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May 16, 2007


And this is why I named you a Thinking Blogger!

I feel a post coming on, but for now I'm going to turn all squee-girl and express my delight that someone I know has a connection to Pilobolus, which has fascinated me ever since I found out about them in high school. I have a book somewhere, and a calendar, and once my mother and I saw them perform - magical.

*heads off to contemplate writing*

Beth, you're asking here the very questions I've been struggling with lately. It seems everyone I know is publishing/has published books: I feel like my proverbial "clock" is going off, except instead of everyone around me having babies, everyone around me is making books.

I have no idea what the answer to your "either/or" question is...I've always been a fan of "both/and," myself, but there are only so many hours in the day. And neither option of your "either/or" exactly pays the bills. (sigh...)

For poets, fame and profit have never been the issue. But somehow that doesn't keep them from being very jealous and competitive about publishing and awards (often now one and the same). I like Lorianne's birth-giving analogy. Books are very charismatic in their own way; a book project takes on a life of its own, just as a child does. Anyway, good thoughts, Beth - thanks for connecting all these dots. I'll be interested to see what other comments come in.

Thanks for making me think about this. I have no answer, though, to the question: book or blog? except what feels right at a given moment; the question of online or printed form becoming another question for the writer with each new project, like fact or fiction, prose or poetry, long or short.

I'm a huge fan of online writing and visual art - it's immediacy, democracy, interactivity has truly changed my life. But...

Recently, after taking photos for a couple of years, viewing and sharing them only on line, I began to print some - just on ordinary A4 office paper with a colour laser printer - and I was absolutely, unexpectedly delighted with the result. The images, 'framed' by the white paper around them, seemed deeper, took on a new life and significance, and became lovely objects that I could hold in my hands and stick up on my wall. I don't think seeing and holding what you've created as a physical object is replaceable.

Then, perhaps especially with a memory project, like a work about your father-in-law, there's the issue of permanence, having something physical to keep, to preserve the memory. None of us knows at this point how ephemeral all these words on line will be.

Also, I believe there's psycho-neurological research indicating that reading words online is not the same as reading words on paper, that the lower resolution means the brain is less engaged, takes it in less deeply...

Lots to say and think about here, but I think the answer is whatever feels right for a particular project.

I'm facing a similar dilemma, book versus blog, at the moment, and my attempt at a solution is to try to do both, which means in practical terms devoting less than full energy to either. Which means that the book will take a bit longer to finish than it might have, but I hope it forgives me for that, and in fact a book more slowly written might turn out to be a better book.

In the old days, doing both at once would have been no sweat for me, but at some point age does start showing its effects...

I'm with Jean in loving both the spontaneity of blogs (and the lesson in evanescence they teach us) and the palpableness and hopefulness of having a permanent, beautiful object as the result of one's labors. (And I'm very glad to learn that Jean's started printing her photos, which I love.) My recent solution has been to self-publish a book of my best blog posts. I had complete creative control and produced a book that belonged to no genre, no category, and was absolutely faithful to me and a few readers.I spent a little money on it and got a bit less money back. All in all, an excellent deal.

Something to keep in mind is that, realistically, almost all books are as evanescent as blogs if not more so. The permanence of the physical object is an illusion. Publish a book this year and in twenty years no one will have heard of it except your friends and relatives and an occcasional stranger here and there --- the very same kinds of people who would have heard of your blog. This is an unpleasant truth that most writers at the beginning of the process understandably don't wish to face. So the book versus blog question isn't even a question in the long run.

In fact I'm betting there's a good chance that the writings from our era that the future will be most interested in will be in many cases nonmainstream writings. I like to believe this because incorrigibly I'm still attracted to the idea of fame and profit.

I differ with Dave about this: I believe that fame and profit have been issues for poets just like anyone else. It may not seem that way anymore because poetry is no longer a mass entertainment in our culture, but in the old days, poets were unashamed of seeking fame and, from the ancient Greeks through at least Keats, wrote about it as a motivating factor in their art. Whitman, for one, was a notorious self-promoter who planted reviews of Leaves of Grass that he had written himself and who carefully nurtured his avuncular public image. Not to mention Pound, Frost, Ginsberg, Dylan Thomas -- not every poet, certainly, but plenty of good and great ones. Today, academic position, tenure, grants, and prizes serve quite nicely as the manifestations of poetic fame and profit, and are the objects of endless craving. And who knows if that's a bad thing?

