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Radio Silence

While reading alicebentley's LJ, I started (and even finished) a comment. But I've been thinking about it all day, and actually, decided I wanted to -- and I know this will come as a shock to everyone -- say more.

alicebentley talks about posting on LJ, and in particular, about the difficulties she has.

Most commonly, I realize the thing I planned to write about is so trivial and unremarkable that it doesn't warrant bringing up. (1)

Or the topic is about something that upset me - and writing about it is also upsetting. And I don't like to be upset, so I stop. (2)

Recently there have been several cases where I really want to comment on someone else's post, but I don't feel like I'm close enough to them to make the sort of personal remarks their subject calls for. (3)


(I added the numbers beside the comments; the comments are otherwise quoted.)


(1)
I saw myself in all of this, and I wanted to address some of it here, starting with the first point. I fell into an enormous radio silence for mumble mumble time because I felt that I had nothing at all left to contribute. I had posted about various publishing things, as related to a bookseller-eye-view; I had posted the entirety of my first book contract, with some discussion about the legalese of the teeny-tiny-type clauses. I did both because I was busy talking elsewhere about both, and I wanted to make sure that people understood my frame of reference.

But once I'd finished, I wasn't entirely sure I had more to say. I understood the value of what I'd talked about up to that point, which is why it wasn't difficult. I didn't see the value in anything else that I might talk about after that. So. There was a lot of starting-and-stopping of various comments, a lot of deletion of half-finished files, and a lot of silence.

I did read LJ from time to time, but in general, anything I wanted to add to a conversation had already been added, and I'm not often a big 'me too' poster, although I don't mind it when others do it.

And I missed a lot of very interesting conversation because of this reticence, and I regret it.

I've said before, and will no doubt say again, that I like LJ because it's like one big, rambling, splintering conversation. It's hard, however, to just stand like an eavesdropper at the edge of conversation without eventually feeling that you're taking without giving.

What got me out of this? Two things. Realizing that, in fact, I liked many of the small, and possibly trivial posts that did not somehow impart vital information as a reader. Could I predict what I'd find interesting? Well, no.

But I don't find anyone, not even John Scalzi interesting 100% of the time. I love his site and his blog, but some of the stuff doesn't interest me. It doesn't have to. It interests people who are not me, and I know that later today or tomorrow, he will write something that will make me laugh or cringe or think. I don't stop reading him when I find something that he's clearly nuts about irrelevant to me.

So I had to give myself permission to be boring. I had to give myself permission to be irrelevant. This, of course, was harder. But what I discovered was that some of what I post, which is largely information-free, is actually interesting to people who are not me as well. Some of it will start discussions and conversations that--obviously--would not occur on the inside of my own head. I'm never entirely certain about anything I write; I suppose, in that frame, LJ shouldn't be any different and I shouldn't expect it to be.

All this just to say: I write about what interests me and hope people will find it. There's always the chance that I will lose people if everything I post doesn't interest them--but that's fine, too. Because I can't actually write about things that don't interest me, and I shouldn't have to; they don't want to read things that don't interest them, and also, shouldn't have to. In that sense, it's not personal.

(2)
I don't generally have a problem writing about things that upset me, because I admit that if I'm upset, those things are uppermost in my mind. It doesn't upset me to write about them because clearly if I'm writing (where in this case writing=pounding the hell out of the poor, innocent keyboard), I'm already upset.

However... (you knew there was a 'but'): Posting about things that upset me is tricky because I tend to be slightly intemperate when I'm upset, angry, or annoyed. My husband can generally tell when I'm annoyed or angry, and he will drift into the room following the sound of the aforementioned typing (he says it's distinctly different than my normal writing. Possibly because of the speed). He will point out when what I'm writing is not, in fact, a bomb, but rather a nuke, and remind me that even when I'm annoyed, the writing should serve some purpose that is not to blow a large crater in the landscape in which I am also standing.

So in general, I will type everything, and he will read it, and tell me what is reasonable and what is perhaps entirely unreasonable. He's my external editor, and I value him highly. He doesn't by any means tell me to jettison everything, and I have certainly posted about things in a more heated fashion -- but I don't post everything.

Sometimes I don't post things that he thinks are on point because after I've done the writing, I'm calmer, and I can evaluate what the effect of it will be. And long arguments on the internet--many of which I read and many of which are illuminating--take an enormous amount of time, processing thought, and self-control.

And when I'm engaged in this mindset, I find it very hard to concentrate on fiction writing. If I do this enough, it throttles any productivity, and books grind to a halt in the heat, while deadlines inch ahead of me in ways that will (sadly, later) induce ulcers and panic.

