Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Drive for Recognition in the Internet Age

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The Drive for Recognition in the Internet Age

It’s not a Sunday morning drive, looking at fields and falling leaves. It’s more of a speedway demolition derby; and, at the end of the day, everyone surveys the landscape looking for the victorious and panning the vanquished. It’s more a primal battle for superiority where what’s at stake is self-esteem and legitimacy, a raison d'être for your ambivalent soul. It pervades every profession and avocation. Politician, artisan, student and writer. The prize, nothing short of eternity. A place in the history books. A seat on the throne.

Well, if you haven’t felt that way about it, you’re still invited to read on. I’d like to focus this short essay on what I perceive to be a universal need for recognition, especailly exemplified in writing. After all, that’s what most of us do when we post to the Internet. Whether it’s the story of your day, or your latest magnum opus (“this is one of my better works, I’m sure you’ll enjoy this one!”) The Internet has come along to fan the flames of eternal recognition. The ante’s up, and the profit (in ‘recognition’ terms) can be so much greater. The blog hits so much higher. The reach so much wider. Here’s a chance, with a little networking and a lot of staying power, to get your word out. Here’s an opportunity, in the quiet of your study, to infiltrate millions of minds with what only you can say. And say it best. Don’t mind the dilution factor. We’ve always been up against numbers. Still, the loudest voice will be heard. The most strident call, the most urgent cautionary tale and doomsday prediction mandating the greatest attention. So get to work. You’ve got a few good years left, and there’s nothing better than instant gratification.

Or not. Do you buy into these premises? Probably not, but millions do ( I can't really say that with certitude, knowing that this little essay will reach only hundreds, mew hah hah). Freud, not one of my favorite founding fathers of psychology, did however say something, somewhere, that’s always stuck in my craw. He said, “Maturity is the ability to defer self-gratification.” If this is true, which I think it might be, then, on the Internet, we have a hundred million immature internet avatars looking for new and improved ways of fulfilling their lust for self-recognition. Is this putting it too harshly? I think not, having experienced, like you, the thirty-second delay (on a good day) it takes to receive feedback on a poem or a piece of writing, courtesy of my community website or social networking group. And I’ve been on the self-deluding train to Recognition City many, many times. That nonstop transcontinental line that stops for nobody, and all the paying customers are served fine meals, and sit around watching the beautiful landscape pass by while they discuss mutual successes.

But what is recognition and how does the internet influence and affect it? First of all, the desire to be recognized for what we consider ourselves to possess, be it the ability to write, the sensitivity to be compassionate, the natural gifts of athletics… whatever it may be- is, of course, a very legitimate pursuit. Indeed, it's hard to imagine writing without the potential to be recognized in the back of your mind. What you write may be qualitative. Or it may be quantitative. It may be helpful. It may only be artful. It may be base, or it may be aesthetic. Still, we view it as something of a 'special' entity, something we’d like to share (that word!); and, yes, something for which we wouldn’t mind being recognized. For even the most altruistic, self-effacing and zen of writers, the desire to be read cannot be shrugged away (there may be a few existentialists left out there who can write in a vacuum and feel self-fulfilled, but these cannot be quantified, as they remain in dark places with no internet connectivity).

New and expanding opportunities of reaching people through the internet, coupled in negative fashion with an increasingly competitive and exclusive marketplace for print publications, has led writers to saturate the world wide web with their wares. Self-publications, blogs, ezines and other personalized vehicles for getting the word out have exploded onto the scene. And what is the net effect? What might this look like in the year 2080? Or, if you have trouble with that short a prognostication, how about in the year 4080? How will the participants in this Internet Age be judged many years from now? Will there be reference manuals for the great writers of the internet age (GWIA), or a data base for the most read poets on the world wide web from 2000-2080 (MRP-WWW)?

