Peering out of the deadlight

In March, my little blog will be eight years old. It's funny that this is considered old in our world and that after a mere decade many of us are ready to declare blogging is dead. And it's funny too that I don't disagree and yet I continue blogging and feel less wavering about that than I did when it was all much headier.

Five or six years ago, I saw blogging as a potential escape. I thought my blog might lead me to quit the cubicle. I thought it might get me on radars that might lead me to places. These things both did and didn't happen. I sometimes felt like they didn't fully happen because I was the bad blogger who broke character and disappointed everyone. If only I had kept my mouth shut and played the game! But we know that's not me and the small group of you who continue to read here count on it not to be, I suppose.

Anyway, I guess I've always had a slightly different perspective on blogging because I work in media. I saw blogging as an antidote to much of my day job rather than a stepping stone to it. It was really different from the get-go: My blog has a name that makes no sense to most people, isn't at all optimized for SEO. My content is haphazard - only cohered by me, and I'm hardly coherent. I could jump from a post about poetry to a post about lampshades without thinking twice about strategy, or being aligned with advertisers, or reader demographics. And it became my favourite thing when readers came and stayed for that roller coaster, especially when they were the readers I didn't expect to stay.

Then blogs started ticking us all off: I think we all saw certain blogs going in certain directions and felt that the very notion we held so dear was deserting us; that blogs were becoming the very thing they purported not to be. I remember a particular moment when I saw an ad for a Happy Meal on a certain "independent creative" Mommy blog and thought, the end is nigh! I flailed about it. But now that rage seems silly, the way we got amped up, Twitter DM-ing about how stupid we thought so-and-so had become. In the end, I simply stopped reading those blogs, magazines and sites that I found repeatedly stupid. And the group of blogs I clung to became smaller, less connected, more idiosyncratic. What holds them together now isn't a coherent aesthetic or a sense of likemindedness, but a vaguer sense of admiration and enjoyment, sometimes intimate to the point of feeling like a friendship and sometimes pleasantly detached and cloaked in anonymity.

Last year, the comments trickled away from most blogs. Comments had become a measure of the worth of a post, both for me personally and for the blogging community more generally. I think those of you who read closely will know there have been times when I struggled with comments, with a sense of being judged or related to too closely or, worst of all, misunderstood. I also appreciated comments. Even when a comment was simply "lovely" or "beautiful", I saw it as a sort of sweet embrace. Maybe not rich in semantic content, but expressing fondness and support nonetheless.

But there's an upside to distancing blogs from audience, engagement, dialogue: The lack of comments now makes me forget a little about readers. And I think content creators should sometimes forget readers. Now, I blog more like I did right when I started -- without a sense that anybody's listening. The idea of obligation has faded, as has the idea of enterprise. I'm just doing it now because I really like it. And I'm just saying what I want to say, not carefully cushioning my words to protect myself from misunderstanding. Of course, readers are not gone from my mind entirely, especially when I write posts like this. But I don't keep going because of others.

I keep going because I like giving voice to myriad things, some easy and light, some not. Because, somehow, I have this sense that my blog is a valuable part of me, perhaps valuable in ways only to me. I see a sense of self emerge that I don't always grasp in the ever-fleeting present tense. I see recurring themes and struggles, as well as progress and purpose. It's a cloudy mirror, not the Lacanian vision of a realized self. But I don't wince at the reflection, as I so often do in real life or in memories. And that's an important feeling for a girl so often wracked with doubts about goodness and worth.

But despite saying all this... I also do still blog because you're silently here, whoever you are: People I know and people I don't. People who would find me disappointing in real life, or people who might like me even more. That beautiful simultaneous sense of longing and belonging, hope and isolation. Like this excerpt from one of my favourite poems. And you well know who wrote it if you've read this long. And I like you so much for that knowing.

what would I do what I did yesterday and the day before
peering out of my deadlight looking for another
wandering like me eddying far from all the living
in a convulsive space
among the voices voiceless
that throng my hiddenness

76 comments:

  1. I emailed you 2 years ago for advice on what to do in Toronto... and I'm still a loyal reader. Thank you for your lovely posts!

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    1. I hope I replied (I always try to!)

      Thank you for reading :)

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    2. Oh! I just looked back through my e-mails and found you :) How lovely!

