It is so incredibly easy to drop a couple of weeks without writing, when you are constantly creating original material for a blog. Gentle readers, please accept my apology. I really hadn’t intended the absence to be so long!
Aside from the joys of work (and, yes, there are joys), dealing with a master logic board replacement in my laptop (fortunately still under warranty, and quickly turned around, but, still, five days away from the keyboard), and the normal bits and pieces of everyday life, the key reason I’ve been away from this blog has been that I’ve been involved in a very deep set of email exchanges covering a number of topics, with several long messages passing back and forth each day.
This, in turn, was emphasized this morning to me while commuting, as I listened to last Friday’s A Point of View on my iPod. Lisa Jardine, in this BBC radio programme, talked about letter writing, its conventions over time, and the sense of confidence (or the expectation of its violation) that was a part of “polite society” from time to time.
So, while I shall, over the next few weeks, share some of the results of the email exchanges, I shan’t be doing anything that exposes my written interlocutors!
But Jardine also made me think, this morning, about the whole question of writing in public. Why do writers do it? Why do thinkers do it?
In particular, why do I do it?
Robert Anson Heinlein, in both his essays and his later fiction, made his reason quite clear. Having started to write for money, he discovered, once he no longer needed to “churn out the words” to keep his nose above financial sea level, that he could no longer set writing aside. It had become a monkey on his back, demanding its daily dose of words. Activity could set it aside for a short while (Heinlein’s favourite in this regard being the erecting of mortarless stone walls) but the pressure to hit the typewriter would grow and grow, just as the “minimum acceptable amount to scratch the itch” grew, year by year.
If you are reading this posting on the blog’s website, as opposed to in a feed reader, you are no doubt aware that not a shred of advertising appears here, nor are you asked for donations, nor did you have to pay to access this content. That was a personal decision of mine, to write for my sake as opposed to for financial reasons. The comments that my posts have attracted have been exceedingly rewarding, and that was the payment sought for my efforts.
The failure to write for several days would normally put the same “monkey pressure” on me that Heinlein described. Writing several long pieces a day in email, however, more than satisfied the monkey. As a result, two weeks (more or less) slipped by, with no words here.
Now why tell you all this? This is how we are, all of us, day by day. Even those who maintain lists of to-dos, organize their time, and tick the items off day by day, miss noticing what they’re not doing in the rush of doing.
You can tell, of course, the blogger who has a to-do list of topics to be written about today. Their quality can often be uneven: ticking off the list takes priority. (Some writers, and I am not one of them, are sufficiently gifted that even their mediocre efforts are far above the average. Still, a keen eye reveals the pattern.) Others merely have the to-do to write, and their content varies from the essential and satisfying to merely a near random commentary on the stimulus they themselves received today.
This is not a complaint. It is merely an observed “true fact” about the intersubjective human realm.
It is up to each of us to set our priorities for the time we have available. Enough said.