least in the way they are accessed. Fancifully, I liken blogs to Wonderland-type rabbit holes – the route in (the most current post) changes frequently, and the hole continues to delve as more material is generated. It’s this depth that makes blogs appealing to me: whilst ‘clicking around’ and following links is an inherent part of using the web, this investigation (what else can we call it if it is motivated by a desire to find out more?) is broad and ranging; whereas, when following a series of posts by the same author, or on the same subject, this kind of investigation has a real sense of depth.
I’ll finish by recalling a brief exchange I had with a good friend about her habit of buying the Guardian every day. I said I couldn’t understand how she found the time or the motivation to read so much news every day (I’m regularly uninterested in current affairs). She said news changes every day, and the papers served each other incrementally to build rich and full stories or pictures. In reading the Guardian every day, she tapped into the currency of the language of the paper, and being in that world, she could read quickly and keep bang up to date. I’d now say the same of my blog-reading habits, and so I can finally understand what she meant.