I think not. And the reason will be (you can quote me on this), that all the great writers were too busy writing, and thus unable (and unwilling) to spend the hours necessary to get the proper recognition they might have (or might not have) earned on the Internet. All the great writers continued to read and think and work on their craft, while all of us networking sluts continued to get our names and work out there on WWW, filling in the unfillable Intenet trash heap with more and more garbage. Perhaps the one great legacy will be monumental hard drive capacity records, groups of ‘authors’ who have collectively pounded out the greatest mound of spent hard discs in the annals of human history. Google, to the google power, of text, neatly filed away in the New Writers of the Internet Age (NWIA), housed in a special annex to the Library of Congress. However, you won’t be able to visit the stacks. But you can just log on and search NWIA. You might even find me there!
EDN 11/1/08

44 comments:

  1. These days every writer has to be an internet slut, if only for marketing and promotion.

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  3. Aside from writing, I think we all want to be recognized for something we feel is good about ourselves or some contribution we make. With writing, the recognition can be double-edged. Someone says they like a poem in real time. Harder then to hone it and write in new styles. It's one reason I post my poems less now on my blog. I'd like to say I'm not influenced but I'm human and know that I am.

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  4. This time I'll try typing with my fingers instead of my toes...sheesh.

    I have a bit different take myself. I'm writing the novel and the next book of poetry, doing readings to sell the first one, giving them away to friends as gifts, all in real time. However, I have a chronic illness which keeps me often at home alone. Writers need communication with other writers, good ones that we respect for their talent and their craft, and we need to read as well as write. I solve this with the Internet. I'm not a slut though, (smile) I only read the best of the many offerings.

    I do read as much as I write on line. I don't mean this to be or sound defensive, I just think there are as many different reasons for using the Internet as there are people using it, and I only understand my own reasons.

    That said, I don't understand those who live to pan, to leave hurtful comments and perhaps destroy a budding writer in their most fragile state. That's the down side of the Internet gig to me.

    Gather's first contest was a case in point and some writers, I'm sure, were sent battered and bloodied from the ring never to try again.

    As a former writing teacher, I was appalled that no control was exercised. There's no room for criticism in critique. Real writers are never mean with their comments however honest they may be.

    So--them's my thoughts as one Internet slut to another. (smile) Please don't stop posting, I read everything you write. It often makes my day to find such critical thinking and fine talent in one place.

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  5. The biggest danger with Internet publishing is that there is just so much out there that doesn't deserve to be read, in the same way that anyone and everyone thinks they should self-publish.

    I am often frustrated visiting blogs that, with so little time to read (whether that be books, magazines, or online), I often find I have wasted my time. It's hard to sort the gold from the fool's gold, just as I've discovered when attempting to review self-published books.

    Everyone wants recognition, and everyone deserves it, but not everyone deserves it for what they post on the Internet.

    Some talent may be found in baking a pie, and some in those who can describe that pie so that our mouths water just reading the description. Rarely are those two talents found in the same person, and rarer still to be expressed online. The rest is just fast food. And with so many fast food restaurants dotting the landscape, it's hard to see the pie shack up the road.

    I wish it weren't so, but that's how I see it.

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  6. What is most interesting to note is that many of the best known writers who've come to represent a century were virtually unknown during their lives. Emily Dickinson is 19th c American lit, and no-one knew her writing while she was alive. Had she attempted to publish during her life how many publishers would have twisted and pushed her writing to fit their narrow aesthetic ideas and agendas? As an unknown, she wrote with total freedom.

    Or Blake. He wasn't discovered until the 19th century - never very popular in his own day.

    There are many.

    There are only room for perhaps 5 authors per genre per century in terms of "Eng Lit" and who gets to decide who those are are the readers of the future.

    Meaning, if fame is important to you, by all means work on promoting yourself and find publishers to publish and promote and distribute your work.

    Only it's not a guarantee of anything. Our most original thinkers are often very hidden in the cultures which they come to represent.

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  7. I love these great comments. Please keep it up. Great discussion here!

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  8. You got a lot of readers for this one Ed - must have struck a chord.

