When I was preparing my best books of 2008 list, I did something I’d never done before, which was to read back over the entire year’s blog posts. It’s one of the (many) advantages of blogging that you get an actual account of the year, not one transformed by the distorting mirrors of memory. And it seemed to me that the year was split into two parts; January to June was a time of creativity, expansion, exciting change, June to December a time of retrenchment, reflection, uncertainty and, in all honesty, a little disillusionment. The year began so well for me, writing-wise, in both academic and freelance arenas, but from summer onwards that spark fizzled out after my health scare knocked me for six. Every magazine article I’ve ever read suggests that a brush with mortality results in a renewed taste for life and a fiercer gratitude for its sweetness, but all I felt was that the things that mattered to me suddenly seemed tremendously fragile and fraught with unreliability. I struggled to find excitement for my goals and just felt perverse as well as deflated.
And what did I learn from all this? That what doesn’t kill you doesn’t always make you stronger, and that my creativity is bound up completely, entirely, with my emotional frame of mind. What a bummer. Still, knowledge and insight are always useful, even if they tell you things you didn’t particularly want to know. What interests me for 2009 is finding ways to allow the routine banality of life to carry me through difficult moments. When I was feeling all rubbed up the wrong way existentially, there was indeed something soothing about what good old Camus termed ‘the tender indifference’ of the world. As I get older, I find myself increasingly intrigued by the mundane, the quiet, the unobtrusive and their variety of subtle nuances.
So much for the year. As for the blog, I felt that it suffered a bit from heading into its third year of existence. Blogs are glorious love affairs to begin with, all heady excitement and obsession with statistics, but once the infatuation wears off, it’s the usual problem of how to make a life together that remains. I rather think we took one another for granted, made a bit less effort than was necessary, stopped having special occasions together and made do with hastily snatched moments. When I looked back over the posts I was surprised a) how long they had become and b) how much personal stuff got put into them. So much for this being a book blog site! Every third post was some sort of state of the union chez Litlove. I was also given some eye-opening perspective on my writing voice. One site that linked to one of my motherhood chapters did so by calling it ‘brain-grinding stuff’, which gave me pause for thought. For some unknown reason, about that time a link I’d never seen before, although it dated from the previous year, popped up on my dashboard from a reader who had written a really lovely and laudatory account of the blog but said she couldn’t visit often as it was too ‘overwhelming’ intellectually. Aw shucks, and here was me thinking I churned out the same old nonsense time and again. But it’s good to have clear directions for next year. In 2009 I want to make a big effort to wrestle my posts back to a more reasonable length, concision is a virtue after all, and to make my style clearer and less intellectual. I’ve always maintained that anyone can understand any idea if it’s presented with sufficient clarity, and the fault of incomprehension always lies with the writer.
But most of all I want to make good use of this site. It began as a training ground for writing and has always been just fabulous for that purpose, when I’ve remembered to bear it in mind. I don’t expect ever again in my life to be fortunate enough to have such a clever, respectful, engaged and just plain lovely audience at my disposal, and that means ensuring enough nurturing goes on here to make it worth your while to keep turning up. If I’m going to make a go of non-fiction writing, then I need to practice all kinds of things: entertainment, lucidity of ideas, good anecdotes and examples, concise but interesting overviews.
Oh and I really need to practice shorter paragraphs. That’s long overdue.
Where this blog has been the greatest boon, in 2008 as in previous years, is in the community I’ve found here, the friendships I’ve made and the feedback I’ve received. I cannot tell you how grateful I am to you all for your continued support and attention. Your voices have sustained me through the darkest points in the year and given me so much to laugh about and marvel at on all the other days. I’ve found so much sympathy and recognition and encouragement in your comments, as well as so many enlivening ideas and insights and possibilities. You deserve in return the very best blog posts I can give you; that’s kind of a work in progress. In the meantime, I suggest a group hug and warmest, heartfelt wishes for a peaceful, productive and joyous virtual 2009.
Matrimony giveaway to take place later on today!