Here's another piece for the essay collection--still in draft form:
THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS
… and then I fell into the blogosphre.
It was, yes, like Alice through the looking glass. All the rules changed. I was in a different and delightful world, where anything was possible.
Here’s how it happened. It was November 5, 2004, the day I woke to the realization that the American electorate had once again chosen George W. Bush to be President of the United States.
I was appalled. By this time it was clear that the man had lied and cheated us into a disastrous war, not of necessity but of his own choosing. Katrina had not yet arrived, of course, but it was already clear that he was out of his depth in the most powerful office in the world. If his reaction to the attacks of 9/11 had seemed, at first, appropriate to a country in a state of shock, he soon showed signs of disturbing immaturity. You only had to hear him attempt to muster an answer to a reporter’s question to realize that the “commander in chief” was barely in command of the English language, let alone the national and international situation for which he was responsible. The most charitable view I personally could summon was that he was an affable buffoon, a little boy awash in the proverbial sea of troubles.
And yet he had been re-elected. It was, at first blush, just another demonstration of my individual powerlessness, a reflection of the feelings I had all too frequently experienced about myself as a writer. My voice seemed to go out into an echo chamber. No one was listening. So what could I do? I could sit around feeling sorry for myself and angry at my fellow Americans… but it seemed like a poor option, to surrender.
Otherwise, there was only one thing that I knew how to do: I could write. So I turned on my computer. (What a gift this machine has been to writers of all kinds, but that’s another story!) I turned on the computer and, in some way that remains a mystery to me, I was guided to the Blogger. I read an invitation to start my own blog. I was intrigued. I followed the prompts, not knowing where they would lead me, and gave “my blog” a title. It was “The Bush Diaries”—a title that came to me without the benefit of thought or reflection. It arrived. I wrote it down. I started my first “post” in the form of a tongue-in-cheek letter to the president.
Out of this was born a blog that became, and remains, my daily writing practice. I did realize, after two years working on “The Bush Diaries,” that I had grown weary of waking up with Bush in bed with me every morning—as I planned out what I wanted to write that day—and the blog morphed seamlessly into “The Buddha Diaries,” which continues to this day.
I said earlier that my discovery of the blogosphere changed all the rules. Until that moment my power as a writer, eventually, rested in the hands of others. I have always known at heart that writing is by definition an act of communication, and that only one half of its potential lies in the hands of the writer. The reader is the other, indispensible element. For this, I had always been dependent on the editor of a magazine or, in the case of books, on an agent and a publishing company to bring the results of my work into the hands of a reader. And to attract the attention and the collaboration of these intermediaries was, believe me, no small feat. Ask any writer. Well, ask any artist, too, who has tried to find a gallery…
So this was the changed world of the blogosphere. I could write something every day of my life. I could publish it as I wished, without modification or approval from any meddling editor. And, I soon discovered, I could attract readers. I could get response. I could, in a word, communicate. What more could any writer ask for?
Well of course there’s always the more. There’s the “book.” Even though now, thanks to the wonders of the computer and the Internet, it’s entirely possible to put out a book and market it oneself, there’s always the elusive prospect of that best-seller, that gleam in the eye of every writer, that brings with it critical response, perhaps even acclaim, perhaps even financial return on the work that has gone into the writing. Not to mention the door that one success will open to the next publication, the growing readership. Who among us writers does not strive for such an opportunity?
Still, recognizing that these optimal results are available only for the fortunate few whose writing skills prove marketable, I’ll settle for the more intimate pleasures of the blogosphere, thankful for that small but, yes, growing coterie of readers who follow what I write, and taking heart from the fact that I am a bit more than the voice crying in the wilderness. I’m able to reach people. I’m able, sometimes, to touch their lives.