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  2. Eight years old! That's fantastic! I've always lost patience, yelled "fresh start!" and started anew somewhere else after three or so years. Somewhere along the line, something about my blog will really bug me, so much that I feel I can't salvage it. So far it hasn't happened yet but I think that's because I am being much more critical of things now, of myself, only writing what I want to write and what I feel comfortable saying.

    Also, it's weird to think people think blogs are dead. I know blogging has changed A LOT since I started doing it (back when monetization was as believable as a talking couch), but there are still so many great ones out there. I hope they remain. I feel like they will.

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    1. Me too. I think the commercial enterprise might change, but as a form of keeping a journal, I think they'll last. If anything, I'm excited to have the economic taint stripped out.

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  3. I don't know if I think blogging has died, maybe it's just changed. I had some ambitions for my blog too, but they died when I realised I couldn't play the game. I'm not sure what my blog is exactly, sometimes I love it, sometimes I hate it and want to get rid of it. But it's mine and most of the time I'm glad it's there.

    I do read all of your posts, even if I don't comment. I'm glad you're here in this corner of the internet. I would be really sad if you left.

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  4. Becket it is, of course. :)

    Cliche though it sounds, I think your blog is really great the way it is or always has been, something I wouldn't just all read in one go and forget. More like a thought for the day kind of thing. Each post is meant to be savored or pondered, taken in little doses to fully appreciate. It is a blog that reflects its owner and that sense of genuity is far more endearing (or in the blog world perhaps, enduring).

    I have followed your blog for at least four years and I wish I could comment more like I did before but sometimes your thoughts just summed it all up that I couldn't have said anything better myself. I am perhaps part of the silent ones here and to this day, still enjoying this little space of yours.

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    1. Thanks so much! I'm so happy you're reading along :)

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  5. i loved reading this, i haven't been blogging very long but i like it, i like the 'sharing' part of it and the feeling that someone reading it might enjoy it, or may relate to it, to you. cheers

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  6. I've only commented a few times, but I faithfully have read for years. When I flew over Toronto a few years ago, I thought about you down there somewhere.

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  7. I've been a faithful reader for nearly 5 years. I would love to know about the blogs you read. Thanks for keeping it real.

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    1. Hey there - there's a blog roll link in my nav and it is fairly representative (though needs some updating). I'll make sure i do that soon! Thank you.

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  8. hereĆ” an embracing "beautiful" from a silent reader! you´re great!

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  9. I still read every post you write, although sometimes I don't comment, and sometimes I think my comments have gotten lost through weird Blogger glitches... Definitely know blogging has changed. Sometimes I just want to throw my hands up and say "What's the point" because I can't produce content the way people who produce content for their blogs as a job. Anyhow, this is really beautifully stated, and I hope you keep doing what you do.

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  10. Surprisingly, I just discovered your blog via evencleveland and love it! Keep it coming :)

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  11. I am a silent reader! Why do we read? I read to be entertained, informed and stimulated to learn more. That is why I read and enjoy your blog. Please keep them coming.

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  12. I am here! Always reading, appreciating, rarely commenting. I think it's because you always say things I agree with so articulately that I have nothing left to add.

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  13. I love your blog, even the poems which I read and re-read and still don't understand! Now and again I comment - usually about my need to go to the florist after seeing photos of your apartment - but I read every post. I used to blog, thinking it would be cool and I would make friends, which I did, but I always thought it mattered on how many people read my post and how many commented. I stopped blogging and now look back at some of the posts with no comments and love them even more because they weren't to do with things people would care about, only me.

    Happy soon-to-be 8th birthday!.x

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    1. Thanks Pru - I feel the same way about the commentless posts. I'm so glad I inspire you to buy flowers. We all need more flowers!

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  14. I am one of the "silent readers" who delights in seeing new posts by you pop up in my reader. Thank you for your beautiful words, thoughts, and images. I love how "real" you are!

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  15. I love this post as it so beautifully expresses my own feelings toward blogging.

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  16. Although this is the first time I comment, I've been following your blog for several years and want to let you know that I really enjoy not only the content, but beautiful flows of your writing. Thank you. Since English is not my native language, reading is much much easier than commenting… and I always wish that I can enjoy the poems you introduce to the fullest. You know, reading them in foreign language is like walking in a fog. You see something, but not clearly.

