Having been away from this blog for awhile, I am struck by my vaguely perceived need to offer explanations, as if I needed excuses for beginning again or for stopping in the first place. And it was also evident to me that I found this impulse, unresisted, littering blogs across the web. The blog of my friend and former student, Carmen McCain, is rife with repeated apologies for her inconsistent blogging. Another friend and former student, Liz Laribee, also seems to apologize for not blogging about as often as she does blog. I know that in the past when I’ve gone on unexplained hiatus, I’ve begun again with an apology. Just for grins I did a quick Google search for “apologize for not blogging more” and got 16,600 hits for that exact combination. Apparently we are legion and we are a sorry lot.
There seem to be several versions of this particular literary genre. In one variety the blogger abjectly denounces herself for moral turpitude, admitting to various venal weaknesses like preferring Facebook or watching television rather than keeping to the rough moral discipline of the keyboard. Others beg busyness, or grovel repentantly in admitting they were only sick and surely could have opened up the lap top. Some seek remission of their sins by requesting the reader’s empathy, including long and engrossing lists of ills and misfortunes that make the travails of the biblical Job look like a trip to the gym with a particularly rigorous drill instructor. My particular favorite is the blogger who apologizes but lets the reader know that he was really up to much more important or much more interesting things and that we are lucky he is back at all. In some instances it seems that people spend a good deal of their blogging time ruminating about how they should be blogging more, much as I talk about how little time I have for exercise while I am sitting on my couch in the evening.
Many such blog posts recognize that they are enacting an internet cliche by apologizing, but do so anyway. I’m intrigued. What does this apology signify about blogging as a form of writing, about the kind of audience the author imagines, about the relationship with that audience. Novelists do not apologize for the years or decades between novels, nor for that matter do essayists, short story writers, or poets. It seems more important to have something worth saying than to say something with great regularity. While such writers may flog themselves for not writing, they do so privately or to their editors and fellow writers–readers be damned. Newspaper columnists will announce their absence for a sabbatical, without apology I might add, but mostly they go on vacation without comment other than the dry, italicized editorial note that “[Insert opinionated name here] will return in September after his vacation to the Bahamas where he is working on a book and enjoying his family.”
Only bloggers bother to apologize for not writing.
As if their readers really cared.
I suspect this has something to do with the illusion of intimacy that is made possible by interactivity. I have come to “know” a number of people through my blog or through twitter and Facebook, and since this electronic transmission is the sum total of our human experience together it is a little bit akin to having kept up a loose friendship by phone and then having not phoned for a good long time. On the other hand, I suspect too that it has something to do with the fact that bloggers suffer from the anxiety of silence. The writer who publishes in the New York Times knows that her work will have readers. The writer for the Podunk Times knows they had at least one reader who thought their work was worthwhile since an editor decided to publish it.
The blogger, on the other hand, flings words into space like dust.
The apology has the appearance of a statement intended to right a wrong I the blogger have done to you the reader by not blessing you with my words and wisdom these last two some odd months and days.
In fact, the apology is a bloggers plea. Hear me now. Confirm my existence as a writer of some sort or another by clicking on my blog anew. While I may truly have ignored you if I know you or, more likely, while I may truly have no idea on earth who you are, I need you nonetheless. To drive up my blog stats. To share me on Facebook. To “like” my post and so like me. To “follow” my blog to the ends of the earth even when there is nothing there to follow. Though I am bloggus absconditus, wait for me like the ancients waited for the gods. Make me matter.
And so I am back. For today, with no promise for tomorrow. Without apology.