On the other hand? Angry people seldom bore other people. It's something to consider.

(3)
This is the one that is the hardest, for me, and it isn't even about the content of my LJ and whether or not it's interesting enough.

In this, as in the first point, I am entirely in alicebentley's shoes. A number of people read this LJ, and I read a number of LJs. Some of these are friends-locked posts. I understand that in part I'm responding to the LJ concept of 'friend', and enough has been said about it that I won't add to it here. Suffice it to say, however, that I don't like the weight of the term they've chosen.

If someone posts something that is friends-locked, and it's of a personal nature, and I feel I have something to contribute that no one else has said... I will often just stare blankly at the screen, with my hands hovering over the keyboard, because on some level I feel as if I'm reading this by accident and that any commentary I have to offer will be totally intrusive and possibly an unwelcome reminder of this fact.

Someone posted a friends-locked entry about her three year old child. (I won't say who, because, well, friends-locked). I read the entry, because she was asking for possible clues as to what the behaviour of her child meant--and I thought, "Wow, that sounds like my kids when they had ear infections". But... I didn't post it because I felt self-conscious, and a while later, she posted to say... it was an ear infection.

And I felt like a totally useless idiot. So I kicked myself, because I should have said something. And I didn't. Because I was afraid of how it might look.

But this taught me something, or reminded me of something I should already know, and I do comment now, regardless of protected status, if I feel I have something to say that someone hasn't already said.

I don't post anything that's friends-locked. Anything I post is public, and anything I talk about is fair game for any commentary. I don't mind if someone I've never seen or read pops up in comments to say something or add to the conversation, and I never have. So I also try to remember this when it comes to posts in other people's journals, because people are probably just like me in this regard.

(4)
I will add one to this: the topic is personal, but it's not just about me, and while I'm perfectly happy to ramble on about things in my own life, I don't feel that I own the lives of the people certain subjects intersect. So in those cases, where my experiences would be of interest (or at least I think they would), I mute myself because there's no way to disguise the names of the other people whose experience it also is.

So: Radio Silence. It's something I still struggle with -- but I write at home, in isolation, and the sense of community is important enough that the struggle to over-ride my initial impulse is necessary.

Comments

( 27 comments — Leave a comment )
damedini
May. 8th, 2008 08:44 pm (UTC)
I have a variety of "friend" filters that I use. Partially because of frame of reference; if I'm posting about an SCA thing, my filk friends will neither understand nor care. If I post a girly-thing, I filter it to females only because, well... I have different groupings for different levels of trust, but several in the most trusted group I have never met in person.
And I do realize that, to the determined, nothing on the 'net is private. But I post locked posts in the hope that the people I care about will respect my privacy.
Anything I post to whatever filter group is open to comment by any who see it, and I welcome their input.
In large communities, again, I figure that if it's out there, it's out there.
pgranzeau
May. 9th, 2008 01:48 pm (UTC)
What is a "friend" filter?
hopeevey
May. 12th, 2008 12:29 am (UTC)
LJ lets you lock posts to people you list as friends, and lets you create custom groups of friends as well. http://www.livejournal.com/friends/filter.bml
crookedfeet
May. 8th, 2008 08:45 pm (UTC)
I struggle with this myself. I often feel it's boring, or pointless, and why am I taking people's time and attention etc. I'd post book reviews, but then I think-no, that author's on lj-I'd better not(whether it's positive or negative. Thanks for posting this-it has given me food for thought.
jonquil
May. 8th, 2008 10:46 pm (UTC)
So I had to give myself permission to be boring. I had to give myself permission to be irrelevant.

Yes, this. This. One of the hardest things I"m teaching my perfectionist children -- where could they have possibly gotten that from -- is that it's okay to do things badly. In fact, it's great to do things badly, because you're learning.

That means nattering about what comes to mind, in my case a stew of politics, gardening, and sewing, and let who will read. I have a cascading set of friendslocks based on whether I want my parents [who aren't on my friendslist] to be able to see it, whether I want my children to be able to see it, and tightest of all, venting about the job or the family.
Your solution may vary; I will say that I like listening to you think.

Edited at 2008-05-08 10:47 pm (UTC)
drenilop
May. 8th, 2008 11:56 pm (UTC)
One of the hardest things I"m teaching my perfectionist children -- where could they have possibly gotten that from -- is that it's okay to do things badly. In fact, it's great to do things badly, because you're learning.

