Tuesday, November 25, 2008

 

Blogging

Saturday I had the pleasure of a moderating a panel at the New School hosted by CLMP with Ed Park, Luc Sante, Alex Chee and Emily Gould. They were smart, so the conversation we had about books and blogging was naturally interesting. And now that it's over, I've noticed that none of us has blogged. Maybe it's the holidays, or maybe it's something else.

In my case, our conversation made me think again about why I am blogging and what I am actually trying to accomplish here, a question for which I have no easy answer.

I started blogging for Japundit which, a few years ago, had a pretty committed aim and a dedicated group of posters. It was fun. We could debate issues that don't get much mainstream media press coverage (until we had discussed them enough in the blogosphere that the mainstream media decided to copy us). I could write about Miss Japan and her rise to Miss Universe and how her win was engineered by a western woman determined to refashion the Japanese aesthetic into something more appealing to westerners, and how this irritated the Japanese. I could think about Gwen Stefani and her Harajuku girls and point out that while the quiet miming of the her backup dancers was seen by some in the west as akin to blackface, the Japanese were generally less offended, and more bemused. Etc. And, frankly, I learned a lot, and met some lovely people.

The site has changed now, and no longer really requires my posts. The readers seemed to change too. Or maybe it was just the run up to the election that made participants particularly tense. It seemed to me that more and more comments and posts that were too political in nature were being deleted and I, who don't consider myself particularly politically active, was bothered. How does one really draw the line between a discussion of a some current event--like political correctness which is an arguably western subject--and politics? And wasn't the internet supposed to be a place where we could discuss what we wanted without impunity? I don't really like tense situations, and yet through discussion, sometimes people are led to understand something new about themselves, and I place myself in this category. Western girl that I mostly am, I prefer and am accustomed to openness.

Then my father passed away this summer, and I agonized over how to post. I took down half of the posts I wrote because they were too personal, and too angry. Sometimes I tried to write about my attempts to find solace in gardening, which for some reason elicited a number of emails. Other times I wrote angry rants about people I'd better not mention here, and these I took down. The angry rants, by the way, more accurately depicted my mental state at the time.

A couple of months ago, someone said to me, "It's been interesting watching you on your blog as you work through the grief. Suddenly there was a post about shoes." Translation: I was better!

This made me think of something a friend known for her blogging once said to me; people often feel that by reading her blog, they are keeping up with her life. Well, it's true in a way, but only up to a point. Yes, my blog will tell you what I am thinking or what I thought was blog worthy. But the truth is that I'm not really comfortable talking about myself--it's why I've barely written any essays and have stuck to fiction. I'd much rather tell you what I am thinking about something else. I'm much better at just making stuff up. In other words, no, the blog is not my attempt to be friends with everyone, and reading it is not really a way to keep up with me and what is really going on.

So, what am I doing? What am I going to do? I'm no longer as fascinated by the whole "issues about Asia not being explored by the mainstream media" as I once was. I am not able to be some performance artist, wringing out the details of my personal life to entertain readers. There are a lot of other blogs out there covering books and writing and things pertaining to the literary world, and written by people with students and who are naturally more inclined to want to be nurturing of writers at all stages of their craft. I do not have a natural "internet voice," which is sardonic and city and youthful. What, I wonder, is an editor going to think looking at this blog? My "real writing" isn't in this voice at all. And, no, reading my blog isn't a substitution for real friendship. So, what am I doing?

I don't know. So I think that for the time being, I'm going to take a break. It's the holidays. I have cookies to bake and my special eggs to chase down to make the cookies with. I have to bake three pies for Thursday. I am trying to finish knitting a bunch of handmade socks--spoiler--that will be my gift of choice this year for special friends. Cookies and socks. I have some articles to write. And maybe after the New Year, I'll have figured out what I'm trying to do, and it may be that nothing changes, and I'll limp along with this lack of thematic focus. Or it may be that I suddenly find a theme around which to organize all these posts. I don't know.

Until then, be well.

Comments:
Hi Marie! Maki desu. I have started reading your blog because I was looking for "japanese monks" (as those were my keywords in google) and I came up with a picture of your cousin and this gorgeous post about the japanese obituary. Then I read on your blog what you call "issues about Asia not being explored by the mainstream media" and it was great because I'm really into japanese culture (pop or not). The post were not just a couple of news about Japan, but a full issue. And then you also write about personal things what made me came out with new ideas like the Kindle (eventhough the post started describing your neighbors).
You know I'm a huge fan of your blog, so is stupid to say I like it the way it is. I may be a secretly litte envious as I never could made a visited blog in my life even after lots of attempts ^^;;;
As you're going to take a rest for a while, I want to wish you a happy Thanksgiving this Thruesday. I have to salute (ohhh! sounds so formal!!) to my american friends/family too so they don't feel lonely here. Holidays can't be really joyful or difficult depending on who is sitting on the table and who is missing. Hope you the best and I'll be here to read your next post whenever it is ^___^
hugs!!!
 
Maki--That's incredibly sweet and I have to remember that people who I've never met read my blog and care about my blog and not just people who work in publishing!

I may very well post again--this may just be some bout of insecurity. We'll see how it goes. But thanks for reading and for commenting and I'm sure we will "see" each other soon.
 
akiramechattara zannen dakedo ne. "limping along" dake demo juubun deshou.
 
Marie,

Sometimes I think I should find some sort of focus for my blog, too, but I've never really tried to. Ultimately my blog is for me. I write what I'm feeling and what I want to preserve. If someone else enjoys it, great; if not, I still do. So really, my blog is for me.

