This morning I realized that, if my first ever blog had been a person, this year it would be old enough to vote and to drink in some provinces of Canada. It didn’t seem right, and I had to check my math three times. But it’s true. I started my first blog in 1997, when I was 17, before blogs were blogs.

That was also the year my family got the internet for the first time, so I very quickly discovered and fell in love with “online journals” and the thought of having my own website. I worked on that awful little Angelfire site so much. One day, my then-boyfriend wanted to go out, and I whined at him from my computer chair, “But I’m working on my website!” I’m happy to say I saw sense and went out with my boyfriend that day and probably had fun, but it shows how much I loved website tinkering even back then.

I haven’t blogged at all this year. I don’t know if Jane’s recent post about blogging worked its way into my subconscious, or if I just didn’t have anything to say. If you’ve been reading here for a while, you’ve probably seen me talk about the “old days” of blogging before. I knew it was good even then, and I miss those days more and more. I’m trying not to grow bitter over the changing climate of what is probably my longest-lasting hobby, but it’s difficult when blogs can seem dishonest, or only vehicles to make advertising revenue instead of sharing something with the world. It’s difficult when being online these days involves sharing your full name, photo, and location to many different people and other sites and services. The internet of 1997 was small, and I liked it.

Of course, it’s not all bad. Some blogs, like Jane’s, and Kali’s The Nife en L’Air, are full of wise, honest, beautifully-written words I return to again and again. But I suppose I’m just wondering what role blogging, the way I know and love it, still plays in today’s world. I’m beginning to worry that its time is over, at least for me.

I see evidence of this in my own blogs throughout the years. The one I kept in 2007 was quite personal. Among other things, I detailed my wedding planning, and my frustrations with other people’s attitudes to my short engagement and very pared-down wedding. I read that blog now and can’t believe I wrote such personal things. On the blog I opened after that one, I remember one entry where I wrote in a quite general way about a rough time I was going through, with no details whatsoever, and how I agonized over posting even that. And with this blog, I’ve made a very conscious effort to not write about many things – the fact that it bears my surname for the first time was a major factor in that. In 1997 I had a pseudonym. I could say anything. And anyway, who would even see it? Here, I’m wide open.

When I opened this blog, I asked myself, “Are you going to be a writer with a blog, or a blogger who writes?” In my old blogs I had been the latter, but this time I was going to be the former. And so far I have been happy about that. It suits me. But part of me misses the old way. And I wonder why my increasing desire for privacy and “the right to shut up” runs exactly opposite to what I see in a lot of blogs today. Maybe I’m becoming unsettled by how public the internet is, and how freely people share almost every aspect of their lives, with their full names attached. Maybe I have to resign myself to the fact that blogging, as it was when it was best for me, is over now and won’t return. But that also makes me a little angry. I like that I’ve been blogging for so long. I think that other “internet dinosaurs”* like me should stick around to remind people that it used to be different. Maybe that’s the major reason I still do it at all.

I know that sounds cynical and like I’m saying goodbye. But it’s not, and I’m not. I’m just thinking aloud, so to speak. The years have slipped by so quickly that I rarely think about just how long I’ve been blogging, and how those years have affected my relationship with it. For all I know, there probably is no easy answer.

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* – For the life of me I can’t remember where I first read this, but I love it.

PS I hope this didn’t come across as snobby or sneering at blogs today. I know there are lots of great ones out there, and I read several that have ads. My worry is more about people who have heard that you can game the system to make money and get free stuff and fame, and that becomes their sole reason for starting a blog. Back in the ancient days, those ideas were antithetical to blogging, so it’s very hard for me to come to terms with.

One of Decca’s favourite words. In a 1977 essay in the London Daily Mail (reprinted in the New York Times and later in Poison Penmanship), she wrote that “frenemy” (which she sometimes spelled “frienemy”) was “an incredibly useful word that should be in every dictionary, coined by one of my sisters when she was a small child to describe a rather dull little girl who lived near us.” Her sister and the neighbor girl, she said, were “inseparable companions,all the time disliking each other heartily.”