Well, O.K., you're right, Richard - I was thinking solely about our own culture, and within recent decades, but even then, fame and profit are relative. It would've been more accurate to say, "poets have usually been satisfied with whatever morsels of fame and profit fall from the general table. One enthusiastic fan at a poetry reading is almost as good as a gushy review in the New York Times."

Beth, as you know, this is a subject that is much on my mind at this time. There's no doubt that the internet in general and blogs in particular have a made a huge difference in breaking down the barriers between the creator and the public and have made it possible to reach large audiences without the need for intermediaries. Technology such as print-on-demand and free sites such as YouTube, MySpace, Flickr and all the blogging software provide tools that anyone can use to get their ideas (or themselves) out there. Every day we hear mega-success stories about big-bucks book deals offered to this or that blogger, or record deals signed, or home-made videos being viewed by thousands, etc.etc. But here's the rub: we (I mean those who are creating something) still want and need that stamp of Authority (never mind whether it really deserves that title), validation by the Big Media, the Critics, the approving quotes which, when printed on our book covers, can guarantee respect and sales. I hate myself for it but am nevertheless spending a lot of time working out ways to get that kind of "accredited" attention. Because,in theory, getting it will mean I don't have to bother about it anymore. When Authority will say: "Okay, you're in. Here's the money, here's the contract, here are the glowing reviews in the quality press, here's your book on all the shelves everywhere. Now go and create more of your wonderful work and you'll never have to do another thing to sell yourself ever again." Yes, of course this is illusion and fiction. But it's an illusion that serves as motivation. I agree with Richard. I'd love to be rid of the craving but without it, I might just sink into a disillusioned apathy which blogging would be a distraction from, but not a cure.

Add me to the list of people who like to see the results of their work "in the flesh" - as a blogger/writer and a digital photographer, most of my stuff is trapped in pixels - which is perhaps why I love handicrafts like knitting so much. My work is so much more REAL when I can hold in my hands.

A book about your father-in-law?
Yes, please

Not sure what to add; profit seems a separate issue from fame, fame different again from the pleasure gained from a more physically tangible printed or otherwise fabricated object...
One or two people have said 'make sure you save it somewhere other than on Blogger', not for fame and fortune but for... what? I don't know! But I'm not sure that I want to do so; I like the evanescence of it.
I am not ambitious, (have little to be ambitious about, not false modesty,just realistic about what I do and why I do it), and I have a horror of physical clutter left behind, something to do with dealing with my parents stuff after they died, and many moves and changes; I hate the idea of leaving someone else with the responsibility of whether to ditch or keep.
On the other hand, currently planning a project of words and pictures with someone else which will have a discreet and finite span rather than the immediate and ephemeral nature of the blog, I find myself thinking, if we're pleased with it, it might be nice to have it in some kind of hard copy just to look at and pass a few on to friends. For myself I wouldn't care if they threw it away after a time, I have no wish or need to leave anything behind.
Yet I'm grateful that those who went before DID leave what they did. Another problem is perhaps also that at one time there weren't that many talented and exceptional people around and able to express themselves ( village-Hampdens remained just that), so the ones who did are to be treasured, whereas now there are many many gifted, talented souls who all deserve a hearing. The only way they can get it is to share it around and necessarily spread it thinner, which is what on-line publication does.
But again,

... that's very strange, I have no idea where that final 'but again,' came from, I've no recollection of writing it! Please ignore it, I've no more to add!

On the topic of permanence, I've tried making digital prints of my drawings and paintings, using the giclee method, but it never felt quite right, or real. So I've begun learning the old etching techniques. Hard copies have their own intrinsic value. It's why my bookshelves are full and so is my wallspace.

I love the comment about the biological clock for writers, I'm sure it applies to visual artists as well.

What a thought provoking post and good comments. I paint and blog but do not feel that my paintings are more "durable" than my blog or spoken word. Every impulse I have travels out infinitely and effects whatever it touches. Your words change me as much as your book or your painting; everything material is lost in time. I think of my most lasting work as the people I have touched in my life; my blog is a way of reaching a wider audience and having what influence I can on gentle-ing the world. I was raised by a very harsh method but one person changed my life by showing me that love was the better, if not the only way. I want to pass that on.

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Who was Cassandra?

  • In the Iliad, she is described as the loveliest of the daughters of Priam (King of Troy), and gifted with prophecy. The god Apollo loved her, but she spurned him. As a punishment, he decreed that no one would ever believe her. So when she told her fellow Trojans that the Greeks were hiding inside the wooden horse...well, you know what happened.