I’ve never published a book (there were a couple of chapbooks back when I was too young to know any better) but I’ve been able to imagine the sense, which published writers often describe, of letting their book go into the world, of it not belonging to them any more, but to the public. You don’t know who’s reading it, or if anyone is really reading it at all. Maybe you hear from a reader or two, or are approached by someone at a reading or book signing.
Writing in a blog is similar in this respect, although there is greater opportunity for readers to leave comments, and stats trackers can give you even more information if you’re interested. WordPress doesn’t give very thorough statistics, which is for the best, really. When I was on Blogger I had a better stats service, and like many people I often spent too much time looking at them. I knew that there was someone in Toronto who read my blog often and they got to it by googling my full name, and that they did this from a public library computer. I used to wonder who this could be. Was it someone I’d lost touch with? If they read the blog, they could easily get in touch with me again. Was it someone who knew of me, but didn’t know me well enough to contact me? This was a particularly intriguing thought. Recently somebody linked to my Meteora post on a travel discussion board and said, “Here’s some pictures a guy I know took last year.” But I can’t tell from this person’s name who she is, and where I know her from. Perhaps I don’t really know her, or perhaps I know her and she’s not using her real name.
It doesn’t pay to think about these things too much. You’ll waste your time and probably driver yourself crazy. I remember one blogger actually putting an end to his blog because of all the time he was spending on this kind of stuff.
For a number of reasons, I don’t write here as often as I used to. But whenever I get a new link, I get a short-lived urge to start writing more regularly again, to keep up the numbers (i.e. the interest). But I don’t act on it.
The best reader is an imaginary one, one you have in mind as you write, as if you are writing that person a letter. (Of course, this reader need not be imaginary. You can write to someone you actually know, someone you feel understands you.)
A couple of nights ago I was listening to the latest album by Thanasis Papakonstantinou (Θανάσης Παπακωνσταντίνου) and when I got to the tenth track, “You, the universe”, I heard the sound of a dial-up modem, then the beginning of the music, and then a voice reciting words and phrases:
A Casa d’Irene
Anatomy of Melancholy
It was a list of Greek blogs. When I heard mine, and others that I’ve read since I started keeping one, I felt very strange. I can’t help associating those blogs, and even mine, with the front room of the apartment in Athens where I wrote and read them. It struck me that this act of posting things and reading others’ posts, leaving and receiving comments and sometimes even emails, activities which were essentially acts of communication, all along had felt like a private activity. Suddenly, hearing those names in a piece of music I felt as if something that belonged to me had been flung out into some brightly lit public place where people would be hearing of them for the first time. (Never mind that most people, unless they know the blogs already, won’t know what they are.)
And then I thought, does this mean that Papakonstantinou, of whom I am a fan, has read my blog? What about his occasional singer, Socratis Malamas (Σωκράτης Μάλαμας), whose music I love so much? Who knows? Something even more unusual and unthinkable has already taken place.