The End of the Blog As We Know It (08.29.11)

When Mike O’Mary, my esteemed publisher and eternal friend, asked me to write a blog to accompany the first year of MFA in a Box, it was easy enough to say, “Sure. Why not?”  Over the past forty-seven weeks, I’ve discovered a few reasons why not—mainly having to do with Monday night deadlines—but overall it’s been a pleasant and lucid experience.  Now, of course, the year is getting close to its end. It’s been wonderful to write for such an audience, and I thank you for all your responses, public and private.  I’m ending with a few entries that can be developed into something longer, but this week’s blog is the first of a series of valedictories that will end with Blog #52.

Reasons for not continuing the blog into 2012 and beyond:

  1. The world will end in 2012, according to the seers who work in the print publishing world.  The Amazon Calendar foretells the end of the Gutenberg World on December 21, after which humanity will communicate by icon and Whispernet, and its collected wisdom will be available for $1.99, or free if you accept the accompanying ads.
  2. MFA in a Box, which contains a good portion of the world’s wisdom, at least as it pertains to writing, continues to trudge along in the hundred-thousands in Amazon’s ranking, which means that this blog hasn’t had the impact that Mike O’Mary and I had hoped it would.  I don’t mean to complain, but if everyone who reads this blog had told ten people to buy my book, and those ten people had told ten people, and those ten…you get the idea.  Pretty soon I’d be thinking that Bernie Madoff wasn’t dishonest, just misunderstood.
  3. The blog takes energy that could be used to make up the stories I should have been writing the past 47 weeks.  I don’t know if I wrote a blog entry about my writerly ambition, but it’s to become a posthumously famous writer, and thus far my oeuvre isn’t going to fill the moldy trunk that some PhD student will discover and make herself and me famous.  If nothing else, I’m going to have to use blog-writing time to start printing stuff out, so that my collected works will fill something more than a jump drive.
  4. If you were to follow the implications of what I’ve said on this blog in the past year, you would face the raw truth that writing puts you in a different and deeper reality.  There is the little matter of having the courage to go there and stay there and face its imperatives, and there’s the other little matter that different and deeper realities are often places where magical thinking doesn’t work. I don’t know if you’ve seen a progression in these blog entries, but I have, and it’s toward the shadows, and I’m not sure I want to drag all you fine people into them.   
  5. I’m going ahead this time. It’s your turn to wait here for the cops.
  6. The 2012 election is coming up.  I suppose that means that I’m going to have to write about Obama and the Republican nominee and send something into the Huffington Post about the difference between selling one’s soul and just giving it away for the hell of it. I have always urged my students to stay away from pure nihilism—mainly because prison tats look pretty silly on the undergraduate offspring of doctors and lawyers—but the way the election is shaping up, I’m going to do something nihilistic like vote for Ralph Nader again. Either that or join Dick Cheney’s ghostwriting team.
  7. I keep getting letters and emails from people who have read  MFA in a Box. Thus far, they’ve been the kind of letters I dreamed about when I first thought of becoming a writer, letters full of compliments and good cheer and invitations to masked weekends at secluded chateaux. What they don’t contain is book orders for family and friends.  People, especially those in writing programs, seem to want to keep their copy and its contents to themselves. I’ve had people tell me they bought the book as a gift for the writer in the family and then kept it for themselves because they wanted to be the writer in the family.  How perverse is that?
  8. As a reasonably well-educated human being, one who has access to the Internet and libraries, and one who reads history and philosophy, I’ve become worried that injustice and inequality are increasing in this world.  So I’ve begun to wonder about how you invent a discourse that will get through to oppressed people in this world.  I also wonder if the same discourse can get through to their oppressors.
  9. I’ve taken this year off from teaching and kept my writing to a minimum. I’ve spent a lot of time reading and researching, just to see if I would see things differently.  I do see things differently.  I’ve also realized I know a lot less than I thought I did. So I’m thinking of taking another year off and just reading Gibbon and Schopenhauer.  Can you imagine reading the blog of a man who only reads Gibbon and Schopenhauer?
  10. The new marketing initiatives for MFA in a Box—the cross-country tour in the Bugatti, the new MFA sandwich at McDonald’s, the MFA Blimp at the NFL games, the free Foucault action figures, the GPS treasure hunt for an inscribed copy of the book at Angkor Wat, the writing date with Laura Dern’s character in Blue Velvet—are all about to be launched.  I’m sure you understand that I have to be there at all of them.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Rita Vail August 30, 2011 at 2:32 pm

I will miss your dark musings, but am trying to keep a stiff upper lip and accept that you have a right to write or not write this blog. However, I am proud to be a buyer of your book. Perhaps I can take the time I would spend reading your blog to actually read your book. Perhaps other blog writers will also quit writing blogs that I adore (such as Guy McPherson – how I found you) and I can therefore spend copious amounts of time actually writing. 🙂

georgia downer August 30, 2011 at 3:15 pm

Thoroughly enjoyed this – and your book. Go and be happy.

Joan L. Cannon August 30, 2011 at 3:41 pm

I can say only two things after reading this–well, maybe three: I started a blog in hope of selling a couple of books, and the results make me understand everything you’ve said; I will sorely miss your contributions because anyone will sorely miss essays so full of (not necessarily in this order) intelligence, wit, passion, and satire; I’m buying MFA for the only writing friend I know who might read it. I’d love to be able to shake your hand!

Amanda August 30, 2011 at 4:14 pm

Though I haven’t left many comments, I have followed your blog faithfully and will miss it.

Maria August 30, 2011 at 6:20 pm

Still laughing after all these posts. I hope that you’re leaving it up just so we can continue to reference it.

Thank you!

Roberta Beach Jacobson August 30, 2011 at 6:31 pm

You pegged it, buddy. Thanks for the laughs. Interestingly, you and I stopped our blogs almost the same day. Good luck to you! – Roberta (a contributor to Saying Goodbye)

Barb August 30, 2011 at 6:49 pm

Whaaaaat? Come back. John, I will truly miss you.


Ceridwen Taliesin August 30, 2011 at 8:35 pm

I’ll miss your insights into the shadows. Too many teachers of writing aren’t willing to to name this necessity. You mention needing the courage to go to those dark places. Along with mental and emotional stamina, a clew of thread unwound to show the path out are also needed. It is possible to get lost in those parts and not find life worth living.

Maura September 1, 2011 at 8:21 am

This ending of the blog as we know it feels tragic, as if a family member has passed away. Whenever a beacon of light goes off stage, we notice the deepening gloom, and react to the dimmer with sadness. And so, I am sad.

Jan Priddy September 1, 2011 at 5:58 pm

Thank you, John. It’s been a of of fun and I have given your book to people and referred my students to this blog. Maybe it didn’t get you into the single digits at Amazon, but a lot of people were reading your words.

Jeannine Hall Gailey September 1, 2011 at 6:16 pm

Hi John! I’m sorry to hear this. Not to be all serious and whatnot, but I think – although you point to Amazon rankings not moving because of the blog – social networking is the new way to connect to readers. They expect writers to blog, twitter, Facebook, and goodness knows – probably tumblr now too! I’ve been blogging for some years – since 2004 – and haven’t noticed that it affects my creative writing one way or the other – usually I blog more often when my brain is stimulated, and write more poetry at the same time. I have noticed that I’ve made connections and friends from all across the universe I would not otherwise have made, and some of those friends have become important to me. So I do think we lose something as writers when we stop blogging. It may not be an Amazing rank difference, just a “maybe missed connecting with more readers” kind of difference.

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