A Meta-Blogging Moment

There seems to be a touch of meta-blogging going around. Some of it’s implicit and seems to have resolved (for instance, Bookphilia‘s transmogrification into Jam and Idleness). But an extensive conversation broke out around Dr. Crazy’s “what is the point” post at Reassigned Time 2.o, a post that clearly struck a chord with a lot of people who have been blogging for a while, including with Miriam Burstein, who wrote her own follow-up at The Little Professor. For a lot of people, changes in their situation have affected their time for writing, or their freedom to write, or their urge to write–some folks who were job-hunting or untenured are now tenured, for instance, and preoccupied in different ways. Changes in technology have made a difference: between Facebook and Twitter and Tumblr there are more ways to communicate online than were once dreamt of in our philosophies. For some, there’s also a fatigue factor, too, or discomfort with something that once felt liberating and expansive becoming routine or obligatory. Or, perhaps most simply of all, doing anything for a long time prompts reflection on the value of continuing the same way, or continuing at all.

I haven’t been blogging as long as some of these others (Miriam notes that The Little Professor has been around in some form for about a decade!). Novel Readings just turned five in January, and I’m not really in the mood for deep reflection or reevaluation. I’m doing more or less what I’ve always done, and I’m basically still fine with it: I post about books I’ve read, I post about my teaching, I post about academic issues that interest or vex me, I post once in a while about personal things.

That said, I am aware of some changes in my blogging habits. I used to write more short posts, for one thing. I also used to write more posts that jumped off from something someone else had posted, whether in the “MSM” or at another blog. And I used to do more round-up posts of links to other things to read.

I’m not sure why my book posts have gotten longer, but I don’t really worry about that. I write what I’ve thought of to say, in as much detail as I feel like writing! For some books, that’s a lot. For a smaller number of books, that’s not much. Lately, sometimes, it’s nothing at all. I like writing the longer posts better, by and large, because they are more satisfying to work on and to look back on. They do take time, though, and that’s probably why I don’t post as often as a number of the other book bloggers I follow, who seem to manage a post every couple of days at least. Though I have friends who say I must read very fast and all the time, I also feel, reading other book bloggers, that I actually read slowly and not nearly as much as they do!  I also used to post about pretty much every book I read–in fact, for the first couple of years that was kind of a principle of mine, as it kept me posting and prevented internal debates about which books were or were not worth posting about. When I finished a book, it went in the “to be blogged pile” and stayed there until it was done! If I thought I had nothing to say, I still had to give it a go–and it was surprising how often I found I did, after all, have at least something to say. That would probably be a good practice to revive, not least because it was good for me intellectually to be surprised in that way.

I never made a deliberate choice not to write more response posts. Since in theory that kind of cross-blog conversation is a big part of what I like about blogging, I wonder what happened. Perhaps it’s that reading blog posts by lots of different bloggers over the past five years tired me out a bit, especially because conversations come in waves–fads, even. Do I really want to have another exchange about the sorry state of contemporary book reviewing or the off-hand assumption that academics contribute nothing of interest to it? Or if a conversation is going on vigorously on something I am interested in, I don’t feel very motivated to add my two-cents’ worth just to be in the game. Right now, for instance, Jonathan Rees is writing all kinds of great posts about the wrong-headed embrace of technology, including Blackboard, on our campuses. I’m not anti-technology but I’m anti-Blackboard and skeptical about lots of other things getting a lot of hype from corporate-ed types. But Jonathan Rees is covering these topics just fine and I don’t really expect anyone is aching to get my perspective on the same issues, at least not in more depth than I can offer in a comment on his posts–so commenting makes more sense. Still, I do think conversations are one of  the great things about blogging, so I’m going to be more self-conscious about my decisions to blog or not to blog about something seen elsewhere, and try to make more decisions to blog rather than not. Just blogging about my own thing all the time does not exemplify the ethos of generosity and expansiveness that drew me to blogging in the first place.

The same goes for linking to and commenting on other people’s blogs, which I have been doing far too little of. Link posts don’t need to be as overwhelming as zunguzungu’s Sunday Reading lists (which leave me feeling that I don’t spend enough time on the internet–not a feeling I get very often!): they can be a nice way to point anyone who stops by my place to  some of the good stuff I’ve enjoyed, and they are a way, too, of acknowledging the pleasure I get from the efforts of other bloggers. As for commenting, well, I blame Google Reader, actually, for a decline in my commenting: I faithfully  read everyone on my blogroll and then some, but because I read them all handily aggregated, I’m not actually there at the other site, which means commenting requires a little extra effort. But it’s not much, and I should do it more. Again, conversation is a big part of the point, and I really appreciate it when someone comments here. Mind you, some of the sites I’d comment on already get a healthy dose of comments, and again it sometimes seems pointless to join the chorus if I don’t have much really specific to say. But when I do, I should say it, even if it’s just a little thing, because it’s good to make connections as tangible (and as generously) as possible.

