Maybe it’s like this:

Now there are many different kinds of blogs, and they are written for many different purposes. But I’ve been thinking that this blog is more like writing letters than it is like any other literary genre.

Twenty years ago, when the Internet was barely heard of and I was still using a Wang word processor and dinosaurs still roamed the earth, I wrote lots and lots of letters. Long letters that went on for pages and pages, that I wrote by hand or typed. Letters in which I wrote about philosophy and daily minutiae and books I’d read and art (I was kind of an art student) and the state of society and God knows what else. Long, rambling letters that received long, rambling, fascinating, intricate replies from a far-flung network of friends and acquaintances.

Blogging, at least my kind of blogging, feels a lot like letter-writing used to feel: long rambling missives going out to a far-flung network of friends and acquaintances (and complete strangers, who don’t feel like strangers) about religion and philosophy and Big Ideas and art and culture and yes those little things that happen to me day-to-day that really aren’t worth writing about but somehow seem to capture a drop of the essence of life.

The most fun I’ve yet had blogging was this past summer when my older sister and I drove from her house in Indiana here to eastern Massachusetts, and we both wrote daily in our blogs about the things that happened to us along the way, knowing that our family and friends would read what we’d written, and then reading each other’s blog and talking about what we had written while we were driving and then stopping somwhere and writing some more. Our blogs were not online journals. Not journals, because we wrote knowing that other people would read each post as we wrote it; not journals, but more like letters, the kind of letters that you would read yourself, and then lend to friends or read out loud to your family; that kind of letter.

So if anyone ever says to you, Letter-writing is a dying no a dead art — you can look wise and say, Ah that may be true and may be not. And you can think of blogs you might know that are like letters only better because you can immediately jot your thoughts and feelings right there on the blog-letter, and then go back to your own blog-letter and write a long, rambling, intensely personal and interesting reply that will be read and re-read and passed on to a widening circle of friends and acquaintances and complete strangers who suddenly are no strangers any longer; and so the conversation goes on.

3 thoughts on “Maybe it’s like this:

  1. Jean

    Dear Dan –
    Yes, I too felt that our trip this summer, all of it —
    the lousy hotel that was so hot, the car that was so hot, but okay not that hot,
    the moments of places and people we saw along the way — was made all that
    more memorable by the act of writing about it.
    And by writing about it in a kind of simultaneous and shared manner.
    Your blog and mine became a kind of virtual dialogue, but more than that.
    I suppose it comes from the UU upbringing: valuing the dignity and worth
    of every person. We seemed to look at the world from that perspective:
    curious, respectful, interested, and always open. I value that a great deal
    about any art form, and it seems to me that blogging is a new art form.
    There is a democratic nature to it that I value a great deal.
    You have to sort through things and reject the trendy, the vitriolic,
    the scatological….still: to write an online journal is to enter
    into a dialogue with the world around you.
    It is like letter writing, yes. How grand that we can do it and save the
    stamp, the paper, perhaps even the time.
    Although: I do miss the gap between a letter sent and a letter received.
    Anticipation has its value too.
    Anyway —
    You are a great brother.
    Keep writing.
    So will I.
    Love, Jean

  2. Bill Baar

    How are you preserving the literary legacy? How will people read the letters a
    hundred years from now?

    Blogs are a tickler system for me. I collect links of things I read and post them
    because someday I’ll want to recall that column.

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