Friday, June 19, 2009

Reaching Out...

Here's another piece for the essay collection--still in draft form:


… 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.


TaraDharma said...

you describe your motivation and your process well. being a writer, you present thoughtful posts, and sometimes the whimsical, adventure story. The feedback from reading is an integral part of the process, and I think that's where I get stuck. I don't have many readers, and not many comment who do. A reflection on the posts, no doubt. Oh well, I write for myself. If I took more time, focused more, made more of a practice of it, maybe....

right now, Facebook is satisfying my need for social outreach and communication quite nicely. And you see how different a format that is. Quick, cocktail party chatter. My speed right now.

PeterAtLarge said...

Hello, Tara, thanks for checking in and for the comment. I don't get many comments myself, and often wonder why--particularly when so many other bloggers seem to do better on this score. I do know, though, that I have a solid core of readers, and that's enough to please me. Also lot of the response I get comes offline. I'm on Facebook, too, and most recently on Twitter, I suppose with the hope of extending my network. It's interesting to note that the readership of The Buddha Diaries has increased steadily in the past couple of week. Don't quite know what that means...

Gary said...

I want to comment on the power of the exchanges the blogosphere, twitter, face book and youtube. It's power to bypass conventional media such as newspapers, books, magazines and other printed matter is now legend after the success of the Obama election which effectively reached out through these means to the youth vote and all others who by their nature seek alternative resources to inform their choices.

The current political battle in Iran for truth and requests to the world for support using phone cams and web resources has stymied The Supreme Jerk, his old world media and his attempt to "turn off" access to the outside world to the people of Iran. He failed to stop the Velvet Revolution. It is no longer possible to hide the truth as the monks of Tibet have proved and the people of Iran demonstrate each day and night.

A very fine world of innovative thought and social
awareness emerges each time anyone engages the sphere. It is a geometric progression of reason and the distribution is world wide (spherical) in real time.

"You got the whole world in your hands" was never more evident. Good blessings to those who can see
how to use our freedoms and good riddance to those who would repress the truth by any means.
I only wish that whales could blog and their songs were understandable to the rest of us.

PeterAtLarge said...

Gary--maybe the whales will be next!