I don't know what the answer for you is. If you've been writing for a certain audience, and then discover you don't need to write for them anymore, it would make sense to stop, or change. But if, like me, you just write, and don't really think about why, then...why not?

And even if your original reason for beginning to blog is gone, you may have gathered some new ones.

I am sorry to see the community at Japundit change. The new social bookmarking format is interesting and can certainly generate more content for the site, and by farming out the work to the community Edward (who I will always call JP in my head) is saving himself a lot of time and effort. But I too will miss the discussion that thoughtful blog posts kick off. The blog's still there, but I don't think it'll be quite the same.

As far as the community censorship, that's always happened at Japundit. The internet is a place where we have many freedoms, but a privately-owned website can create and enforce its own rules--like a tiny kingdom. If people don't like one site's rules, they can make a new site elsewhere. What makes the internet work where tiny kingdoms don't is that there is no land issue ;)

(I have a friend who had the annoying habit of blogging for awhile, getting tired of it, deleting his blog, then eventually creating a new one and starting the cycle over. This destroyed me. I felt a part of what had been written, and he was destroying my thoughts--my comments--as well as his own. It felt like a deep betrayal. I stopped reading his blogs.)

One thing I do wonder about Japundit is whether or not its name fits anymore.

In any case...I think blogging is valuable. I like reading what people say about themselves and their opinions and their lives. Yes, I do consider some bloggers I've followed and who've followed me for awhile friends. I think blogging can be like being a member of a writing circle, or any other club. (I've never had a popular blog, so I don't know if things change once you hit a certain number of readers.)

I don't think anyone really knows what blogging is. My boss asked me to explain the appeal to her and I really couldn't answer. Blogging is whatever you want it to be, I think.

I hope you continue using your blog for whatever you feel like saying :)
 
Heather--what you say is true. Japundit was and is Ed's baby and he has the right to run it as he wants to. He's the one who has put the most effort and time and money into the whole thing, after all, and is mostly responsible for the ratings, etc.

I just began to question--around the time of the election--if it was right for me or not. But, I've been questioning many things this year, so perhaps I'm just not seeing straight on a great many subjects yet. Actually, I KNOW I'm not really seeing things with as much clarity as I like to, but I figure the answers will come.

Eh--maybe I'm having a bad week. It's Thanksgiving. Dad's not here. And all that. But who knows!

I find your comments about your friend's blog fascinating. I was very into Lily's Hana Yori Dango blog, and loved that she had catalogued all the places in the show as they correspond to real life locations. I never wrote down the places because I figured her blog would always be there. And then, one day, in a fit of pique, she deleted it. I was shocked. And it did feel like a betrayal. So I know exactly what you mean. This is different than the way that Japundit has changed--those changes I understand better because I know what Ed was going through trying to keep a site running with less and less free time, and less and less input from us (though, in my case, I have always faded in and out, and really faded out this year initially because of my father).

I'm rambling. Time to call it an evening.
 
Just thought I would stop by and add a little perspective to the comments about JAPUNDIT.

I did not wake up one day and suddenly decide to change JAPUNDIT to a community book marking site on a whim. The new format was the product of long months of deliberation after realizing that JAPUNDIT had taken over my entire life and that something had to give. Blogging (and all of the baggage that comes along with it) was quickly becoming less of an enjoyable pastime and more of an irritating chore. I guess the final impetus to do something about it came when we found out that our son and his wife are expecting their first child (and our first grandchild), which made me think that I will soon be wanting to spend my free time doing other things besides sitting at a computer keyboard.

Other options I considered were to stop posting regularly, open up posting to more contributors, or simply turning off the lights and pulling down the shutter with a bang.

I did not want to start posting irregularly and have JAPUNDIT limp and sputter along until it finally wheezed into the ether.

I did not think the more-contributors option would work, because someone needs to manage the contributors (a major undertaking in itself). In fact, before deciding on the final change I tried soliciting for more contributors, but to no avail. The last solicitation was answered by three of four individuals who expressed interest, but who just disappeared after I configured their accounts with publication permissions.

The shutdown option was no appealing to me because I didn't have the fortitude to put a pistol to the head of my creation and pull the trigger (despite the fact it had grown into a Frankenstein monster).

Once we did it, the changeover was pretty successful. We lost one group of readers who preferred the old style, but this was more than made up for by the influx of new members who are fans of the community format. For me, the daily writing and management load (in terms of e-mail queries I have to deal with on a regular basis) has dropped to a tiny fraction of what it was under the old format.

Yes, the old format was a lot of fun. And we all got to become acquainted with many interesting people. But there are plenty of good folks coming around the new JAPUNDIT as well.

And with that, may everyone, old and new Japundits alike, have a Happy Thanksgiving!
 
Ed--Thanks for stopping by! I might as well write here that I did give a lot of thought to whether or not I could have asked for the editorship (not that I expected you would automatically give it to me). But I did wonder if I could have done it, and I ultimately I couldn't commit to doing it well.

I think the new site looks very good and seems to be very busy. And while I do miss the old community, I do value the experience--I ended up making some friends and certainly learning more about Japan than I expected. I'll miss these things most of all. It was fascinating to read so many different perspectives.

I'm still not sure how I'll continue blogging. I imagine that I will, and certainly Japundit was instrumental in getting me going and getting me started.

A belated Happy Thanksgiving back to you and a huge congratulations on the impending birth of your first grandchild.
 
I'll miss your blog, but will look for your book and future essays and stories. you are the only one who can make decisions regarding your use of time and energy in life, and blogging does take a lot resources that could go elsewhere.

Give Angus the cat a kiss from Angus the cat (and from me).

Marla
 
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