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    1. Thanks Anon... I really appreciate how difficult it must be following a blog in another language! Thank you so much for reading.

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  17. To me, the "blogging is dead" ideas really mean "the business models are changing."

    I think if you are not that concerned with pageviews and ad dollars, you are a bit less affected by these grim predictions. Even though my blog is tied to my business, I am far more interested in long term engagement with people than pageviews. And I think people really respond to that, because there's such a glut of impersonal, highly produced, magazine-like blogs out there these days.

    I still see blogs as a place for stories and connection, and yours is a beautiful example.

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    1. I agree Sarai. I'm hugely optimistic about the economic model collapsing on itself a bit!

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  18. Thanks for blogging for 8+ years--I've been reading for the last 5 of them. I'm not really the commenting type on any public forum, but I read every post and your blog is the only one I have bookmarked. Your "roller coaster" approach really appeals to me! Though I should probably comment when you talk about visits to NYC in case I have ideas for places you might like to check out while you're in town.

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    1. Thank you so much! It makes me happy to know people have been reading for so long! It feels like we've been through a lot together!!

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  19. Dear Jane,
    I continue to read your words because of your genuine character, your interest in staying true to yourself and the seasons, and to us -- your readers. You have introduced me to authors, poets, designers, and have shared access to things I would normally keep secret.
    The beauty of your blog is that you love the act of sharing, and through that comes teaching and kindness. You do it in a way that makes me feel as though you are making eye contact. That is not easy to do... so please, don't stop. Happy 8 years!
    - Margaret

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    1. Margaret - thank you for this beautiful praise. It makes me feel so nice about what I do here to think there are readers who feel this way!

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  20. Jane,

    Dear friend...I'm so glad you're still blogging. :)

    - Martha B.

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  21. I've been reading your blog (and enjoying it SO much) for 4 years. I don't know how I came upon this site - happy accident - but I love the way you write and come back again and again. You've inspired me to read books I didn't know existed, to appreciate poetry, as well as to slow down and take walks and be more observant. I know that you write for you, but I appreciate it. Best regards from San Francisco, California.

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  22. What a lovely post. You express things so clearly. So many sentences and thoughts here I want to requote and say, yes!

    One point in particular - about the blogs you still follow. "What holds them together now isn't a coherent aesthetic or a sense of likemindedness, but a vaguer sense of admiration and enjoyment, sometimes intimate to the point of feeling like a friendship and sometimes pleasantly detached and cloaked in anonymity."

    Happy (almost) Friday! Maybe happy (almost) Spring, please weather gods?!



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    1. Thanks Alice. I always think you were Reader #1... the first person I didn't know to comment on my blog. What a special friend you've become... I really value that so much!

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  23. Your blog is one of the few I kept reading over many years and continue to read several times a week.
    I really like your mix - as I too have days when I want pretty and others when I crave deeper thoughts and I enjoy your posts in both directions.

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    1. Thank you Nina. I love that you enjoy all the gears. They're all important to me!

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  24. I read and re-read your blog because it pushes me in directions I don't necessarily find easy to go. You are very much like a meditation site I use when I feel the need to stretch myself. So thank you and PLEASE, don't stop!

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    1. Couldn't agree more with you Kat! This is definitely my favorite place to go when I need a quiet, reflective and inspiring moment, and I'm happy and grateful that I stumbled upon it about four years ago.

      Thank you Jane for your graceful, refined and lovely spirit and mind, thank you for making from this blog a special place for the soul, a shiny gem, more and more as the years go by, and robotic, soulless, consumerism and money centered blogs invade what at begin was meant to be place and concept for self expression, originality and distinctiveness.

      Keep going on Jane,

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  25. I stumbled upon your blog about a year ago, and it is now the one of the three blogs I consistently read. And by consistently read I mean that I look forward to reading your words. I appreciate your honesty and unique point of view, and am grateful you take the time to share.

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  26. I've been reading for years, Jane, though I couldn't say how many. I even use the little search box with some regularity, to rediscover posts I remember loving years ago. I admire you and the blog you've made. Yours is a touchstone for me and will continue to be for as long as you blog (please do so forever and always). xx

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    1. Thank you so much for reading. I have no plans to stop :)

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  27. Oh oh, I am a lurker..and I have never commented before...but I LOVE your blog...the literary parts, the Toast parts, the Toronto life parts, the Dublin parts...the design parts...sign me a happy reader on the west coast...