    I'm not sure at what point being read on the internet really counts as recognition. Pre-gather I only had my Mum and a few close friends reading what I wrote. Now I at least have more friends and get more feedback. I think I'm writing better for the experience, but I'm not sure it really counts as recognition - more like a slowly widening circle of friends.

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  9. I liked this essay a lot, Edward, because these sorts of issues have always weighed on my mind as I have sought to 'enact' my Internet persona, limiting my posting (and never claiming it was 'publication' , neither to myself or to others--"you should never bullshit the bullshitter", to quote Bob Fosse's character in ALL THAT JAZZ) and at the same time wanting to use the new social networking blog approach to make friends, such as yourself.

    I suppose it has to do with if we are indeed all more obsessed with 'attention' (for me, the word recognition applies to things we earn, as in the check you earn for publishing a story or poem or from the total revenue after your play has closed)than amity.
    And I think you are right, for the most part, we are, though some are better at hiding it than others.

    I am going to come back to comment again on this after I think about it some more (especially that reality-based definition of ' maturity' courtesy of Dr. Sigmund) but I want to make a link between the old America where people got 'attention' from their companies, their guilds, their clubs and their associations of long standing, and the contemporary America, where we click for that emotional nudge, that visceral confirmation, and hope to God that strangers can become friends and not let us down as our fathers were let down, as Willie Loman was let down.

    Here's a climactic speech from Death of A Salesman, by Arthur Miller in the late Forties, pinpointing the basic Everyman need (not just the writer) to win attention, be well liked, accepted by the society for their special skills, talent, 'individualism.' Perhaps the American myth of exceptionalism can be seen in this passage, as well as across the face of Web 2.0

    "Attention must be made to such a person!" from "Death of a Salesman" by Arthur Miller

    "Then make Charley your father, Biff. You can't do that, can you? I don't say he's a great man. Willy Loman never made a lot of money. His name was never in the paper. He's not the finest character that ever lived. But he's a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him. So attention must be paid. He's not to be allowed to fall into his grave like an old dog. Attention, attention must finally be paid to such a person. You called him crazy... no, a lot of people think he's lost his... balance. But you don't have to be very smart to know what his trouble is. The man is exhausted. A small man can be just as exhausted as a great man. He works for a company thirty-six years this March, opens up unheard-of territories to their trademark, and now in his old age they take his salary away.
    Are they any worse than his sons? When he brought them business, when he was young, they were glad to see him. But now his old friends, the old buyers that loved him so and always found some order to hand him in a pinch--they're all dead, retired. He used to be able to make six, seven calls a day in Boston. Now he takes his valises out of the car and puts them back and takes them out again and he's exhausted. Instead of walking he talks now. He drives seven hundred miles, and when he gets there no one knows him anymore, no one welcomes him. And what goes through a man's mind, driving seven hundred miles home without having earned a cent? Why shouldn't he talk to himself? Why? When he has to go to Charley and borrow fifty dollars a week and pretend to me that it's his pay? How long can that go on? How long? You see what I'm sitting here and waiting for? And you tell me he has no character? The man who never worked a day but for your benefit? When does he get the medal for that? "

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  10. One thing internet excels at is search, ideally netting pithy results. What's the upshot question(s)?

    In any media communication needs to meet interested audience. Net is micropublishing, yes..? populist readership vs. art for its own sake is a dynamic to balance and...?

    It's a given that with millions speaking, that is more than any one member of audience can absorb. who makes it thru the filters of decades? sometimes the best marketers, sometimes the best product, sometimes the mediocre. all one can do is create.

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  11. great points, Pearl.

    John thanks so much for that in depth analysis...

    and Pris, always great to see you here!

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  12. I have an essay in Umbrella where I struggle more directly with this question: "My Struggle with Literary Narcissism":

    http://www.umbrellajournal.com/summer2007/prose/Chaffin.html

    Luck has a lot to do with success, likely the most important factor, though some aver that luck is when preparation meets opportunity.

