25 March 2006

Only A Bloghead...

It was in the mid-80s, when I had only recently begun publishing Lookout magazine, that I first discovered Samuel Johnson's dictum about having to be a blockhead to write for any reason other than money. "Blockhead," I've since discovered, was one of Johnson's favourite epithets, as was "rogue." At one point he pondered whether someone who annoyed him was "a rogue who had become a blockhead, or a blockhead who had become a rogue."

Since Lookout magazine was not making any money for me - if anything, it was costing me a fair bit more than I could afford at the time - I spent more time than was probably wise wondering if I was one of those blockheads Johnson was referring to. Since the magazine never did much more than break even, and that only in the wake of the success and publicity enjoyed by Lookout Records in the 1990s, the nature and extent of my blockheadedness was something I was able to contemplate for a number of years without ever coming to a meaningful conclusion.

Although I occasionally wrote for other publications following Lookout magazine's demise - or, as I prefer to think of it, it's rather extended hiatus - most of them paid me at least some token sum for my efforts, so it wasn't until I started this blog that I again had an opportunity to flagellate myself for dispensing my pearls of literary wisdom to an unpaying public.

On the bright side, publishing a blog costs very little compared with the printing bills and related costs of a magazine. On the not so bright side, the fact that it's so cheap and easy means that blogs are multiplying at such a rate that the weight of sheer verbiage already produced would probably knock the earth off its axis if it ever were/could be committed to print.

In light of that, it's hard not to contemplate why I bother; surely someone out there - if not several someones - has already said everything I have to say, and very likely said it more eloquently and incisively to boot. Hopefully you'll be pleased to know that I've successfully managed to resist any such contemplation, and therefore will not proceed to bore you with heartfelt ruminations about "why I write" or somesuch. I had an assignment on that topic in college, and it was among the most tedious ever, apart from a statistics class mandated analysis of the standard deviation and the coefficient of variance.

Instead, I'll apologise to my readers for being MIA much of this past week; getting settled back into London sleep and activity patterns has taken more out of me than I anticipated. Or, to put it less elegantly, I've been lazy and scatterbrained. I've also been having a bit of a crisis in confidence, something which I meant to write about when I was still in Australia, but never got around to because I was, well, too lazy and scatterbrained.

The gist of it is that I find myself being pulled in opposing directions when it comes to writing here. On one hand, I want to post indignantly about all the dangers and outrages afflicting the world; on the other, I want to regale my readers with heartfelt personal tales of days past and present that leave all of us feeling a warm, fuzzy glow about the strange and wonderful world we live in. On reflection, scratch that last bit; it sounds distinctly ugh-ish.

But you know what I mean, or I hope you do. The stuff I've enjoyed writing most here has been reminiscences of the Lookout Records/East Bay/Gilman days, and what I've enjoyed least has been my diatribes about war, crime, Islamism, government ineptness, the sort of thing that risks making me sound like the internet version of an American radio talk show host.

The thing is, I think I've made some good points in those areas, even if they are routinely covered by hundreds or thousands of other writers, and considering all the drug-addled pseudo-political nonsense I've spewed out in the past, I feel somewhat of an obligation to try and redress the balance. But I've noticed that even when I complete an especially vitriolic - and hopefully effective - diatribe, I come away from it feeling none too great. Whether this comes from focussing my attention so intently on the negative, or whether it's my insecurity over whether people might think bad things about me for expressing the "wrong" sort of thoughts, I don't know.

As it is, I think I end up censoring myself; on any given day there are usually at least half a dozen items that I think about posting and never get around to because I don't want to hammer away constantly at the same old topics. At the same time, the stuff I really enjoy writing - like a piece I started last week about punk rock record producers I've known - seems to take much more thought, effort and time. Which might mean it's ultimately more valuable, or might mean, as previously noted, that I'm lazy and scatterbrained.

I had a similar conflict with Lookout magazine; the old lefties who were my most avid (and paying) subscribers wanted a steady diet of Reagan-bashing; the punk kids who mostly picked up the magazine for free didn't mind the Reagan-bashing as long as it was short and succinct, but were far more interested in bands and scene gossip, of which the old-timers complained they couldn't understand a word. Eventually I resolved that conflict by ceasing to worry about what any of them thought and simply trying to make Lookout the kind of magazine that I personally would want to read, and having just remembered that, think I'll proceed to do exactly the same with this here website.

1 comment:

Wesley said...

If it's not too presumptious of me to say, I'd prefer you make it the kind of website you personally would want to write.