I was going to do a studious review of Jane Austen’s Emma today and then it struck me that Friday is an unpropitious day for that sort of thing on the pre-weekend quiet of the blogworld. And it also occurred to me that I wouldn’t have felt like that a couple of years ago – that blogging then was, for me, like a trip to the gym for a fitness freak, not to be missed on any account and part of a stringent regime that brooked no opposition. Blogging can be understood in many ways, and one of those is a kind of virtual half-life, subject to the same mortality as real life but in a fast-forward, pixilated form.
The First Age: The Age of Passion
When blogs are fresh and new every day is full of excitement and discovery. The blogger can’t wait until the moment for posting comes, and spends far too much time dreaming about what might be written and composing perfect posts. Topics abound, the blog world is full of fascinating and engaging events that demand participation and the only frustration is lack of time. Publicity is all and the new blogger signs up for everything, every blog directory, every challenge, every meme. Visiting other sites, particularly new ones, is a little anxiety-inducing as long-standing friendships clearly announce themselves in every comments section. But this is all about making new acquaintances and getting settled in, and every new returning visitor is a matter of triumph and delight. Comments start to increase, traffic begins to flow, and the blogger has that wonderful sense of progress as their writing gains in fluency and style. Blogging is a revelation, a passion, a delight.
The Second Age: The Age of Reason
By now the blogger has secured a place in his or her community. Blogging has fallen into a distinct and mostly reliable routine to which the blogger adheres with dedication. A group of blogging friends will be established by now, and it’s quite possible the blogger will have joined or initiated a bunch of group blogs, little spin-offs in a big blogging family. The incoming links section of the dashboard registers new mentions on a (pleasingly) daily basis, traffic is steady and reassuring, blogging awards are bestowed and invitations to blogworld events are regularly forthcoming. The blogger has an idea now of how things ought to be, an opinion on what blogs do and how the virtual world could be improved; blogging has a political edge. The blog itself has settled down into a distinct character, and it’s hard to imagine it being any other way. The routine is comforting, the community is loving, but occasionally, just occasionally, the necessity of blogging begins to drag. The blogger still signs up for challenges and read-alongs but begins to feel guilt as some fall by the wayside. There’s just so much to do, so many virtual plates to keep spinning. Sometimes the posts are a bit messy, written in a tearing hurry in the midst of trying to catch up with real life, sometimes it’s difficult to come up with a subject. But blogging is still an essential part of the blogger’s life and brings with it rewards that cannot be lightly dismissed.
The Third Age: The Age of Experience
So, after all kinds of struggles with ambition, responsibility, duty, creativity and falling stats, the blogger has come to an uneasy but tenacious relationship with blogging. The lasting benefit remains the virtual friends who have stuck to the blog through thick and thin, through the blogging breaks, the disruptive life events, the loss of direction and energy. It’s not that new friendships aren’t possible – and hope springs eternal – more that anyone who might have discovered the blog seems to have visited it already, and then moved on to someone else who does something similar only with the panache or passion of an earlier stage. The blogger has realized their limitations, as far as challenges and changes go, and maybe there’s one more reinvention left in the old blog yet, but innovation is really a thing of the past. A little passing envy may be felt for all those youthful, vigorous blogs that spring up every day, and the enthusiasm and doggedness with which blogging fun is pursued. But there’s nothing to be done; that kind of energy can’t be resurrected. The blogger often wonders whether he or she should give up, but values those friendships too highly, and the residual weight of blogging history ties them in place. Blogging is a habit and only cynical mischief-making, like putting an outrageous sentence in the middle of a post to see whether anyone really does read more than just the beginning and end keep the blogger engaged.
You see, blogging really is like life! And this old blog is distinctly close to getting its bus pass, even though I hope for a miracle of reinvention. I think that there are bloggers who can manage to prolong that middle-age stretch and find a comfortable pattern they can stick with, but this is quite an art. And others start up new blogs, which may well give the sensation of beginning afresh. But I will stick with the Reading Room, geriatric as it may be, and stagger with my Zimmer frame towards a review of Emma next week, and Orwell’s 1984, too. Have a great weekend, all!