I love you, what’s your name

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.

35 thoughts on “I love you, what’s your name

  1. One of the things I had to get used to in blogging was how bloggers come into and leave your universe. I have been blogging for less than 2 years, but already I can think of many bloggers who used to comment regularly on my blog who I never hear from anymore. Many of them no longer blog. I am having trouble getting back into the writing habit after a month away from blogging (we were traveling in Spain and I didn’t have access to a computer, then we went to the beach with friends, then I was just lazy). I had no intention of quitting, but it happened, at least temporarily. It’s a discipline, just like running, right?

    Too bad your man-crush didn’t work out. Just think of all the writing tips you could have gotten! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Definitely a discipline. I’m trying to run AND write more. Vacation is my most prolific time to write. Without all the normal household chores to I can usually sit down for an hour or more a day. Of course my family is all introverted, so even on vacation we all need to hide in the house and not talk for an hour or two every day.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting insights, both about connecting (or not) with authors, and with other bloggers. I’m too new to blogging via WordPress to weigh in on that, but your comments reminded me how much I enjoy the “Memories” tab and daily prompt to view them on Facebook, where I’ve posted for over a decade. I do reread those posts, and the comments, and they cheer me. You’ve provided hope that I’ll enjoy the same experience here. To blogosphere friendships, far and wide, short and long!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Many of those bloggers, I feel so close to them that I seems like I could knock on their door and they’d invite me in for dinner. And then they disappear. Possibly (probably) I misunderstand the relationship. I didn’t know about that tab on Facebook, but I’ve only been on for a few years. Randomly Facebook will throw up a memory (which I think I’m supposed to share, but I never do.

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  3. I occasionally read old posts and I’m always plesantly surprised. I dont think about what I’m writing, I just start typing. I’ll look back through for typos and then I publish, so I dont really remember much of what I’ve written. It’s the same with my comments. It just flows out of my brain through my fingers without any interference from me. People seem to respond well, so I think staying out of my way when I write is a smart move.

    It IS sad when our blogging buddies disappear. I have a buddy that I wound up talking to offline. We’d text a few times a week and chat through our blogs. She stopped blogging and we still kept in touch through text, but even that has fallen away. Hmmm… now I’m feeling melancholic.
    Sorry about your man-crush😉

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  4. I do go back and read my posts….like you, blogging is like my diary….Sean and I met a man recently who said we will remember only 100 events (the number could have been smaller) when we become a certain age. My blog is to help me remember the fun things I have had the opportunity to experience! I feel like I am fast approaching that age! As far as blogging friends, they do come and go….I have been lucky to have a few who have stuck around for a very long time. I went 4 or 5 years hardly blogging a word, but I am back and loving it all. I have started my own blog and reconnected with old friends and found new ones – feels pretty cool.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Only 100 events! Well I’ve got 300 some blog posts, so I may not remember, but at least I’ll be able to read. Last week I read something from a person who said they wanted to quit blogging but they couldn’t stand to let their blog cancel by not paying the annual fee. I fear that wordpress has a lifetime of guaranteed income from me. I haven’t taken a break yet (if a break can be a month where I didn’t blog). Sometime I blog a lot (right now) and sometimes far less, but I get something really positive from blogging. I enjoy the process of writing and trying to take any topic and make it interesting to a hundred people. And I love (need) the connection with others that wordpress creates.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I do go back and read old posts too. Some I really enjoy, some I get red faced over – and this is a topic I think we’ve talked about before – to delete or not delete? I’ve deleted about 15 old posts I got that red faced over. And the comments, I know what you mean. I feel like I have developed relationships with other bloggers and I am always excited to read their posts and comment. I’ve lost a few along the way. Makes me sad to think of the future and who will be gone again.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey, here you are. You’re comment was lost for a while. I’ve only deleted one post, not because it was necessarily bad, but it was pretty stupid. I got stuck in an elevator in Puerto Rico and I tried to make it sound exciting. It wasn’t. I just sat there until they could get someone from the elevator company come and spring me. I think I’ve got a pretty high tolerance for what I like of my own writing (where as for others, I have a pretty tough filter). I’m leaning towards the narcissistic diagnosis for me.

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  6. Oh what a great post. Always love your honesty but this one felt poetic somehow. I was just feeling a similar “warmth and then disappointment” thinking of some folks on my other blog who rarely interact or blog anymore… I miss a couple of them a lot, and it doesn’t feel as cozy nor as real, without them. That said, I don’t know how long I’ll last on WP either. Sometimes it feels like a wilderness, and not always a utopian one, at that. I tend to wander too far.

    I do read old posts, like you, along with old comments… as well as the old posts of others. But I have also written a couple posts I honestly cannot bear to re-read even once. I keep trying, so I can determine where in heck I went wrong, but I keep giving up because I can’t stand my own text, before I’m even halfway through. So I guess, it’s a bit of both for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I try to make sure I read those overly intense posts of mine from time to time. I went through two really rough patches over the past four years, and I think it’s helpful for me to review where I was as a cautionary measure against winding up there again. I do need to be careful though, because they can be triggering.

