Friday, 26 February 2010

Why so little?

During the autumn term last year I was averaging about twenty posts a month to my blog. This year it is averaging just one. Why? There are three reasons.

Firstly, you can't safely say anything even potentially controversial without running the risk of reproof. Thus a guest speaker at one of our seminars objected to remarks I had made in which my purpose had been to praise her for seeking a publisher without using an agent and for persevering when her first promising contacts came to nothing. Likewise, any remarks I might think of making about college or colleagues which are less than commendatory would be unlikely to be well received. Even my description of an esteemed colleague as "our resident Fertile Crescent guru" was looked at somewhat askance because of interpreting the final word as meaning more a charlatan than the wise and learned person which I had intended.

Next, the blog format for writing the autobiographical snippets, which make up almost half of my posts, is unsatisfactory. The format in practical terms restricts you to a practical maximum of 600-800 words, above which the use of the scroll bar acts as a deterrent to the reader. Within this maximum you can record an anecdote but it is difficult to tell a proper story, with all the necessary background and description of the characters involved in it.

Lastly, blogging is time-consuming. This was time I was happy to spend last term, as I was getting back into the swing of writing continuous prose after a lengthy fallow period. Now, however, I am having to start planning my course thesis, beginning with a bibliography. This is hard if, like me, you have started the course without any clear idea about what the topic of that thesis will be. This means that you have to identify the books that you will be using to support your arguments before reading widely round your subject. Since we are also having to annotate many of the citations in our bibliographies with annotations about why the texts have been chosen, I am having to do a lot of superficial reading in order to comply with course requirements.

Therefore I am going to continue to use the internet as a useful recording medium, but in a different way. Rather than writing my blog I will start writing web pages within a format which will suit the very diffuse nature of the subject of my thesis, Life Writing from Clay Tablet to iTablet: How Technology Changes the Way that Biographies are Written and Read. These pages will act as an interactive hypertext reservoir of material that I will ultimately have to pull together as a linear narrative before the December deadline. This will be hard, but while we are still only in the second month of the year, my feeling at the moment is, sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

If you would like me to tell you the URL of the website I am about to start, just ask for it by putting your e-mail address in the Comments box below.