[This is the post where I explained why I would be stopping blogging. Now I’m back, several months later, but most of my daily writing is now offline.]
Dear readers, dear friends, I’ve decided to stop blogging.
I’ve been living and writing online for almost three years now, and it’s done some amazing things for me. However, I’ve become more and more suspicious of my blog’s effect on my writing, on my level of published work elsewhere, and on my life in general. It makes me really, really sad to lose this connection with all of you, but as I’ll explain towards the end, perhaps we can stay in touch after suitcasing.com closes down.
Writing for my friends and then my early audience on the internet was what started me tapping keys. It’s been great to have a purpose to writing when you’re new to it and not perhaps that good. But I notice that writing for a blog, especially one with the current character of suitcasing, encourages a certain kind of piece. Short, snappy, funny – and these are all good attributes. But it seems to be extremely hard for me to complete longer pieces, and more complex pieces (in terms of language) don’t seem to fit well on this blog. And the problem is that the blog is always hungry. Why labour in the desert for a week, on a dubiously beautiful short story or poem, if you can type out an interesting question about Taiwan in the morning and have five comments by the end of the day? It would be nice to say: Ignore what people think, just blog what you want – but then, if fame and readers’ responses mean nothing to you, why blog at all? Well, maybe that’s too strong. My real point is only: blogging’s interests and good writing’s interests seem aligned for certain kinds of pieces, and not for others. And now, those other kinds of piece are the ones I want to focus on.
I worry about the outlet that a blog offers, the way that ideas and writing pressures can be released as often as you need. Perhaps, had I not written about my frustration with old Taiwanese men in cafes, over time that idea would have developed into something much greater. And maybe it still will, but my instinct is that this is not the way to build up powerful emotional sources for writing.
I’m conscious too, of how little I’ve been published outside of this blog and internet travel zines. A large part of this is that I so rarely approach other publications, or submit work for competitions etc. Why is this, if I’m writing 500-1000 words almost every day? The blog of course – the richness of this lovely space we’ve created. When you start writing, the silence is unbearable, and you long for people to join you. After you’ve been writing for a while, you long for silence; you feel at home in the desert, and the sound of other voices grate (or at the very least, affect your concentration). I think I need to do a lot more of my writing in silence, and take the time to rethink and rewrite it once first drafts are finished.
Plus, anything I post here counts as being published, and so becomes ineligible for a number of other publications or competitions.
And finally, blogging has a huge impact on my life. I’ve got to know, or exchanged emails/Msn chats, with a vast number of people across the world. I’ve got emails from Malaysians about to go to London, American mothers having problems with their exchange students, and a large number of older men with questions about dating Asian women; I run into myself in posts on travel discussion forums, or find that a Singaporean girl says that she’s taken to wearing glasses in order to look more like me. My whole trip to Borneo, and most of my friends in Sarawak/KL, came about because one person was reading my site and decided to invite me to visit her.
However, a lot of less pleasant things have come about from this blog. It adds a strange, awkward aspect to relationships, if my girlfriend is reading the site and I’m writing about my mood or plans. I imagine I hurt an ex or two’s feelings when I mention a new person; I hurt the new person if I don’t mention her. As more of the people I know read the blog, the number of personal things I feel I can write about diminishes – and as other bloggers have found, there are lots of topics, such as one’s employer, that don’t always work well in this medium. I feel some pressure from having a semi-public life – or, maybe to put it better, the delights of having a semi-public life have decreased a lot.
Clearly, these are all idiosyncratic, personal difficulties with blogging. And clearly, there are lots of possible ways to deal with these problems and keep blogging. But, as George W Bush has said, “Are you willing to give up one thousand half loves to pursue your one true love”? What I mean is, there are lots of ways to balance out these competing things I want to do, but maybe the drastic change, the break into something new and scary, is the best one. One of the hardest things in life is knowing what good things you need to reject. I want to cut away the easier choice, in order to hopefully force myself to move on to more difficult challenges. Three years after I began, as scary as it feels, I’m going offline.
Of course, it won’t be a total disappearance… My plan, at the moment, is to keep this site open, but change it into a semi-static archive/showcase of the writing I’ve done so far. If you would like, you can delete your blog’s link to here, but if you don’t mind, please keep it open. I’ll probably be adding bits to the site irregularly too.
In terms of ongoing writing and the internet, I’m working out what to do. Something I’ve really liked is the times I’ve discussed pieces or got editing tips from people who read this site, and I hope I can keep that going. What I may do is create some password protected places to store writing in progress, and if you would like to read some of the new stuff I’m doing, email me and I’ll send you the details (when I know them).
I’m sure more ideas will surface, or if you have suggestions, suggest away before silence falls. I’m going to keep blogging for another week or two, to say all the things I’d like to say in this space. I arbitrarily selected May 18th as the big, final day, but this may change.
Best wishes, my heart breaks,