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Let us now praise...

Not having a blog

By James Parker
June 13, 2010

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I should have one, of course. I mean, shouldn’t I? I’ve been urged to get one. A confused middle-aged literatus like me, trying to keep himself afloat while the old industry paradigms, the old machineries of reputation and reward, shiver into fragments around him? I need a blog. A place to consolidate my brand. A forum for my views, untrammelled, unedited. A one-stop shop for all my “stuff.” And best of all, a chance to really experience my readers, to roughhouse and banter and give them noogies, down there in the Comments Thread. Hooray!

It’s history, after all. Refuse to blog and you’re going the way of the dodo. No longer can the writer sit in tweedy remoteness, in a bower of his own pipe smoke. He must engage, throw elbows, take the heat. The nonwriter, too, feels the pull. You’ve got opinions, right? A modest expertise in something-or-other? Share it all: The anima mundi demands it. Tap those keys and feel the crackle of futurity in your fingertips, like early onset RSI.

So allow me then to dissent — to offer, if I may, a small and fading valentine to not-blogging. Or, as it used to be called, “living.”

Let’s start with the most obvious point against blogging: the labor. A blog must be fed several times a day, like a weight lifter or a Great Dane. Are you ready for that kind of commitment? Update, update, keep the posts coming: Your audience, sitting on its rear end in offices and coffee shops and departure lounges across the world, is waiting. We all know the tiny electronic swat of dismay that one experiences upon checking a favorite blog and finding it unchanged or unrefreshed. Do that too often to your readers and they’ll ditch you, and your blog will die. Who needs this perpetual deadline?

Not-blogging is mental liberation. Put down your blog, young person, and go and play crazy golf on Route 1. Things happen to you, out there in Life; thoughts occur to you. Do you blog about them? You do not. You leave them where they are, unprocessed, unshared. Uninteresting, quite possibly, and that’s fine, too. Perhaps — amazing idea — you have nothing to say. Regardless, you are free: No asteroid-tail of blog-baggage stretches across the ether behind you, no constellation of hyperlinks oppresses you. Your readers, that smoldering host, are gone. A tickling in the brain: What if I wrote a blog about not having a blog? If I blogged about non-blogging? Ah, the tricks of addiction!

For me, not-blogging isn’t a choice. It’s not that I won’t blog — I just can’t. I’m a slow writer, for one thing. I write ve-ery slowly, in a soft mist of incomprehension, like a garden gnome coming to life on an English hillside. This is no good for a blogger. Bloggers write fast. They react. They’re always on the lookout for something they can “live-blog” — the State of the Union Address, the final episode of “Lost,” their own breakfast, whatever.

Also, once I hit “send” on a piece, I’m done. Finis. The thought of discussing it further — let alone arguing about it — turns me into a character from the lesser works of Noel Coward: “My dear, having written the thing, I hardly feel that I should be called upon to defend it!” (Peals of high unsteady laughter.) Again, hopeless for the blogosphere, whose lifeblood is disputation. If your blog doesn’t get ’em going, if by 3 o’clock there aren’t already several micro-debates eddying around your big polemical mid-morning post, what’s the point?

I can’t be alone in this. Surely I speak for a secret race of slow-moving, non-bellicose writers and journalists who would rather eat their own shoes than take up arms on the Internet. So I say: Don’t do it. Be a reactionary. At the very least you’ve taken a historic stand by doing absolutely nothing. And if you can extend that proud inertia, as I do, across the entire realm of social networking, the hanging gardens of Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc., then you’re really getting somewhere/nowhere.

I mean no disrespect to bloggers. They are the Furies of democracy, and I read them constantly when I should be working or cleaning the house. I salute their stamina: The marathon men, the super-hardcore blogerati, those whose cerebral cortices are shuddering with data overload even as they compose their most lucid and trenchant paragraphs, are practically a new species. Humanity is changing: Mutations are occurring at the brain/screen level that we have barely begun to register. Perhaps I will start a blog: some mossy little cranny of the Web, seven hits a day, a post every three weeks, an intellectual graveyard. Peace will reign. Birds will twitter (or, no, not twitter — they will sing). Won’t you visit me there?

James Parker writes regularly for Ideas and is a contributing editor at The Atlantic.