The blogger is a self-liberated man, sustained by the childish belief that everything he thinks about, everything that happens to him, is of general interest. He is a fellow who thoroughly enjoys his work, just as people who take bird walks enjoy theirs. Each excursion of the blogger, each new “attempt,” differs from the last and takes him into new country. This delights him. Only a person who is congenitally self-centered has the effrontery and the stamina to consistently blog.

There are as many kinds of blog posts as there are human attitudes or poses, as many flavors as there are Tumblr themes. The blogger arises in the morning and, if he has work to do, selects his garb from an unusually extensive wardrobe: he can pull on any sort of shirt, be any sort of person — philosopher, scold, jester, raconteur, confidant, pundit, devil’s advocate, enthusiast.

I like the medium, have always liked it, and even as a child was at work, attempting to inflict my young thoughts and experiences on others by putting them on the Internet. I early broke into the web riding on the ones and zeros of LiveJournal. I tend still to fall back on the blog post form (or lack of form) when an idea strikes me, but I am not fooled about the place of the blog post in twenty-first-century American writing — it stands a short distance down the line. The blogger, unlike the novelist, the poet, and the screenwriter, must be content in his self-imposed role of second-class citizen. A writer who has his sights trained on the Nobel Prize or other valiant triumphs had best write a novel, a poem, or a script, and leave the blogger to ramble about, hoping for the right media outlet to discover his unique tales, yet he is ever content with living a free life and enjoying the satisfactions of a somewhat undisciplined existence. (Dr. Johnson once called the blog post "an irregular, undigested piece"; this happy practitioner has no wish to quarrel with the good doctor's characterization.)

There is one thing the blogger cannot do, though — he cannot indulge himself in deceit or in concealment, for he will be found out in no time. James Poniewozik, in his remarks on the 2000 late Winter issue of Timothy McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, the magazine manifestation of a publishing powerhouse that created an online standard with its Internet Tendency, observes that "beneath the wordplay is genuine emotion..." It is the basic ingredient. And even the blogger's escape from discipline is only a partial escape: the blog post, although a relaxed form, imposes its own disciplines, raises its own problems, and these disciplines and problems soon become apparent and (we all hope) act as a deterrent to anyone wielding a Wordpress account merely because he entertains random thoughts or is in a happy or wandering mood.

I think some people find the blog post the last resort of the egoist, a much too self-conscious and self-serving form for their taste; they feel that it is presumptuous of a writer to assume that his little excursions or his small observations will interest the reader. There is some justice in their complaint. I have always been aware that I am by nature self-absorbed and egoistical; to write of myself to the extent I have done indicates a too great attention to my own life, not enough to the lives of others. I have worn many shirts, and not all of them have been a good fit.

But when I am discouraged or downcast I need only fling open the door of my closet, and there, hidden behind everything else, hangs the mantle of Timothy McSweeney, smelling slightly of Wild camphor.

April 1977
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