Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Whys and the Wherefores of Speaking in Semaphores, or, I Blog Therefore I Rot

I ran into a friend today and in addition to trying to be sincere, cool, and relaxed, I described to her the nature of this here blog and who it's "for." I was talking about "voice." When I write an email or a letter to someone, I am the author of course but the language and tone depend largely on who the recipient is. But writing to more than one person, in a newspaper column or a blog, the audience is a bit more amorphous and the voice is not as simple to establish. If anyone's reading this blog, I imagine it's a handful of culturally literate locals with a capacity for silliness. In other words, a whole bunch of Jim Neills, all applauding and laughing and thinking what a great guy Jim Neill is and how his observations and commentary are worth a bookmark and visit every few days. Actually, I’d be surprised if it included anyone outside my wider social circle. But truthfully, I don't have a target audience per se, and in fact, I have found my writing to flow better and dare I say improve when I'm writing to a single person (or pretending I am.) Especially someone who, while not being me, is no stranger to a certain point of view. Ironically, since I doubt she has actually read the blog, I told my friend she is sometimes one of these people I "write to" when I blog. Emails between the two of us were often very funny and chock full of vocabulary and made-up words so when I think of her or a handful of others who have a way with language as the recipients, it just comes out better.

I’ve noticed I tend to be more eloquent for an hour or so after I’ve put down a book or seen a movie with smart dialogue; funnier (and thinking in "humor") after listening to George Carlin or for some reason, Mitch Hedberg. Then I fade back to my base voice in an hour or so. It's like a buzz wearing off. In radio I was taught to talk to one person, like I was on the telephone, not the microphone. To say “hello" and not “hello everybody.”

It's definitely in the realm of navel gazing this whole talking about blogging on a blog, but what are these things anyway, these blogs? Who creates them and who consumes them? It sounds funny but I've always suspected there are more poets than people who read poetry. With blogging I bet the number of writers is ever closer to matching the number of readers. These days, the lines between the two are blurring in practically every medium.

I am far more motivated to write online than in a journal. I've started probably 100 journals and never picked them up again. They're in a drawer, 100 notebooks with two or three pages filled and the rest empty. Maybe they add up to a journal. But now with the internet, the population is available to be courted. It is so far beyond television and all the changes TV brought to communication. TV and the internet are barely analagous. The wall has come down. Can you imagine showing Marshall McLuhan the net? Or Hitler? Would the internet have prevented the Holocaust or aided it?

If I have an audience of even a few, that’s all I need to get going. I used to publish a humor magazine with my friend Jack in 6th grade. Hip Magazine. Some of it was plagiarized from Mad Magazine which was our inspiration, but we gave original humor a try. To print and staple up 20 copies and put then in the hands of our classmates was euphoric. When I did radio, if I got just one request, that was enough to get me in the right mindset to do the show. Am I someone who needs attention and needs to perform rather than simply be? Is this “shallow?” I don't know. I just need to know the world is interested and then I can be interesting. Writing almost every day now is one of the benefits of this blog. It keeps me tight and alert to the world. I love my solitude, perhaps too much, but I also love when the radar waves ping and I know someone is in range. I also need to get out more....

1 comment:

David Kutcher said...

I think the same people that had radio shows (or wanted to have one) are the same people that write blogs now. People that don't care if anyone's listening, but at the same time, would like it if someone listened just once in a while. Someone with a point of view that likes to hear themselves talk to some extent, but in the sense that they like to talk, not necessarily to hear themselves.

In the world of limited attention spans instant access to instant information and 24/7 news cycles and bounce rates and goal ratios and all that other nonsense, being able to BANTER is almost becoming a lost art. I'm not saying that all blogs are full of nonsensical banter, as some are very fine-tuned to their specific audience and mission, but sitting down to read one that is is like picking up a good novel, or a book by Salman Rushdie or Umberto Ecco, one that uses words for the sheer pleasure of it. It doesn't always need to get right to the point, or even to have a point, it just has to be something that is enjoyable to read.