Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A Decade of Digital Ink

On May 8, 2003 at 5:38 PM I published my first blog (originally titled "The Inner Machinations").  I had been writing for some time before that and a handful of earlier stories still exist as backups of backups.  However, as far as personal writing goes, that survives only in an obscure corner of the internet I rarely retread.  I was in high school when I started blogging.  This was in a period before most people used blogs for anything more substantive than journaling and mine was no different.  What was unique about my writing was how verbose I was.  Some might fairly criticize Artery Bloggage for squeezing a paragraph's worth of content into twelve or awkwardly hanging between popular and intellectual audiences.  Okay, I'm the only person to make that critique.  Rereading my early 2000s writing encouraged me; I have come a very long way.  I recently archived that ten-year-old online journal; it is 297 pages in Microsoft Word with standard formatting

But it wouldn't be fair to throw "The Machinations" into a single category.  It began as teenage angst with a vocabulary.  It was pretentious and self-important.  It was never insincere though; I was so vulnerable in many of those entries that I lived in dread that someone I knew would find it.  (In this regard it is quite unlike Artery Bloggage which is shamelessly self-promoted.)  It eventually moved into other genres though, like fiction, parable, poetry, and even polemic.  The center of gravity was always existential though; I needed to write.

I can remember on many occasions being impelled to write.  When I studied the classical Muses in college, I was sympathetic because I had lived it.  I wrote from the overflow of my soul, riding on hormone-induced waves of rage, angst, grief, and joy.  Even when the entries topped the ten-page mark (when word-processed, and single-spaced no less), I always finished feeling cathartic.  It was an experience I had a difficult time recapturing; I wish writing papers had felt that good in college.

I started another blog on Xanga later in high school which had no title.  It served three purposes.  The first was to throw people of the scent of "The Machinations" (I doubt it did that).  The second was to be a place where I could put pithy, shallow, even humorous writing.  That aspect was later integrated into Artery Bloggage with the "You Only Think I'm Kidding" series penned by "the Prophet" (a character who may or may not be an outlet for my real opinions).  The third was to be a part of the community of friend I'd made who used Xanga for their high school writing.  It was a bit more self-aggrandizing like Artery Bloggage is now. As time went on, the Xanga began to resemble "The Machinations" a little bit more in length and sobriety.  Both were updated less frequently as college went on, and I eventually dropped both sometime in 2008.  Ironically, the silence in my writing between 2008 and 2011 marked some of the toughest years of my life and greatest periods of personal growth.  Looking back, I wish I had written more then.  The only big project I have from that time is a chronicle of a road trip I took with two college buddies out West (to be concluded this summer for the fourth anniversary of the trip).

As much as I sometimes dislike modernity, it really is a treasure to have these writings preserved.  I wrote entries when my father died, when I dealt with my first broken heart, and when I was learning about God's work in my life.  I will always have those pieces on hand (even if hard copies are a little cost-prohibitive).  Even though my writing has a different focus now, the core of the endeavor is still the same.  We all must grapple with our lives as they are, with our triumphs and tragedies, with our souls' yearnings, with man and God, and with our heart disease collectively and individually.

I will conclude with an excerpt from a piece I wrote on February 3, 2005 (I always made sure things were date-stamped).  The entry was titled "Soap Box of the Whenever: In Defense of Writing."  It was meant to address writing as a sufficiently manly activity.  I wrote:

    It isn't my intention to sound like a self-proclaimed martyr here. I wish only to defend my passion. Writers and thinkers are valuable. We matter too. It isn't he who runs fastest or scores most or plays best that is remembered and studied for years to come. It's those who've stopped and have something to say about life, about love, about logic, and about spirit. [...]
    I want to understand life. A great way for me to do that is to stop and consider it. That's all that writing is, really. Defining life in words. And a good writer knows how to define life so well that he not only comprehends it himself, but makes others see it through his writing. He has life so well-described that the reader cannot help but be swept up in his musings as well. He takes us to places we've been before, but deeper and further than we journeyed on our own. That's the kind of writer I want to be. The one that captures his readers and entices them with an adventure they can't help but join in. A beautiful slavery.

I would no longer describe good writing as "defining life in words", but I do think it gets at something real.  Socrates has since taught me that we shouldn't be too confident in having God, life, and our hearts contained in pithy, inadequate words.  I maintain that there is something real and true to it even if there can be no real end to our words.  Should there be?  Writing was and remains "a beautiful slavery" to the muse.