    In the essay I let my jealouy hang out, then expose it as an unhealthy misconception--not that I live up to that view all the time. I still have moments when I shudder at the crap in middling journals and wonder why I bothered to publish there, or alternately, how it is a magazine could possibly have rejected ME!

    CE

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  13. p.s. I don't think the link went through:

    http://www.umbrellajournal.com/
    summer2007/prose/Chaffin.html

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  14. CE... yes, well said! Luck figures in from one vantage point, but we never see the whole picture, and what finally accounts for success is a mixed bag of serendipity, luck and a whole lot of talent, I imagine

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  15. and thanks for leaving the link, I'm going there right now

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  16. CE... very nice production. I like it very much and the poems/poets look top-notch!

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  17. Good and an interesting path since in oral history only the highest king or heroic noble could have a history
    Now we record everything on every life and know nothing because the skull is seldom left and language fetters the strongest wings.

    Thank you

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  18. Very interesting essay. I wonder how much the literary world will change over the next several decades? If you look at the history of literary criticism you will see so many changes even since just the 60s in how we analyze and determine what is "canonized." Imagine how much that could change because of the digital age...it's a little scary if you ask me. Although I agree with your essay mostly, I must also add that the internet definitely provides an amazing opportunity for truly talented writers (as yourself) to get the wide exposure that normally may not be possible. Thanks for the thought provoking essay!

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  19. The glass ceiling and a glass walled box of literary disadvantage now lie shattered and exposed to the light of the internet. Recognition may not come in a trice, but exposure to the light of word-love does. No printing schedules, no "greats", no familial connections, no old school ties, no reputations to contend with, no editors to impress. Just my work; bared to the internet elements for all to see and share. Recognition? Who knows? But the occasional ray of the sunshine of acknowledgement is enough to power this vessel on its way into the dark. Thanks for being thought provoking, Edward. My "solar wings" are extended at www.poetrynorfolk.net and the cold and clinical appraisal is as welcome as the gentle caress of lovers.

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  20. Thanks Sarah for your kind and insightful comment

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  21. This is truly a well written article as well as hitting the nail on the head! I thoroughly enjoyed it and found myself in there as well...

    Of course, my posts are normally about the works of authors, but in trying to post for their benefit, I feel sometimes I might have become addicted to ensuring a wider and wider dissemination.

    But, to prove your point, I recently submitted two reviews to the author of a new mystery series and suggested she might want to set up on Facebook, etc., to gain more fans. Her response was exactly what you said...she was busy writing and really didn't have time to be on the internet any more than necessary...

    I personally see nothing wrong with self-expression, as long as it doesn't ultimately take over your life, which it can do purely from a time standpoint. If the quality of writing is not there, I think readership will soon realize that and move on to other writers.

    By the way, I recently signed up to review/blog for a major publisher, so it appears that writing and blogging perhaps is seen more favorably than ever!

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  22. it took me a full day to reply to this article as i had a deep response which left me feeling confused and rather speechless, a most unusual feat, ed, to make this woman wordless. so try, try again. :>>))

    first, i loved the personal style in which it was written, as it took away any hint of judgment that might have resulted from the topic. your reflexive moments lightened the load of the reader, and i appreciated your sure wit and humor. i do love when you write in this personal style, and i encourage more of it when you feel inspired. i can see a full series on some topic, or an essay from your blog coming out monthly. just a thought... because your prose is (almost) as good as your poetry, very much your own.

    second, i must concur with a couple of your readers on the advent of a physical disability in one's life and how it changes the landscape. when one is housebound and often alone, there is that much more time to fill and, unless one is a monk, there's a need for human interaction. i love my cat but, sometimes, she's just not enough and, besides, she's a lousy critic; just purrs over everything i write.

    when one happens also to be a writer, one fills that time reading and commenting, if so moved. i often use my writing skills to respond to political articles that trigger me. my opinions are now all over the web, including le monde; so much for the self-restraint of instant gratification.

