Thursday, June 25, 2015

Un-Settling

My last post opened with a rather shamefaced apologia for writing yet again about cycling and wildflowers. "Defaulting to the easiest topics", I called it, while bemoaning the general crowdedness of life that kept me from writing "something more". I felt, you see, that I was somehow settling for second-best by posting so often about things I enjoy.

But since then I've been asking myself: why shouldn't I write repeatedly about the things that give me joy? Why should a post seem inferior or less thoughtful because the subject matter is not new? Does quality require novelty?

In this age of perpetual distraction, some might answer "yes". But I tend to disagree. Many of my favourite authors write what is essentially the same book again and again, and I enjoy them for their very reliability. The same holds true for many blogs that I follow.

To take it a step further: do we blog for ourselves, or for others? I suspect that for most of us, it's both. If for ourselves, what could be more natural than to focus on what we love? If for others, then again - what could be more natural than wanting to share the funny, the beautiful, the interesting, with our friends? If that which we find lovely or amusing tends to follow a certain pattern, our friends are aware of it, and like us in spite of it (or perhaps because of it).

In Dorothy L. Sayers's Gaudy Night, the protagonist Harriet Vane is a writer grappling with conflicting desires. Emotionally scarred, precariously self-reliant, she finds herself drawn towards a new love, but distrusts her own motives. Desperately wanting to be sincere to herself, to her work, and to the man in question, fearful of making a wrong decision, she asks an acquaintance: "How is one to know which things are really of overmastering importance?"

"We can only know that," says the acquaintance, "when they have overmastered us."

Harriet reflects on this. Was there anything at all that had stood firm in the midst of her indecisions? Well, yes; she had stuck to her work.... She had written what she felt herself called upon to write; and, though she was beginning to feel that she might perhaps do this thing better, she had no doubt that the thing itself was the right thing for her. It had overmastered her without her knowledge or notice, and that was the proof of its mastery.

When I started this blog I had no idea that along the way (and due in part to the kind influence of blogging friends) I would re-kindle an old love for cycling, or discover in myself an absorbing fascination with the natural world in general, and wildflowers in particular. But it has happened. And now, as long as ever I am able to get out-of-doors, to walk on two feet or ride on two wheels, I will be watching sky and earth, noticing trees and flowers, wanting to record their beauty and learn their various names. As long as I have a camera and access to a computer, I will be wanting to share these delights with my friends (that means you). To quote Miss Sayers, these things have overmastered me without my knowledge or notice - and that is the proof of their mastery.

So I'm beginning to realise that when life gets crowded, and I find myself posting largely about rides and flowers (or in cooler weather, walks and trees) - and spending precious time researching those flowers or trees in order to get their names right - it is not, as I feared, a settling for second-best, or a falling-back on the safe and predictable.

Instead it's a sifting, a getting down to essentials. It's a laying aside of the things I'd like to write about (if time allowed) in favour of the things I must write about (whether I have the time or not). It is writing what I feel myself called upon to write.

More than once I've said to a blogging friend, "It's your blog - write what you want!" Seems I need to learn to take my own advice. The recipes and patterns will keep, after all. Today it's the flowers that matter.



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Do you blog, or post photos on Instagram or Facebook? Do you strive for variety, or can you happily post whatever you want, whenever you want?

Do tell. :)

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