Last year, in the New York Times Book Review there was a story of a pen pal correspondence between poet Laura Sims and the experimental-fiction writer David Markson. Markson died in 2010 at the age of 82. As the NY Times noted, he “lived on the cutting edge of fictional technique, but he happily lagged behind in the world of technology.”
Sims at one point in their correspondence offered to send print outs of blog posts others wrote praising Markson’s work. Markson didn’t know what blogs were but agreed to read them.
His response back to her after reading them:
“Hey, thank you for all that blog stuff, but forgive me if after a nine-minute glance I have torn it all up.”
“In spite of the lost conveniences, I am all the more glad I don’t have a computer. HOW CAN PEOPLE LIVE IN THAT FIRST-DRAFT WORLD?”
There’s a lot of value in blogs for someone who is in the throes of learning a new subject. They were invaluable for me in my early years of professional web design. Following someone who blogs regularly and is a few years ahead of you in their field is about as close as some of us will get to the master-apprentice model. Of course it’s no substitute for actually working under someone, but whether introversion is a handicap or you live in a place where there’s no other option, following a blog is a worthy substitute.
But at some point the rough draft nature of the outfit begins to wear out and you need to find richer material. Deep conversations with other professionals and friends, and the tried-and-true book is where I turn. Here you’ll find distilled knowledge and learned guidance that when combined with your own life experience can make you wise.
Of course then there’s me, here, writing this blog — for the most part adding to the noise. This is inescapable. Writing is growing, learning and thinking and you have to slog through it to reap the benefits. Rhythmic writing is a discipline I’ve wanted to hone for quite some time but it has always fallen by the wayside. It’s hard and it’s time consuming. But I’m not willing to give up yet — this blog post is my kick off to a year of regular writing. There will be rough drafts and bad writing (sorry!) yet there will be consistency, and that’s what will be most valued for me at first.
Going back to Markson, referring to the blog printouts he had previously ripped up and thrown away, he added: “I have just taken the sheets out of the trash basket and torn them into even smaller pieces.”