    now, down to the main point of the article, one's own writing, that's where i hit a wall; but i think, ultimately, my second point cannot be separated out from the main.

    as a child and later when i was working, i wrote for myself. in college, i shared my art with a select few, mostly professors who themselves were writers, to get their help; and this was the first support i ever had, although i'd been writing since i was 9 yrs old. a few allowed me to turn in poetry for assignments in place of essays; and i was also fortunate in that i had writing conferences from which i gained credit, fortunate in that i was not a creative writing student but rather a student of languages.

    after university, i went back to my closet and stayed there for almost 25 years. i had many prolific times in the in-between hours of work and motherhood, and as the journals piled high, i still had little thought of readership or the marketplace. in the back of mind was a "someday", but i was too busy writing and surviving, with no time left to market myself.

    however, when i became disabled, my entire world changed. i was so busy trying to take care of myself and so depressed about my situation, i lost all inspiration and wrote little for several years; i could journal, write letters to the editor, but could no longer write what had sustained me all my life, poetry (or so i believed). i felt i had lost my personhood, my raisons d'être (work and writing), half my brain from the disability fog, and with them, my muse. this was reinforced by my meager essays: i would put down a thought, then another, but the two never seemed to coalesce; after the third line, i gave up in a sort of self-disgrace. i'm sure now that this was a product partly of cfs and 24/7 fibro pain, partly the medications i took for them, partly my isolation and loss of activity from which one draws subject matter, and pure depression. whatever it was, it seemed everything i tried to write was complete and utter nonsense, so i stopped trying. (and there's the gist of it, really: you have to put pen to paper in order to write, there's no way around it!)

    in response to a letter i had written (at 4am in response to something stupid a couple of pundits had said on cnn) for mlk's 25th anniversary and had thought to post on gather, john walter came into my life with a comment. i discovered he was a poet living in europe, and i told him about my poetry and my recent sejours in paris. we exchanged some verse, and he suggested i join your group on gather which he said was the best. and so i did, and he was right on: 'twas my "lucky break", ed. lol.

    i posted several older works and got a lot of positive response, but the fact that i was not currently writing plagued me constantly. i could never, past or present, think of myself as a poet when i'm not actively writing, and i don't think there is a category on web registrations for "poet, retired". i finally wrote a cohesive poem--"je suis francophile"--which i remember you liked. personally, i was en extase, and john said, see? you must write or lose your soul.

    well, from the dark closet to the deepest void to the bright light of the sign-on, i found that i do indeed need interaction to write. readership has continued to spur me on, and, as another disabled writer noted, reading others' work is in itself inspiration and fodder. i am again able to write in my former automatic and generally lyrical style. yet, from the despair of my former darkness and depression to the bright heights of gather and beyond, i see my work has matured, and i'm happy again, fulfilled, even created my own little blog, with a nod to yours truly.

    one last thing on disability, ed, which pris and i have discussed often: while it is great to read others' work and to comment and interact, there is just so much energy to go around when one has a fatiguing chronic illness. so while recognition is nice, i must keep my group of readers small so that i can reciprocate. i have to watch what i do: i cannot join multiple groups or add an infinite number of friends on gather, so to be fair, i add no one. therefore, i doubt there is any fame in my future from the world wide web. i just can't compete, and to tell the truth, i don't want to. "competition's overrated balm", to quote a line from one of my last poems, and leads to hurt feelings and misunderstandings. i prefer the intimacy that comes through interacting with good writers, their revelations and streams of consciousness. for me, that's what this web exchange is all about.

    i guess one of these days i'm going to have let my fingers do a lot of walking and get one of those volumes out to publishers if i want a crack at temporary immortality. please let me always remember: one day, the bus is going to come, the letters will fly into the air, and everything will be scattered to the four winds. then, i will be truly blessed for it will be the end of suffering and my poetry will be "everywhere" and "nowhere" all at once... figuratively, of course, at least the will behind it.

    thanks for listening if you got this far or to any part thereof. beaucoup d'amitié ~xoxox laura t. or moineau: le moi who knows nada

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  23. Who can explain what we writers endure or exactly why we persist in the challenge?

