Taking Stock

It always happens -- I write a post like the last one saying my schedule is a bit clearer and I ought to be able to get better about keeping things updated here, and then bang, life intrudes and I remember all the deadlines I'd been repressing the memory of, and the blog lies dormant again. The best intentions.... I'll make up for it at some point, but things are likely to continue to be slow here for a little bit.

I've been thinking recently about the nature of blogging, this weblog, my life, etc., because a little voice (one of many) in the back of my head keeps asking, "Why do you still do this?!" When I began back in August 2003, I didn't really have another outlet for ideas and thoughts and random musings. Oh, occasionally something would get published here or there, but not much. I kept a journal off and on, but never with much fervor. And then I started reading weird fiction of all sorts again and wanted to talk with other people about it and chart the progress (or regress) of my reactions to it, and a blog was the perfect way to do so.

I looked back through the archives recently, reading around more or less randomly, skimming a lot. Sometimes it was enlightening, because I discovered things I'd utterly forgotten reading or seeing or thinking. Often, it was embarrassing, because I've always had the attitude that posts here should be experimental, that I don't feel any compunction to be consistent in my thoughts or ideas, that I will try not to be afraid to offer incomplete thoughts or ideas that might prove within a few days or hours or minutes to be utterly stupid. I couldn't keep going with this site if I didn't feel that freedom, because I'd develop a fear of saying anything. (I've sort of reached that point with my Strange Horizons columns, frankly. It's a more formal setting, and I tend to try to make that writing at least slightly more considered than the average post here. I think most of those columns are, for me, good work, but I need to find a way to rejuvenate my approach to them, to take more risks and try new forms, because otherwise I'll just play it safe, and that's pointless.)

People who are not bloggers have said to me that they're amazed that I manage to write as much as I do here, and yet I usually feel exactly the opposite -- I would love to be able to put up a post every day, for instance. Even if I had the time, though, I don't think I could do it, because ideas don't come that quickly to me, and I don't really feel the need to spout off an opinion about random news or events. I'm barely comfortable with the amount of spouting off that I already do! Writing that gets shared with an audience requires a certain amount of arrogance, a willingness to ask people to spend time reading your words. It requires confidence, too, because you have to have a sense of your own authority. I wrote so many things for so long without any sort of audience that now that I have a few people who, for whatever reason, read the words I send out into the world, oddly enough, I find my confidence disappears much more quickly.

When I began The Mumpsimus, I wrote almost exclusively about science fiction and fantasy. I'd never had the opportunity to be a part of the SF world before as anything other than a reader. I was just about as naive as it's possible to be. I kept writing about SF as much as I could, but I have eclectic interests, and once I decided to keep the blog going, I knew I would have to let some of those other interests expose themselves as well. This is ultimately what I most enjoyed about the blog -- talking about SF, but not only SF. Finding connections, links to other things. Pretending borders didn't exist, just to see what would happen. Experimenting. It was fun, even when I said really ridiculous things and people told me so.

Then I gained other avenues for publication. I started reviewing for various places, and so did less reviewing here. That inevitably caused the substance and perhaps tone of the blog to change. Then life kept getting busier and busier. That affected things, too. I promised myself that I wouldn't keep the blog going unless I wanted to, and that I wouldn't give in to the pressure the form creates to put up lots of content. I still try only to post when I feel the urge, and to post only what I feel like posting, not what I feel obliged to. That's the only way to keep an endeavor like this going, at least for me. I certainly feel guilty now and then when things are dormant for a while, but what would be the point in putting up content just for the sake of putting up content? We've all got more than enough to read, don't we?

(You could be excused for wondering what the point of this post is, then. For me, it's just a way of airing some ideas, concerns, and guilts so that you'll know where I'm coming from right now, because that way I'll feel less guilt about the inconsistencies here and less apprehension about continuing the blog. A crisis of confidence, really, and this is just my way of working through it.)

Much has changed over the course of this blog's life, and one of those things is the amount of time I spend discussing science fiction and fantasy, which was the original purpose for The Mumpsimus. There are lots of reasons for this -- for instance, I didn't want to write about any stories eligible for Best American Fantasy, because I'm always wary of any sort of conflict of interest or inappropriateness. But my reading habits change frequently, and for a while now I've been reading a lot of things other than SF. I find my interests tend to be cyclical, though, and are now returning to SF, particularly science fiction, so I expect there will be more of that here for a little while, because once again my interest in the language, history, and potential of SF is growing. We'll see...

And so perhaps all I wanted to say here, really, is: Thanks for bearing with me. I'm still having fun, and I hope that occasionally some of what I post here is entertaining or somehow valuable for you. I still don't really know what this blog is exactly for, or about, or what -- and that's a good thing, because the only sure death-knell for this blog would be if I felt it no longer had the flexibility to be whatever I needed it to be. That I can say with confidence.