Just the other day my oldest grandchild, now 19, was asking about my blog, and why I didn’t stop writing the blog and instead write a book and try to publish it.
In that case he said I would probably have some readers, thinking that that’s what I most wanted and didn’t have. He didn’t understand how I could go on, some 15 years now, writing hundreds of blog pieces that would not be read. The understanding being, on his part, that the writer is after readers, and if there are no readers should the writer in that case go on writing? He didn’t say it but I’m sure his answer would be no.
So yet once again I found myself explaining, defending myself against my grandson’s charge that I was without readers. Would he ever understand that tout simplement I write, no more, but no less than I breathe, for myself. No one asks why do you go on breathing if your what, your breathing, never reaches anyone else? For absolutely everyone understands that one breathes for oneself and that one needs no external validation for doing so.
Why, I ask, can’t there be any number of activities that we do only for themselves, and ourselves alone? Does everything we do have to be somehow validated by our reaching out to someone else and thereby being recognized as it were by an audience?
I’ll readily admit that I’d love to be read and that the occasional comment that my blog does stir up does bring me some welcomed pleasure. It’s also conceivable that my writing at some future time could be read by thousands, and that as a result I could very well be then writing no longer for myself, but for others, trying to keep my new thousands of readers as a kind of bottom line, serving as a recognition of the worth of my writing. I don’t think, however, I’d ever want that to happen.
But so far this future is not there. Frequent and interesting comments along with thousands of readers are not parts of my Blog experience. And therefore I will continue, as it certainly appears now to be the case, to write only for myself.
But only in the sense that writing is for me my first choice of a life-long-learning activity. To begin with, of course, I read a lot, and only from what my reading stirs up do I then write. And mostly I’m writing to find out what I really think about the given subject. In that way I learn about myself, get to know myself. And that’s as life long as my learning gets.
That was what our Great Books seminars at St. John’s College were all about, at least for me. During that time I would speak with the others about a table, but now I’m not at a table with others but mostly alone at my desk, and I write to determine if not what I’m made of, at least how I think and whether what I’m thinking is worth being “published” on my blog.
As I’ve said throughout the thousand and more blog postings on Quatrevingtans.net ideas are what I principally feed on. And I don’t pretend that this is so unusual, that I’m alone in doing this. I’m not of course. There are untold, probably millions who are mostly alone, perhaps in prison, their freedom of movement, unlike mine which is of my own choosing, having been taken from them. Not to mention their having lost the company of others, perhaps even free access to words in books and papers. But even these millions of prisoners will still have in their possession their own thoughts and ideas. And these thoughts, much as my own ideas, will keep them company, keep them among the living.