    Couldn't be money. My guess is that less than 1% of us can hack out enough words to take care of bread and butter?

    Is it ego? I doubt it. The keyboard will tame anyone's stretch for a huge ego.

    So what is this recognition that we seek, on the internet and elsewhere?

    We want to be recognized, I believe, by our most impossible-to-please critic. We want to be recognized by ourselves.

    We've been bitten by our vampirish muse and we can not simply walk away from its hold on us. We have to show our critical self that yes we can succeed at writing.

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  24. wow, i really liked your insight, p.w. i think you got hold of it! xoox ~lt

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  25. Nice angle, Ed, one to which we can certainly all relate. Having said that, I guess my take is that I'm not sure I'm convinced blogging or posting online is any more certain to reap eternal recognition than the good old-fashioned submitting until you run out of envelopes and stamps. The Internet IS a big trash heap, and those who use it develop the appropriate filters. True, it's a huge potential audience, but I don't believe more than the tiniest fraction of blogs reach more than a significantly teeny-tiny fraction of the audience. You might get just as many readers handing out photocopies at cocktail parties. Sure, some will succeed, whether it's due to persistence or talent-born viral spread, but some get picked up through submissions too. I don't have any numbers, and have never been published, so what do I know...just my reaction to an interesting piece. Thanks for the link.

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  26. I think if it is part of your nature to write, the writer will write even if it means to stick your poems in an old shoebox thereafter. The internet is a good medium in which to share writing when you have an audience who appreciates and comments with deliberate care. I find Gather frustrating for its constant changes and obliterations of articles(and Ihave written dozens that have gone to outerspace, I guess). It is important to have a vast audience and to write for a large audience, or at least one that care. I do believe in luck in this regard. I do know poets on the internet who have been extolled by their buddy poets and I laugh because if they were truly known their work would not be published. However, Ed, you are a great poet: caring and talented. And, always concerned with the future and hopeful! Anne B. Grote

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  27. Laura, thanks so much for opening up your heart and thoughts in such a candid way; it was a thrill for me to watch you 'revive' in your craft, and it has made me marvel at the power and goodness of the value (if not mandate) of artist to artist mutual support and encouragement, a central theme we have continually harped on in our Pre-Simulationism group and which you have portrayed in flesh and blood. I'm also grateful for your insights with regard to your disability... this is something I've discussed at length with Pris on a former poetry group, and there is no doubt that the web has opened new vistas and possibilities for support and encouragement in this regard. And yes, your poetry is first-rate!

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  28. ... and thank you Anne for your continued insight and constant encouragement!

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  29. Well the article triggered me into action on a new blog at http://vernpoet.blogspot.com/. This is what poets' in groups can do; collide and shower sparks of pure light.

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  30. Though this could seem just like a good poet's grouchiness, carefully essayed, it puts me in mind of the question of what's happening to human beings. The authored work of art gained great force in the 19th century, in opposition to the arrival of the pinnacle of materialist ideology. Recognition? Need for recognition is a stage in the development of selfhood. Reached, we turn toward selflessness, the power to give of ourselves, our attention. It's a lonely time to be reaching selfhood, but that's actually a tautology: lonely is when and where one reaches selfhood. "In the wilderness," as with Moses and the whole line since. I, I am trying to recognize myself. Haven't entirely succeeded. Scratch "entirely." Catch a glimpse from time to time. Gotta see myself somehow, so I can see you, too. A play off Hillel in there.

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  31. well said, jhb! Is that Rabbi Hillel from my Pesach?

