Thursday, November 18, 2010

I've made

several attempts in the past to write about the theater blogosphere, but I always back off of publishing anything, feeling self-conscious about it or worrying about how it'll be perceived. Malachy at LitDept posted something the other day about the subject that made me want to take another crack at it.

Here's a sample quote from his post--
[T]here seems to be less back and forth [in the theater blogosphere] than I remember. I mean, maybe it's just me, but following a burst of screaming and yelling at the publication of OUTRAGEOUS FORTUNE, everyone seems to have gone back to their corners and stayed there. Partly, this may be due to the reluctant realization (on my part?) that people understood that they just weren't going to convince each other of anything: That everyone is stuck in their own little world and no matter how much they shout, they aren't going to pop anyone else's bubble. And, maybe more important, they're tired of yelling, being insulted and having trollers come by, drop an anonymous smart-ass comment and move on without really contributing thoughtful to the conversation. I don't know. It certainly seems toned-down.
When I started writing FWL almost 6 years ago, I did so mainly to give myself a writing outlet, but also to try to generate opportunities for myself and give myself an online presence. Discovering that a loose-knit network of theater professionals was emerging online at the same time only added to the excitement of the page. The internet is seductive, and for a while it was thrilling to be picked up by other blogs, watching my hit count go up, and having my thoughts seriously regarded by professionals I either knew of and admired or professionals I was happy to get to know.

Somewhere along the way I did get tired, like Malachy mentions above. After so many online arguments I either witnessed or let myself get dragged into, I switched from commenting to lurking. The whole notion of a "blogosphere," "community," or "dialogue" started to seem like so much hot air, or at the very least, far less communal and optimistic than others wanted to make it out to be. Maybe that's the way of all communal movements, but then I just read a play about Orwell, so that's on my mind, I guess.

Speaking of "dialogue," I remember a big dust-up between two of the more outspoken bloggers at the time that prompted me to write what I called an "I get it" email to an offended party. I never sent the note but I didn't delete it either; see below for a pertinent passage.
Even the most collegial of bloggers are out to further an agenda of their choosing, and they will happily distort, misrepresent, or condescend to my statements in order to do so. Sometimes they do it and I don't think they even realize they're doing it. These people don't know me, so I can't really expect them to do otherwise.
I'm sure the above is true of me as well, if not through the pretense of "dialogue," then likely the pretense of "commentary," or "criticism," or, what the hell, how about "prose?"

So clearly my original intention with this page has shifted. I quit trying to build a reputation, to grow a brand, to engage in discussions, to create opportunities for myself. The opportunities were rare and never amounted to much; the thrill of linkage or finding myself on Google faded. Spheres started to look like cliques -- cliques with clear hierarchies, demagogues to bow to or knock down. I've found myself, in the age of Facebook and Twitter, retreating from the constant updating, the quick tidbit. All that marketing, all those pleas for attention -- I don't reject it all entirely, of course, but I do count myself among the many who frequently find it exhausting.

And just when I think of shutting down the page entirely, someone new will complain to me about how it's been too long since I've updated it, or a theater colleague will discover that I'm FWL and will tell me how much she likes it. That's what's kept me writing, however erratically.

I've actually been enjoying the page a lot more in the past few months. I suspect that's because my shifted intentions have resulted in writing from a more earnest, more genuine place, which in turn led to my genuinely responding to those readers who appreciate the page. Readers I already have. I may not be getting Perez Hilton numbers, and I don't know how much I've innovated the form, but I know I write what I want to, for my readers and for myself. I like to think I've made this viable for the stage I've chosen to place it on. It's a small house, I guess, and maybe a little shabby, but hopefully reliable, occasionally challenging, yet still warm and inviting.


Malachy Walsh said...

I have to say I started blogging (and returned to it) for some of the same reasons you did.

I've also begun to think that the focus has shifted and those writing vitally about the concerns I'm interested are new and unknown to me.

There's definitely a vitality to the blogosphere - it's just different than before.

The cheese has moved.

Ernessa from 32 said...

I've had many of the same thoughts about blogging. But in the end I do it b/c it's good discipline for me. It's a great way to download my non-project thoughts. It keeps my mind active, and perhaps most importantly of all, I love it. I'd blog even if I didn't need a platform, and in the end, much like writing itself, I think that's the most important bit.

Kyle said...

ETC, I'd say all the same is true of me too. I do still enjoy it...maybe even more than I used to.