      I hope you stick out wordpress. You’re one of those people whose comments I look forward to receiving.

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      • That’s a good point. I hopefully will be able to re-read these intense ones once I’ve taken some distance from them. Either that or trash and move on. :))

        Thanks a lot for your encouragement… means a lot.

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  7. I’m with you, Jeff. I go back to read my posts … as well as chapters in my books… from time to time. Perhaps it’s narcissism or the desire to hold onto the creative process. It’s hard for me to let go. And certainly hard for me to say goodbye to fellow bloggers. When they suddenly vanish, a vacuum appears appears in the universe.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Your made up statistic about most blog readers being blog writers made me cringe. I enjoy reading blogs but don’t seem to be so great at finding something someone else might want to read. Definitely not functioning as a blog writer currently. While you think you are possibly narcissistic, I wonder if I am a pessimistic perfectionist.

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  9. I’ve been regularly blogging for the past 12 years (three consecutive blogs); I’ll probably never quit! In recent years I keep it private though, as it got me into trouble a couple of times and wasn’t worth being public anymore. The writing quality deteriorated after going private but it meant I could be more honest. I do know what you mean about blog buddies though. And I do occasionally read back through them. It can be kind of fun – sometimes it’s like reading the words of a different person!

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s interesting. Why do you think the writing has deteriorated? Simply less pressure because fewer readers I keep an anonymous blog for the uber-honest stuff. I actually have a slightly different voice on that blog that is more appealing to me, but I would think people might think it affected. I’ve popped to your site a few times. If I want to read, how does that happen? Of maybe it doesn’t.

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      • Yeah it’s exactly the same for me as well – I didn’t have to think about audience anymore, the writing is just for me and not necessarily because I’m trying to be ‘good’ at it – also the subject matter changed a bit. I have few readers atm but I think there is an option to request access if you go to the site, and it sends me an email asking if I want to accept. Then you’d have to be logged in to read it I think? Or send me your email I could try to add if that doesn’t work. Welcome to give it a try.

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  10. Do I read my old stuff? Yes and no. It’s a out-of-sight out-of-mind thing. If I happen to go to my site for some reason, and scroll down the page, I’ll stop and read things. Every once in a while I’ll read something, or talk to someone about something, and I’ll think, “I wrote something about that.” In which case I’ll comb my site to see if I did, and if so, I’ll read it.

    Sometimes I’m pleasantly surprised. Sometimes I think, “Ugh,” contemplate taking it down, and then decide watching reruns of Deep Space 9 would be a better use of my time.

    Reading this post makes me think I might take a stroll through my back log. Probably not on my site, but on some of the others I’ve written for (that go farther back). You know, look at some really old stuff.

    Or, eh, maybe I’ll binge DS9.

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    • Why are we talking about Star Trek? DS9 was the one iteration I couldn’t get into. STNG was pretty vanilla and sometimes I wondered why I watched, but I really like Voyager. I was at a point in my life where I wasn’t really watching any TV, So it never got as much attention as it deserved. After that, I sort of lost track of the whole franchise.

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      • Somehow I always end up in Star Trek. I mean, why not, right? Star Trek is awesome. But, for those who don’t care let’s call it an Asperger’s thing. Or ADD. Whatever.

        DS9 is the weird, red-headed step child. I love it more than the “real” Trek. We’re just the opposite. I couldn’t get into Voyager. I finally watched it all the way through a couple years back, as I’m a completionist (and masochist).

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      • I once wrote a flash fiction story about a guy who was really into DS9. When I took it to my writing group, everyone told me my character was on the spectrum. I guess it’s simply an intuitive match.

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  11. I read my old posts. My blog is about my personal journey and evolution. I like to see where I was. And gauge the growth. Have I changed? Have I grown? Have I gotten better? This is why I read my posts. I have very few followers and almost no comments. That’s ok. I write because it helps me understand who I am and what I’m going through. So yes. I read my old posts.

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  12. I like that topic, reading old posts. I like the candor you put out there with it and the fact you like your own writing. Amen to that! I sometimes feel a guilty pleasure doing that and yes, I learn something from it too. Your writing and reflection on it come across so real, and that alone makes for good reading and writing. And the transient realness of any relationship, arguably more so, more transactional, “here” (in air quotes). Thanks for putting this out there.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Blogging is a strange adventure. I find I end up reading blogs I wouldn’t normally be drawn to because of the person behind it, just based on comments and tidbits. And then I find myself enjoying a writing style I wouldn’t have bothered with otherwise. I am sorry you didn’t get to hang (or didn’t feel a hang would go well) with your man crush. I feel that would have been an interesting blog on and of itself.

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