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  32. I´ve thought a little bit more about this essay after I posted that last comment (which I have reprinted above) in your impressive comment chain (33 in the thread so far!) over at Thirteen Blackbirds Poetry--www.edwardnudelman.blogspot.com--and I realized that the pith of your argument is right here, toward the end of this illuminating and challenging essay, which should make any blogger deeply self-reflective about their reasons for writing, posting, blogging, journaling, or whatever you want to call it. To whit:

    ¨First of all, the desire to be recognized for what we consider ourselves to possess, be it the ability to write, the sensitivity to be compassionate, the natural gifts of athletics- whatever it may be- is, of course, a very legitimate pursuit. Indeed, it's hard to imagine writing without the potential to be recognized in the back of your mind. What you write may be qualitative. Or it may be quantitative. It may be helpful. It may only be artful. It may be base, or it may be aesthetic. Still, we view it as something of a 'special' entity, something we'd like to share (that word!); and, yes, something for which we wouldn't mind being recognized. For even the most altruistic, self-effacing and zen of writers, the desire to be read cannot be shrugged away (there may be a few existentialists left out there who can write in a vacuum and feel self-fulfilled, but these cannot be quantified, as they remain in dark places with no internet connectivity). ¨

    I agree with this premise wholeheartedly, in the context of the new interactive dynamic of the author-to-author relationships that are involving in this exciting new medium-as-tool, tool-as-medium (to cite Marshall McCluhan) known as Web 2.0 social networking. This desire for recognition goes beyond the ¨Fanfare For The Common Man¨notionality of attention that I addressed above, it speaks also to our need to find the ´feedback´we need at whatever level we are at in our writing. Seeking out, and learning from, FEEDBACK is the key to the effectiveness of author-to-author relationship. There is an expression in Spanish, ¨El dinero llama al dinero¨(Money calls out to money) and I think the same thing can be said of talent. If you are a Baudelaire, Flaubert, Yeats, Eliot, Joyce, Conrad, Woolf, Beckett, Hopkins, Stephens, Williams, Hemingway, Grass, Bellow, Auden, etc. you have a better shot of finding readers who can appreciate your protean talent in its larval stage, on the Internet, than you do in the publishing world. Readers who are also very talented, and who can end up transforming your aesthetic vision as you transform theirs. Hell, you might even end up collaborating in an art movement, as Edward and I have been lucky enough to do in the pre-Simulationist group. The important (and revolutionary ) development is that the feedback now goes both ways: It is a transitive relationship. No longer is the author only getting feedback from the editor (or editors) who pick him or her up and publish him, sometimes repackage her, other times edit one beyond the scope of their capacity as professional (such as what happened to Raymond Carver.)

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  33. i totally agree with what you just added, john w., and wish to add something myself to what you said.

    yes, it's all about the feedback... and secondarily it's about competition that sometimes worms its way in and can harm reader-to-reader relationships. let's work toward feedback rather than recognition on this fantastic instrument. we can only improve ourselves as writers with that attitude. fame is fleeting, ask any aging beauty. xoxoxo ~lt

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  34. 'fame is fleeting' as Laura states, and misleading also. The need for recognition can be a driver, but never let it become the vehicle; it can be a pleasing result, but never let it be the end result;

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  35. As a relatively new entrant to the Bloglands, I read your piece much like a travelogue. These are the reflections of a knowing (and dare I say, slightly jaded?) pilgrim. What you describe is curious topography to the uninitiated: the trash heap of the internet? I read sports news and follow the Obama campaign on the internet. Self-Gratification comes to me in the form of newsletter-style outlets from my friends, detailing their kids' first words or steps. I've yet to enter the arena of self-aggrandizement you describe. Now, I wonder if I would like to; too many gladiators, competing for perhaps a dubious prize. Recognition? From whom? Without having seen the fray first hand, what you describe seems to be the search for recognition from other writers, rather than readers (not always one and the same). At first I was very disheartened.