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  28. I only found my way here about a year or so ago, but I always appreciate what you have to say. I find that I'm starting to turn away from a lot of blogs I used to like, as I'm sick of all the hair extensions, "perfect lives" and sponsored posts. I'll scream if another person recommends Kate Spade anything. You have style, but it's your substance that brings me back.
    And being a Canadian, it's nice to have a little homegrown (via Ireland) read.

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  29. Damn! So out of practice leaving comments, I deleted the long thoughtful words... Bleh. I love the roller coaster, the thoughtfulness, the soul and the intelligence of your writing here. As for the death of blogs... When I first started seeing those articles it fella right, because I finally realized something had been off for a while and I hadn't realized it. But now that I've had a chance to think about it I'm not convinced. The era of the blog as entertainment, even as community or network. But journal blogs will never be dead. There will always be people who are compelled to write them, and there will always be people who love to read them. Probably the more introspective gentle souls. Maybe. I don't know, but I am interested to see what happens.

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    1. Me too - I don't think journals that connect with others will die, but I hope more and more that the soulless selling out stops being so successful! Thanks so much for reading.

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  30. It's true that the landscape of blogging has definitely changed, but I'm very interested to see what we end up with on the other side of this transition phase. I love the idiosyncratic approach to your blog, it's like entering a lovely dream. You don't know what's going to happen, but it's working all the same.

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    1. Thanks so much Julie! I really appreciate the time you take to comment so often xx

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  31. I work in a school and I find 8 is just a lovely age to be….still young and the world looks pretty lovely to those 8 year olds. There is just a gorgeous sense of wonder. I have been following for a couple of years. I don't comment really, just check in. It is always a bit like wandering the beach. There is beauty of nature and always some little treasures to explore. Thanks for sharing your observations and writing. It has become a way to settle down my soul after a very long week.

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    1. I love the idea that my blog is like a beach walk! Thank you for the lovely words.

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  32. You've pointed me in the direction of so many beautiful things I hope to do as much for my readers. Your site is a place of solace for me.

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  33. Your blog is outstanding for many reasons, you weaver of words you, and its all the better for not playing the bloody game. Yours is the finest example of what a blog should be. Don't ever stop.
    Doreen x

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    1. Ahh dearest Doreen... you are one of my loveliest supporters. Thank you for always making me feel special.

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  34. My portal into your world was the
    moment you identified Lisa Eldridge's mutually biscuit coloured skin. Love ever after xo

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  35. Dear Jane,

    I am one of your silent readers. I've read you for perhaps a year now, ever since I stumbled across your piece in which you wrote: "But I live in the world of ideas. Ideas are like stones in my pocket. I roll them between my fingers when I walk. I panic if they're not there, grasping until I find them again. I mourn when they are lost and feel poignantly their absence, though I can't simply and immediately bring myself to replace them." That particular post helped me to articulate a difficult personal loss to myself and others. I love your meditative, thoughtful posts and look forward to these. I may not be your typical audience (if indeed you have a typical audience) - I am a 28-year-old man, I am married, I run a small company which restores antique books, I am earning a psychology degree, and I live in a western U.S. city that is very different from your home. I find it beautiful that though I am seemingly different from you in many ways, you often express thoughts and ideas in ways that I deeply resonate with. You inspire me to be more articulate in my own writing. I dare say you give many of your readers new ways to see themselves, new ways to express ambiguous feelings. Thank you for adding to the infinite variety of words by which we can understand and express our messy, lovely humanness. Thank you for writing and please do keep blogging. All the best.

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    1. David - thanks so much for commenting. I love learning about all the unexpected readers out there and the unexpected connections we form. I will sound like a hopeless romantic when I say that it makes me feel something special, hopeful and profound about humanity. And much as we don't know each other like in real life, there's something about blogging that allows connections to form that may never take form in real life and we find we have much more in common with each other than we might assume at first, or even second, glance. Thank you so much!

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  36. I enjoy your roller coaster, your insight and honesty, and that you don't pimp your blog. I deleted my blog roll some time ago and now have the pleasure of rediscovering writing I can care for, from first principles. No shoulds, no obligations, what a pleasure!

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