Being unable to post as and when I wanted was an interesting deprivation. It made me think about the nature of a blog, or this blog, and whether it’s more like a conversation, or more like a diary, or more like a magazine. Sometimes I feel it’s more like sending a radio signal into deep space, into an inhuman silence.
I can look at the stats to find out how many ‘page views’ I’ve had and from how many ‘unique IPs,’ but that doesn’t really give me a sense of readership. Every now and then someone surprises me by telling me they read / have read my blog, but these are singular voices in a dispersed and sporadic population. Though having at least a putative readership is a useful discipline for a reluctant writer, it’s probably better for writer and reader if the readership remains elusive, undetermined, taciturn. This sounds at odds with the tide of interactive media and the user-based thinking that swells it, but I don't see how the influence of something incalculable, unconstant, and largely unexpressed can be beneficial for one's writing.
I like Adam Kirsch’s comments in an NY Times article on the shifting role of the professional critic:
“If you are primarily interested in writing, then you do not need a definite or immediate sense of your audience: you write for an ideal reader, for yourself, for God, or for a combination of the three. If you want criticism to be a lever to move the world, on the other hand, you need to know exactly where you’re standing — that is, how many people are reading, and whether they’re the right people. In short, you must worry about reaching a ‘general audience,’ with all the associated worries about fragmentation, the decline of print, and the rise of the Internet and its mental groupuscules.”
Obviously he doesn’t have blogging in mind here, but you can see the freedoms of a writer who writes for the sake of writing, not for the sake of being read. In any field, good writing is its own justification, its own reward.
“Whether I am writing verse or prose,” says Kirsch, “I try to believe that what matters is not exercising influence or force, but writing well — that is, truthfully and beautifully; and that maybe, if you seek truth and beauty, all the rest will be added unto you.”