July 8, 2007

A Long Time Coming

I've been resisting this for a long time. People have been telling me for years, "You're a writer. So you should be writing a blog." Well, yes, I can appreciate that this is the medium du jour nowadays for the written word. I realize this is the publishing venue that puts people out in the public eye now. And I do want to write material for publication (it's been year since I've done it), but... but...

Let's go back to the "old days" (the 1980s) when most of my writing was either scribbling my journal with a pen in a notebook, or composing letters on a typewriter. I did this for years before I ever got ambitious enough to write anything for publication. And at first what got published was very infrequent.

Then came the early nineties, and I was writing on a hand-me-down Zenith computer (double floppy drive!), and the majority of my writing was a weekly book review column for The Budapest Sun. It was an interesting experience having a weekly column in a paper with 20,000 readers. For two years most everyone in the expatriate community knew my name, and I even had the occasion to hear myself talked about at parties. People would stop me and comment on my latest column, telling me if they disagreed with my opinion, or found fault with my arguments, and occasionally praising a job well done.

I observed that one sits down to the keyboard with a distinctly different state of mind when one is just going to noodle around in one's journal, and when one is preparing to write a column. When I wrote the column, there were 20,000 invisible people in the room with me, and it had a profound effect on the way I wrote. Very profound. This was the most important lesson in voice I've ever had: how you write depends on who you think is reading it.

I also observed that the desire to be what one nowadays calls "edgy" made me wax confessional. One colleague of mine at the press agency said he'd never dare write about such personal things as I did, knowing it would be read by so many people. I said that was because he wasn't a writer. In the meantime, I feel like I've become much more private than I was in my early thirties. I'm not so much into the confessional anymore. My wife has been writing a blog for about a year and a half. It's a moderately popular blog, with regular readership of about 200, which is pretty good for a blog written in Hungarian. Our children and I get mentioned regularly. I don't even have to do confessional for myself anymore.

Since my days at The Sun, on the professional level I have written a few freelance articles and columns, but have mostly retired to the business of copy editing (ten years at the Hungarian Press Agency MTI) and in-house corporate editing (name withheld to protect against the litigious). And I've written a handful of short stories (got one published!). Before our home and my life got filled up with a bunch of kids, and before I got a full-time corporate job, I wrote a daily journal for several years. That was my second major lesson in voice: a very different sort of writing comes out when you are writing strictly for yourself.

There's one more consideration. My priorities have changed drastically. My ambitions were very literary when I used to write alot. I took a break from writing for several years, and in the meantime, the focus of my life has become spiritual again. Although I feel the compulsion to write -- and even publish -- again, much of my life centers around internal experiences, and much of what I occupy myself with is esoteric in nature. I'm a bit reluctant to write about some of this stuff. It was one thing to be confessional about more mundane sides of my life, but it's something altogether different to start getting loose-lipped about mysticism. We'll see.

And the other thing I can't get over is what I regard as the ultimate question regarding blogging and bloggers. What makes me think anyone cares?

Okay. For better or worse, I've taken the first step. I have become a blogger. God save my soul.

So, I come late to this medium. And I'm not sure how I feel about it.

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