I guess if I do have a concern about Novel Readings, then, it’s that it has become a bit hermetic. I don’t want to perform blogging and hope people do me the favor of reading: I want to be involved in blogging as an activity. I still am, but not as much as I once was. We’ll see what happens about that. My overall interests as a blogger haven’t changed, though, and my experiences on other forms of social media haven’t really affected the way I feel about this space, though they do let very welcome air and light into it.

6 thoughts on “A Meta-Blogging Moment

  1. Stefanie April 27, 2012 / 11:27 am

    The way blogs evolve over time as the blogger’s life and interests change is fun to follow I think. And since we do this for fun, life sometimes gets in the way and the desire to blog sometimes wanes. Like you, I love the interconnectedness of blogging, the conversation through comments and across blogs. Sometimes though the time and energy isn’t there to venture out very far or very often and I think most understand that because we have all been there!


  2. Rachael Cayley April 27, 2012 / 12:49 pm

    You make a great point about using Reader and thus not commenting as much. So here I am! I found this a really interesting post. Two things in particular jumped out at me. First, how blogging started out as a fun not-work kind of work and then gradually became more like real work (i.e., something that we might feel guilty about not doing enough of!). And, second, the tension between shorter, more responsive posts (which takes a certain type of effort) and longer, more reflective posts (which obviously take a different sort of effort). I’m only a year into my blogging project, but I’ve found it interesting to see how my interests and inspirations have shifted. Thanks for helping me think about this more clearly.


  3. Colleen April 27, 2012 / 10:32 pm

    I am terribly guilty of becoming too hermetically sealed into my own bloggy head space; the difference between us being that I started that way. I think re-imagining and reviving The Reading Lamp from Bookphilia will help with this, and I’m working on that. (Warning: I may try to coerce you into doing an interview for me!)

    My interests have certainly expanded, and maybe more importantly, the way I think about books has changed a great deal as I’ve gotten further and further away from the academy. I think I’m beginning to learn to write about books in ways that aren’t obvious and direct results of my years of graduate education–which is what I’ve wanted for quite some time. But it’s still evolving, and I like my new blog’s re-set on my and, I hope, everyone else’s expectations. There’s space for it to be anything at all!

    Personally, I enjoy your long posts on books very much, so I’m glad to hear that because you also prefer writing them, they likely will continue.


  4. Rohan April 28, 2012 / 3:57 pm

    Stefanie, you’re right that the energy waxes and wanes, and you sense it in everyone’s blogs over time. Interestingly, I left that comment on the other blog I mentioned and really got flamed by another commenter, and that’s the kind of thing that saps my own energy and makes me happy to be a hermit.

    Rachel, you’re right that both kinds of posts take effort. Both also have different rewards, as looking for good things to link to is a good thing and so too is knowing you’ve given a little morale boost to someone else working away at their blog. Thanks for coming out of Reader to comment!

    Colleen, Bookphilia didn’t feel hermetic to me as a reader, which makes me wonder if our own self-perceptions are involved. When you come to a blog as a reader, you are already giving the lie to that sense of enclosure, at least in one sense. But then we’re talking about how we write, which is another aspect. No fear: there will be more long posts! But I may be interspersing them with more shorter ones where completion is not the point. The posts I’ve been doing on Black Lamb and Grey Falcon are examples, actually–though the motivation there is simply the fear that I’ll never actually be finished the book. 🙂


  5. sophylou April 28, 2012 / 8:39 pm

    I enjoy reading your blog, though I tend to read it in bursts (also, I use Google Reader, so I know what you mean about not always being there on the actual blog site) and don’t tend to comment much. I will say that I will likely be reading it more, and reading more of your older posts, because I’m gearing up for surgery and gathering books to read while recuperating, and I’ve lately been gravitating toward late 19th/early 20th-century fiction (oh, the gateway drug that is Virago Modern Classics). And, seems like a good time to finally read Middlemarch 🙂

    I don’t blog myself at this point (though I’ve thought about it) because I haven’t quite settled on what persona I would be blogging as. Your blog is closer to the kind of blog I’d like to have, so I find myself paying attention to what you’re doing, especially the book posts, as a way of thinking about what I’d want to do.


  6. Rebecca H. April 30, 2012 / 12:23 pm

    I think I’m working on getting over feelings of guilt and responsibility about the blog; I want to be able to ignore my blog for a while and feel okay about it. And I’d like to trust that I will probably get back into it at some point. I’m feeling like returning to blogging a little more these days, which is nice. I also want to work on being okay with not writing long and detailed reviews, because not wanting to write them but feeling I should keeps me away from writing sometimes. So I’m telling myself short or mini reviews are just fine, if that’s what I want.


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