For quite some time now I’ve been feeling radically uninspired about blogging. It’s getting harder and harder to get enthusiastic about topics, or to find ones I haven’t already posted about, sometimes multiple times. I’ve always been opinionated about political and broader public issues. I even wrote letters to the editor at one stage, surely one of the early signs of madness along with hair on the palm and talking to oneself. But increasingly I find myself silently asking the rhetorical question “who cares?”.
And much of the interaction that once made blogging stimulating and enjoyable seems more and more just talking past each other, rather than participating in a genuine dialogue from which anyone learns anything much. It is, as James Russell put it, like shouting into the darkness because you enjoy the sound of your own voice. The comment thread on my post of yesterday about torture is a classic example, everyone pushing their own barrow with little or no real constructive interaction. It ended up extending to some 60 comments (at time of writing this post), but hadn’t advanced perceptibly beyond the points I made in my primary post. You can’t help thinking that it’s all a major waste of time, as my partner jen put it this morning in her inimitable blunt fashion. The most boring men alive? Quite possibly. I wouldn’t mind the label if I wasn’t bored too.
Now even that would be alright if I was the sort of self-disciplined person who could devote only as much time to blogging as I can really afford. It would be just like having a hobby like tennis or golf, or more accurately a sedentary one like stamp-collecting or heraldry: a harmless if eccentric and self-indulgent leisure-time amusement.
But the trouble is I’m a bit like Mark Bahnisch; not quite as addicted to blogging compulsively, but not far short. I’m different from Mark in that I’m not on a deadline to finish a PhD (having put it on hold 18 months or so ago without even getting approval for a topic), nor am I looking for a job to keep body and soul together. But blogging is still taking up far more of my time than is healthy. Writing a post every day or two, keeping abreast of other blogs and the mainstream media, and participating in comment box discussions on previous posts together take up on average at least a couple of hours every single day, and sometimes considerably more. What’s the purpose if I mostly no longer find the interaction pleasurable? And mostly I don’t. There’s not much point in maintaining a hobby merely out of a stubborn sense of pride and self-imposed obligation, nor habit, nor because it’s an addiction I lack the self-control to break. And especially not when work and home commitments are heavy, and in most respects more pleasurable and worthwhile than the blog. It might even ultimately be quite destructive for someone like me, a fundamentally antisocial, introspective being who finds it much easier to stick with solitary pursuits than to dwell in the disordered, confusing but fulfilling world of real human relationships.
At the same time, I would like to think Troppo has a value as a group blog that enables numerous talented writers to contribute to the informal “salon” of blogosphere public discussion without their being inflicted with the onerous task of establishing and maintaining a solo blog. So the conclusion I’ve reached is that the best thing for me to do is to step back from active blogging for an indefinite period and maybe permanently, but to maintain the stewardship of Troppo in terms of comment box moderation, spam deletion and liaising with Scott about technical issues.
I probably won’t be able to resist fairly frequent comment box contributions, and I might even make a very occasional primary post if I feel so strongly about a specific issue that I can’t help myself. That’s the way it used to be when I first started blogging; writing and posting my opinions was almost a primal urge and certainly an unmitigated joy. But mostly now I have to force myself to think of a suitable topic and then research and write a coherent and hopefully entertaining post about it. My candid self-evaluation is that the strain and lack of spontaneity have been evident in the quality of my writing over the last few months.
I still reckon it’s desirable for a well-read blog like Troppo to maintain at least one or two new posts every day, however, in order to retain audience interest. Since most of our existing contributors post as infrequently as I’m intending from now on, maybe we need to sign up some fresh blogging talent. Many hands make light blogging. Any readers who wish to nominate themselves or someone else as a prospective Troppo blogger are more than welcome to contact me at ken DOT parish AT cdu DOT edu Dot au.