Thursday, July 11, 2019

Ave, Lorianne!

In writing about a book she's reading on the friendship between RW Emerson and HD Thoreau, Lorianne says the following:

The problem with writerly friendships–especially friendships between two journal-keepers–is that writers are very good at talking to themselves. Isn’t a journal entry nothing more than a letter to an anonymous audience that is never sent? When you are accustomed to pouring your heart on paper for an audience of none, it’s easy to think–erroneously and egotistically–that anyone willing to receive and read such correspondence actually understands and empathizes with you.

I know this isn't Lorianne's point, but the above words get to the heart of the narcissism of blogging. My friend Dr. Steve used to say that he felt presumptuous, as a writer, thinking he actually had something worthwhile to say to the world. Who are we, after all, to think so highly of ourselves? What makes us think we have something of significance to say?

But while these thoughts give me pause, I can't say I'll stop writing anytime soon. The other half of the problem is that writing is, for those of us who love doing it, a compulsion. Or perhaps, instead of saying we feel compelled to write, it's more proper to say we feel impelled. The urge comes from within, not from without. Birds gotta sing, flowers gotta petal, and writers—both famous and unknown—gotta write.


Anonymous said...

All very true. Except when I blogged, I wanted an audience, even if it were only counts on Webstat. One of the reasons I closed my blog was that I had almost no audience. Now I write books and hope for an audience that way.


Surprises Aplenty said...

I thought you were going to refer to private insults and putdowns in their journals. "I wrote another letter to that infernal boor, Emerson yesterday. What an idiot! But he can help me with publicizing my next book..."

Kevin Kim said...


I'd like to know more about how Henry and Ralph's relationship soured.


As you know, garnering an audience is part marketing and part luck. As an expat in Korea, I was automatically enrolled in a ready-made community of people with somewhat overlapping experiences, gripes, insights, etc. That said, I never became a big hit, which is why I often joke about having only five readers. In my heyday, my daily unique visits were around 350-400 (according to SiteMeter); these days, the Blogger site tracker puts my average daily visits at around 460, but when you look at the per-post stats, it's only about 20-30 unique visits per post. All the extra visits must be to my archived posts—people rummaging through the old stuff. I suspect, though, that Blogger's site tracker is more generous in terms of counting visits, probably by a factor of 2, so I'd guess my real numbers are about half the 460 quoted above.

In the large perspective, that makes me a tiny blogger at best, and since blogs themselves have radically dropped in popularity over the years (it's all Instagram, Pinterest, etc., these days), there's no hope I'll garner a larger audience. Ever.

Then again, my goal was never to seek worldwide fame. I appreciate having the freedom to express my thoughts in a raw and sincere manner thanks to my lack of fame, actually. Were I an "influencer," as they say these days, I'd have to measure each word carefully, and I'd effectively become a slave to the crowds which, being fickle, can easily turn into a ravening mob.

When I self-published Water from a Skull in 2006, I had a ready-made audience thanks to my church community and the northern Virginia Korean community. Since I suspect you're a big man on campus at your own church, I don't doubt you'll find people there who will be very interested in buying your books. I hate marketing; I don't envy any self-publisher who has to do it, so I wish you good luck as you do whatever's necessary to market yourself and your titles.

John Mac said...

Interesting. When I read the quote from Lorianne I also immediately thought of it in terms of blogging. For me, my blog really is more of a personal journal than it is a source meaningful information. It's pretty obvious that I'm writing for myself rather than an audience. I'm actually surprised anyone reads my drivel, but last time I looked I was getting around 100 visits a day.

I think back in the early days I wanted to be more widely read. One of the highlights of my blogging "career" was getting an Instapundit link. I also used to post links from my blog to Facebook. Now I actually prefer the anonymity that comes with having a little read blog. I've told no one I've met here in the PI about my blog. That gives me the freedom to say what I want without worry of hurting feelings or causing offence.

If I get sufficient advance notice before I die I might try and ferret out the blog posts that have been the most meaningful (to me) and do one of those self published books. Maybe one day the grandchildren would be interesting in learning just how whacked their mysterious grandpa truly was.

Kevin Kim said...

I'd buy that book.