::wryly:: I believe my mother may have missed this day in parenting class... heaven only knows, neither my sister nor I ever learned this... :-)
amber_fool
May. 9th, 2008 04:58 am (UTC)
That's something I didn't learn until college - I was over-achieving in high school, and my parents encouraged it. I wish my parents had somehow taught me that I didn't have to be perfect, before life did it much more harshly (my health deteriorated, which forced me to drop activities and be more lenient with myself on grades). I think it's awesome that you're teaching your children now. If they don't appreciate it now, they will one day. It's an important lesson.

The cascading friends-locks work well. While most of my journal is public, I like having the option of not only restricting to my 'friends', but choosing smaller groups based on the content.
twiegand
May. 8th, 2008 10:46 pm (UTC)
My whole lj experience and "friends" include all of three posting addresses. I use this as a way to keep up with distant friends. Please feel free to post about the boys and your husband. It is good to know that they and you are well.
greenmtnboy18
May. 9th, 2008 01:18 am (UTC)
>>But what I discovered was that some of what I post, which is largely information-free, is actually interesting to people who are not me as well. Some of it will start discussions and conversations that--obviously--would not occur on the inside of my own head. <<

This is what *I* love about LJ. It's a place where people can read exactly what interests them, and if someone is talking about something at length that doesn't particularly interest them, they can move on. It's truly NOT personal. But it IS fascinating. :-) In a purely human-interaction sense for me.

This may fascinate me *because* I've always had strange interaction patterns. I don't necessarily enjoy the typical forms of "interaction", but I *do* like interacting with other people. In words, in writing, is my favorite way.

In LJ, I can have this open dialogue with the world, and it can be boring or not, and I don't have to care if people find it interesting enough to read every word. Like you, I'm often surprised by the journals (and which of their posts) I find most interesting to read. It wouldn't always be what I'd expect.

I have friends who are on LJ, who feel very intimidated about posting because they feel everything they have to say is boring. I always urge them to post anyway -- as far as their comfort level will allow them -- because for me, LJ is such a lovely way to just peek into other peoples lives... not in an eavesdropping, snooping sort of way, but honestly and openly, because by posting it they've invited me to see it, to see a piece of them. I can look, I can look at length, or I can nod and pass by, but I have the opportunity of seeing a slice-of-life for my friends who often live at long distances, and a slice-of-life for some acquaintances who I find very fascinating people.

So for my friends who say "the most exciting thing that happened to me last week was when I went out for breakfast, and you just really don't want to read about that", I often say "actually, what's neat is that if you posted that, I would know that you had a happy experience, and that makes me feel good, and a little closer to you."

As for posting, I go through ping pong phases, as with so many other things in my life. I'll post about everything, and then suddenly nothing. Sometimes this reflects on my mood swings, but often it reflects on sheer busy-ness. But I find even when I'm feeling unable to post, I usually make time to read or skim, because it makes me feel closer to other people, something that has been very hard for me, historically.
amber_fool
May. 9th, 2008 05:02 am (UTC)
LJ is also nice to find random acquaintances. I have LJ 'friends' that I found through groups for mutual interests, and I always enjoy having that glimpse into their lives. I skim a lot, because not every detail of their lives interest me, but I love that I'll learn perspectives from other parts of the world on different events, see what it's like living other places, or learn about things I hadn't seen on the news (for instance, ash from the Chilean volcano has been seen over Buenos Aires, and has formed a thin coating on some cars).
arachnejericho
May. 9th, 2008 03:24 am (UTC)
It's amusing to read about the Great Big Conversation That Is LJ. I came to LJ pretty late; to me, it's a better social site than MySpace or Facebook.

Although for me, nothing comes close to Twitter for the Great Mingling. There's something about 140 characters that opens people up. Which is an odd way of looking at it...

The freedom to be irrelevant is very nice. I locked myself out of that with my main blog, which I turned to a specific focus more or less because I could. And because it feeds my need for stats.

This resulted in a number of side blogs, covering their own areas (for instance, musings on Sherlock Holmes tends to disrupt everything else, if only because I proceed to write umpteen pages about him; or, an even better point, my fiction. Such as it is).

This isn't bad, since the purposes of those blogs are not personal stomping grounds as much as writing stuff for other people to reference and read. I'd almost call them magazines, were it not for the fact that it's just one blogger and her ego.

My personal LJ, on the other hand, is really my personal blog. I post things I wouldn't post on the others, even if the posts are public. I write things I don't expect other people to read. If they do, whatever. If they don't, whatever.

