Jenny asks me to write about what I think about blog comments.
What can you say about the role and purpose of comments on your blog? .... How do they affect what you write about, how you feel about your writing, and you in general?
That's a good question. While I think about it, I'll direct you to what I've written before about blogging, and my thoughts about the relationship between blogger and audience. I try really hard not to tailor what I write to y'all. I try really hard to write honestly, about what I'm thinking about, whether it's light or descriptive or introspective or polemical. But I am not unaware of having an audience. I know this is a public project. That's part of the fun of it. There are some topics that I avoid even if they are on my mind because they don't seem easy to reconcile with the relationship I want to have with this indeterminate public audience; it requires too much trust, or it distances me in what feels like an artificial way, or it doesn't make a meaningful contribution to whatever identity or tone I've established here. [I break these boundaries almost as often as I honor them, however.]
I feel really lucky to have the set of readers at Stay of Execution that has arrived here. You are an insightful and generous bunch. I think a lot about the comments you leave here. "L."'s comment the other day about being on the receiving end of snarky junior league comments from friends really hit me hard, and made me realize how belittling I can be without intending. Bill caught me out not too long ago equating extroversion and happiness, and he was right to chide me for that kind of thinking. Those reflections and perspectives are really valuable for me, and are one of the biggest rewards of blogging. Another, of course, is the feeling that I'm not alone -- that some of my loneliest or most vulnerable or confused feelings are not so bizarre or isolating, and in fact are shared by interesting and kindhearted people of all different ages and paths.
I've been lucky not to have a lot of really scornful and angry commenters here, who tear me down. I have pretty thin skin and I do think a lot about what y'all say, probably because I think highly of the people who read and comment. But I don't consider the purpose of this weblog to interact with commenters, or to gain your approval. If I did that I think I would lose my way pretty quickly, and I couldn't be honest. That's what this weblog is about, in the final analysis. It's a project where I am trying to speak the truth about my experience as I fumble along trying to live a life that fits me.
Is that a good answer? I don't know if it says very much. As far as measuring the quality of my writing, I've not found comments to be all that predictive. Sometimes I write something that I feel really proud of and good about and nobody says boo in the comments, but in person or by email someone will tell me they were really touched, or that they remember it months later with some vividness. Meanwhile I can guarantee you that if I mention a leaky pipe in passing I'll get 12 comments about fixing it. [My favorite example of that is what felt like a vulnerable emotional post that mentioned physics. What part did people respond to? The physics, not the emotions. Sigh.] So although it's very difficult to do, I have learned to unhook my own ideas about the quality or caliber of a post from the comments. Still, if I hear back from you that something has touched you or struck a chord, it means a ton to me, and sometimes surprises me (as with the responses to this post).