I love you, I love you, I love you
What’s your name?
I love you, I love you, I love you
What’s your name?
Chorus of “Drunken Butterfly” by Sonic Youth.
Do you blog? I’m guessing you do. I read a study showing that ninety-two percent of blog readers are also blog writers.* As a blog writer, do you go back and read your old posts?
A couple of weeks ago, the library where I work held a “signature event.” This is a play on words. Not only is it our principal fundraiser of the year, but the purpose of the event is a meet and greet and book signing with a nationally known author. Our author was Jamie Ford. Have you heard of him? I hadn’t but that doesn’t surprise me. He doesn’t write sci-fi.
He’s the real deal. He’s a New York Times best-selling author. He’s constantly winning awards. He’s frequently invited to publish stories in anthologies. And most importantly, he makes a living as a writer. And as a speaker. It isn’t cheap to invite a best-selling author to your event. Besides making small talk and signing books, Jamie read his work and spoke to the audience for twenty minutes or so. The dude is like a stand-up comedian. He had the crowd splitting their sides the entire time he spoke.
I loved him, even though I wasn’t so crazy about his most recent book. His language is flowing and flowery as opposed to the concise, choppy language I typically read. Plus, in the one chapter I read before I bailed on his book, he didn’t once mention the multiverse or the time-travel paradox. We’re just not a good match.
During the program, hilarious, engaging, informative, he said only one thing I didn’t agree with. Someone asked him about revisiting his old novels to see if there are parts he wants to change. His response: “Writers don’t read their own work. It just doesn’t happen. Once it’s published,” he said, “it’s done.” I thought about challenging this statement during the cocktail reception afterwards, but I no longer drink, and I’d need to be drunk to start that conversation.
Maybe I’m unusual, maybe narcissistic, self-absorbed. Maybe I’m simply odd. I read my old blog posts all the time. My blog is sort of a diary. Not a “Tuesday I went to the corner store” diary, but a pretty accurate chronicle of what’s important in my life at any given moment. I like to look back and see where I was mentally and emotionally at various stages over the past five years. Plus, I like my writing. I’m rarely disappointed. Even when I remember a post as being mediocre, when I read it, I’m always pleasantly surprised.
After I read my own blog posts, I read the comments. Old comments, by my old followers. I’ve got an awesome set of readers right now. There are six or seven people who regularly comment on my posts. I read their blogs too, and by what they write on their blogs, I get to know the parts of their lives they want to present to the world. But through their comments, I fill in the missing pieces. I get to know the whole person. Good, bad, beautiful, ugly. All the sides necessary to see if you want to build a friendship.
Today, I was replying to comments on my most recent post. At the bottom of each post I write, WordPress makes suggestions for three of my posts with similar themes. Today I followed one of those links to a two-and-a-half-year-old post. I enjoyed the story I told, and then I read the comments. Some of those commenters are still with me after all this time; that’s a loyal friend. Some of the commenters I don’t remember at all. People who popped by to read a post or two and never returned. And two of the comments were written by women I used to feel extremely close to. People I cared about as people. I followed their lives, their successes and failures. And then I lost track.
Like friendships in real life, priorities change. They each stopped posting, and in time they stopped reading, too. At first, I noticed, and that left me feeling bummed, Later I popped by their blog to see if I was missing something, maybe somehow I had fallen off their list of followers. Eventually I mostly forgot about them… until I stumbled upon them today. Seeing their comments today filled me with warmth and then disappointment. A memory of something good until it wasn’t.
I understand I really don’t know these bloggers. I don’t know them any more than, say, I know my coworkers. I’m getting to look at just a slice of the entire person. But aren’t almost all friendships like that? At least the ones forged as adults? We get together in a certain context, and that’s the way we know the person: playing racquetball together, going for coffee, a book club, a community organization meeting, etc. It’s a thin connection, and then someone tells you he’s a triplet. You realize what you don’t know.
In my typical negative fashion, I realized that half of the bloggers I’m friends with right now will disappear over the next two years. They’ll stop blogging, or I’ll stop blogging, or they’ll find offense at some rant I throw into the clouds and simply stop following me. But you can rest assured, I’ll return to this post year after year, and when I read my comments, I’ll remember our friendship at its peak.
* Yes, I made this statistic up. It’s based on my not so careful observations of the people who read my blog.
Outtake: Jamie and me. Different writing styles, different reading styles. Jamie and I just won’t be able to hang out. Disappointing, I had a bit of a man-crush on him.