It is nice to be somewhere I don't have to worry about my stats because I simply can't install them. :)

I'll note that a focused blog needs a little irrelevancy. Or was that irreverence?
(Deleted comment)
cathellisen
May. 9th, 2008 05:08 am (UTC)
I post boring trivial stuff all the time, but then I decided, it's my journal and I can be as boring as I want to be. :D

but I write at home, in isolation, and the sense of community is important enough that the struggle to over-ride my initial impulse is necessary.

Oh yeah. With you there. And not only am I a stay-home parent, I live too far away from America and England to ever go to cons and actually meet like-minded writerly types. LJ is my community.
msagara
May. 10th, 2008 02:29 am (UTC)
Oh yeah. With you there. And not only am I a stay-home parent, I live too far away from America and England to ever go to cons and actually meet like-minded writerly types. LJ is my community.

I think a community of writers helps writing to some extent; it helps me. There are whole things I don't really have to explain when I'm talking, and although the books are written in isolation, it feels a lot less insurmountable.
(Deleted comment)
adickinson
May. 9th, 2008 07:15 am (UTC)
I have written so many comments and then deleted them because I doubted they were of interest or relevance that it started to get silly and I just stopped writing comments. So hurray - I have finally commented on someone else's LJ (unless I delete it before I click "Post"...)
(Deleted comment)
msagara
May. 10th, 2008 02:29 am (UTC)
LOL! I'm happy to see you post :).
xnamkrad
May. 9th, 2008 08:52 am (UTC)
"I write about what interests me and hope people will find it." - and if it doesn't interest me, I move on. However, I think it can be said, if X is reading this, then X is interested in it.
One area of LJ I have found of great help is a specialised community. I'm seriously ill and I can say things in that community that I cannot say elsewhere, even (sometimes especially) to close family.
burger_eater
May. 9th, 2008 12:46 pm (UTC)
I've often thought "I'm going to comment on that," but hours later when I find the time, all my enthusiasm has waned. And if my enthusiasm has waned, how interested will the readers be?
destina
May. 9th, 2008 07:19 pm (UTC)
Some of what you've said here really resonates with me. In the years I've had my LJ, I truly can't count the number of times I've stopped myself from posting due to self-censorship of things I think people won't be interested in, or times I haven't commented because I don't know someone, or because I feel awkward about something I've read. Or because I know what the fallout can be from ranting about something in internetland when I've totally come to the end of my rope. I think it's become much more pronounced the last two years or so; I used to regularly blather the first five years, but then I went...quiet.

Anyway. Interesting. Thank you for these thoughts; I so agree about the sense of community overriding many of the other issues of reticence.
kattsune
May. 9th, 2008 07:38 pm (UTC)
#3 Really resonates with me.

I friend people on LJ because I like to read what they write. I'm always a little nervous because some people view the process of friending differently than I do. (For some it's the implication of actual friendship, but for me, it's "I made a link so I could find your content more easily.")

How are you ever going to get to know people if you don't put yourself out there a little? I always hope that someone I find interesting would also find me interesting... And if I can view the entry and comments are enabled, then I post when I have something to say.

I've found that people who don't like that kind of thing will usually let you know.
(Deleted comment)
davidcook
May. 13th, 2008 09:08 pm (UTC)
I recognise elements of all three points you made as things which prevent me from posting as often as I might like.
I also worry about my writing ability - my posts often seem clunky and awkward when I read them later, and ironically, the comparison is made worse by all the writers' blogs I read.
I also worry about saying something about a serious topic off the top of my head, and getting flamed (or worse, quietly thought of as an idiot) for not doing my research, and this is made worse by all the clever, well-read and well-researched people I read.
Clearly I need to be more selfish, and remember that my LJ is all about me, me, me !
davidcook
May. 13th, 2008 09:11 pm (UTC)
... and I also have this idea that if I've thought about some issue for a while, and come to the obvious (to me) conclusion, the same conclusion will be obvious to everyone else and they probably reached it first anyway, so there's no point in posting about it.
msagara
May. 13th, 2008 09:17 pm (UTC)
... and I also have this idea that if I've thought about some issue for a while, and come to the obvious (to me) conclusion, the same conclusion will be obvious to everyone else and they probably reached it first anyway, so there's no point in posting about it.

If it hasn't been posted, though? It's probably a good thing to post because it does add to the discussion.
msagara
May. 13th, 2008 09:16 pm (UTC)
Clearly I need to be more selfish, and remember that my LJ is all about me, me, me !

LOL! :D

Yes, this is a paraphrase of the giving oneself permission to be [fill in thing here].

And as you can see, we all feel this way from time to time.
( 27 comments — Leave a comment )