    Until I read your last paragraph. It was at this point that the light turned on for me, so to speak. Last night I found a quote from Orhan Pamuk's Nobel Lecture--

    "A writer is someone who spends years patiently trying to discover the second being inside him, and the world that makes him who he is: when I speak of writing, what comes first to my mind is not a novel, a poem, or literary tradition, it is a person who shuts himself up in a room, sits down at a table, and alone, turns inward; amid its shadows, he builds a new world with words. This man – or this woman – may use a typewriter, profit from the ease of a computer, or write with a pen on paper, as I have done for 30 years. As he writes, he can drink tea or coffee, or smoke cigarettes. From time to time he may rise from his table to look out through the window at the children playing in the street, and, if he is lucky, at trees and a view, or he can gaze out at a black wall. He can write poems, plays, or novels, as I do. All these differences come after the crucial task of sitting down at the table and patiently turning inwards. To write is to turn this inward gaze into words, to study the world into which that person passes when he retires into himself, and to do so with patience, obstinacy, and joy. As I sit at my table, for days, months, years, slowly adding new words to the empty page, I feel as if I am creating a new world, as if I am bringing into being that other person inside me, in the same way someone might build a bridge or a dome, stone by stone. The stones we writers use are words. As we hold them in our hands, sensing the ways in which each of them is connected to the others, looking at them sometimes from afar, sometimes almost caressing them with our fingers and the tips of our pens, weighing them, moving them around, year in and year out, patiently and hopefully, we create new worlds."

    I believe with you that great writer will continue writing as the blog-world keeps turning, the two likely unaware of one another. It was an interesting choice of words, "working on their craft." Surely mastery comes with time; it's the worlds we build with our words that we ought to be chiefly concerned with. In the internet age, craft seems to have eclipsed creativity. Or has it always been this way?

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  36. great comment Chris! With thanks.

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  37. I enjoyed this too Ed............hm, not perhaps I should look to finding recognition.

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  38. writers need readers
    every comment educates
    readers need writers

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  39. I don’t write essays, but appreciate the personality of yours. It rings true to my inner fears as a poet. I am at home, and /poor/ by choice, though my needs are met and I am quite comfortable. However, I am unable to afford going past the mailbox or front door most days, save a single trip out of town once a year, if I’m lucky. I have poet friends who are poetry teachers, well-known poets, all purely print poets for the most part. I envy them for what /seems/ to be more legitimacy. They, conversely to me, do not have time to /bother/ with the internet.

    I don’t look down on internet poetry, but the houses of critique online I am sure are horrible places for most budding writers; new voices whose emotional injuries from unknowing, uneducated, unbelievably ostentatious faux poets are oftentimes irreparable. It is sad. I know what it is like to be told by someone that my poem is not even a poem. How irresponsible and /safe/ is that from the comfort of a dimly lit room occupied by one mean-spirited, and undoubted unenlightened nobody (in the sense of ability to nurture art).

    I find myself desperately lonely for the attention of other writers, to see their work in progress, to network in person and interact deeply with the search for each other’s perfection of the craft. But, in the past I found my least effective work was oftentimes what I submitted online because it is /so/ immediate, such instant gratification as to be like [insert narcotic of your choice] at times.

    Now, that has changed over the years to a good degree, but I was burnt emotionally early on and it stays with me today. I hope that anyone reading who considers themselves an /internet/ poet will pledge never to tell someone something is not a poem, and endeavor to send words out to print journals. Words they have slaved over more intently because, after all, what we can hold onto, touch with our hands, will show so many more flaws in its essence than anything flashing in front of our eyes on the screen. I know which books are on my shelves and which poems I cherish in them. I may have read a poem online this morning, but if it is only an internet published poem, there seems to be impermanence to it in my paradigm.

    That may be that I was born in the early 60s and haven’t fully embraced the web. I don’t think so though. I think the value of print, in-person workshops, reading circles and literary centers in our communities is the way of poems’ development to those few, as was mentioned, that might be remembered centuries from now.

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  40. Jon V... thanks for those candid and interesting views

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  41. Ed,

    I love what you wrote & so enjoyed reading all the great comments before me. I must say...I very much agree with Pearl's comment. We know live on the age of "the tech information highway." For better or worse...In your case, always for better.

    Happy holiday's to you & Susan!

    ~mo-zy

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