Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Barry Longyear and Anthony Trollope

I once shared an airport shuttle with Barry Longyear and his wife, and we fell to talking about blogs. Barry told me that he used to keep a blog, but it got difficult thinking of things to write about, and "so when I had a heart attack, it was a good excuse to drop the blog."

I haven't got a heart attack and I don't intend to stop blogging, but I understand his difficulty. Here is the problem with a blog about writing: It shares a key characteristic with fiction, which is that it's most interesting when things go wrong. Struggles with plot, with editors and publishers, with Internet pirates, with difficult readers, with disastrous teaching experiences -- these things make good fodder for writing blogs. Right now, however, my novel is humming along without much difficulty, my students are all producing, and I am not trying to get any short stories published. I haven't been attending cons (although this will change soon). I sit in front of my computer and write, I walk the dog, I line-edit stories -- and none of that is interesting to read about. There is nothing to watch duller than a writer who is actually writing.

Anthony Trollope, with the dullest of personal lives, was a methodical writer. He set his pocket watch on his desk every morning and produced one page every 15 minutes. If the timing varied, he sped up or slowed down his pen. After a set number of pages, he closed his desk, picked up his watch, and went off to his day job. He did this year in and year out. You wouldn't want to read a blog by Trollope. You need blogs by Georges Sand or Truman Capote, or perhaps a Twitter by Ernest Hemingway ("Shot a lion today.") Even Edith Wharton would be better a writer merely writing.

Barry, I hear you.


TheOFloinn said...

In an essay titled "Defining Discourse Down," a fellow named Kevin DeYoung writes:
No one has mistaken our day as an age of powerful, rational discourse. The McLaughlin Group doesn’t usually evoke memories of Lincoln-Douglas, and Twittering about your favorite bagel from Panera isn’t exactly correspondence on the level of John and Abigail Adams.
+ + +
Sad but true, the internet was made for jerks. Every comment is more or less anonymous and every comment goes up whether the person has a clue or not. So we end up with a world of senseless blog fury where some anonymous clown with a name like “Spider86x” or “Cowgirl_B52” can rip you every which way but loose. Post something critical about Obama’s socks or point out that the Big East had more teams in the tournament than anyone else because there are, like, thirty-seven teams in the conference, and someone out there will curse the day you were born. Instead of responding to your arguments against inflationary monetary policy, “KeynesKid24” will mock your Blogger picture, lay down some none too subtle sexual innuendo, and call you a liar. Hell hath no fury like a scorned blogger with too much free time.

His essay is ultimately about something else, but this snip reminded me of the essays "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" and "Is Stupid Making Us Google?"

It is your bound duty to help keep the jerk level of the internet down by continuing to blog on a regular basis.

dolphintornsea said...

Ah, I see the problem here.

The problem is that you don't know how brilliant your blog is.

Which is fine; I can totally dig that - you're too close to it, don't have the necessary perspective, etc.

But listen: "There is nothing to watch duller than a writer who is actually writing". Worth a smile, any day. We wouldn't want to be without any of it.

The best blogger in the world is Nancy with angst. The second best one is Nancy with ennui.

Now shuddup and just do it. It's great.

Nancy Kress said...

Thank you both for those nice words -- although I really wasn't fishing!

TheOFloinn said...

The truth doesn't always hurt.

bluesman miike Lindner said...


(Nancy, Mike Lindner is transcribing for me here. Don't worry about a thing. Me and the Photon Force are on the case.--Captain Blaster)

Unknown said...

Bloggers run out of things to say the same way that fiction writers run out of things to say. Some days are easier than others, but you can train yourself to do it and do it well and there are an infinite number of things to write about in both spheres.

And not everyone is as good as everyone else at writing. Nancy, you're good. You're an expert on a lot of topics that never run dry, and you can always just point us at something that is fascinating you at any particular time.