– From a footnote to an August 1971 letter in Decca: The Letters of Jessica Mitford

Jessica Mitford got her wish about “frenemy” appearing in dictionaries. Trailblazers, those Mitfords.

Apologies if this blog is becoming a Mitford read-along. This book is massive, and my Christmas holidays so far consist of nothing but reading it, playing the new Dragon Age game, and a bit of writing here and there. So it’s either interesting Mitford facts, or a blow-by-blow of the latest war between the templars and mages.

If I don’t post here before Christmas – I hope everyone has a fun and restful holiday filled with great food!

Arrived back at Joan’s just in time for dinner. To it came Doris Lessing (you know who she is, a best-selling English writer of the Angry Young school) . . . and, joy of joys, 12-year-old Peter Lessing, who had learned about Benjy’s arrival and has planned his whole Easter vacation around showing Benj London! Peter is a super-nice boy, and he and Benj became bosom friends immediately. He called for Benj early this morning, they got back at 6 p.m., having seen all the science museums, walked for miles all over London, ridden on top of innumerable buses, etc. Peter phoned here at one point to say he decided Benj should “see the West End,” so we thought they were probably having cocktails at the Savoy.”

– Jessica Mitford, in a 1959 letter to her husband.

I am currently working my way through the behemoth that is Decca: The Letters of Jessica Mitford. It’s a long process, but I’m enjoying it. If I had to choose my favourite Mitford, it’d probably be her so far.

Two major things keep jumping out at me:

1) She did a lot of civil rights work in the States, and – while there are of course major differences – her descriptions of police brutality and general mistreatment towards black Americans in the ’50s feel disturbingly current.

2) Books of letters are often my favourite form of biography. While they are necessarily one-sided (probably because they are one-sided), they can feel the most intimate. I wonder how long this kind of book will survive, considering our society’s almost-certain trudge toward electronic ways of keeping in touch. Of course I have sent “real” letters, but these days, as with millions of others, most of my communication takes place via email. Or worse. My brother and I Skype often, but outside from that we’ve started communicating primarily through the un-searchable, probably un-archived messaging feature in Words With Friends. Imagine someone making a book out of your Words With Friends messages? The HORROR.

I try to be a good emailer, to write an email with the same amount of care as I would a letter, but it doesn’t always happen. They are often shorter than a letter. And, of course, they feel temporary. How long will emailing remain popular? I’m thinking now of the stack of old floppy disks I have in storage in my basement. I no longer have any way to see what’s on those disks. When was the last time you saw an A: drive? That change happened before I even noticed it. I wonder how many of my most important emails will just slip away one day.

Last week, a couple of friends visiting from New Zealand let me tag along with them to Niagara Falls. I hadn’t been there in several years, and before that I swore off going ever again thanks to childhood overexposure. But this trip there was possibly the best one I’ve taken.

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The weather wasn’t very cold, but it was cold enough to freeze the mist from the Falls where it landed. It reminded me of last year’s ice storm, but without the danger.

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We weren’t the only ones enjoying the off-season views. And off-season views tend to be my favourite ones.

But then one day, you know, I suddenly realized with an absolute shock that there never was going to be a convenient time, and that if I didn’t make a beginning, I would be saying to my grandchildren, ‘What I really wanted to be was a writer.’ So I had to make time.

– PD James, interviewed on CBC’s Writers & Company

I’d never read anything by PD James. Even so, today I listened to an interview she did on the CBC’s Writers & Company, re-aired after her death. I found many things about her that I could relate to, especially the quote above.

I listened to the interview while I was making lunch (the time-consuming but delicious carrot soup with rice I’d posted about earlier), and thoroughly enjoyed it. I wish I’d “discovered” her earlier.

The full interview is here.