This past weekend I “got away from it all” at Green Lakes (well, that was the plan anyway) and communed with nature a bit. It’s very weird how people seek out the wild sometimes in a bid to create order in their lives. In my case, I was thinking hard about practical steps to take to achieve a better balance in my writing life, which is not something you can really ponder properly by writing about it.
Poynter Online is a site I occasionally read for its wealth of articles about writing (and occasionally blogging). I don’t have the time to peruse it as often as I would like. This is an older article I stumbled upon which caught my eye just because of the problem the author was struggling with and how he was able to pick up a phone and call his editor for guidance. Writers with editors (those who expect certain professional standards, and are willing to help you meet those standards) really should get down on their knees each day and thank the writing gods. Some writers say they get into blogging because (like this writer) they enjoy not having an editor. To me this is, on one hand, understandable; but also, perhaps it’s like venturing into the woods because one admires the simple lives of forest creatures, not considering that those lives are often brutish and short.
Abandoned blogs are everywhere, like so many unweeded gardens, and I wonder what happened to those creatures — or at least, what happened to their writing lives. Some of the blogs I used to enjoy reading, about Syracuse and Upstate New York, have gone silent. Some have been overrun by spam. I don’t think they’re “dead” so much as just not being attended to (because people have busy lives and sometimes can’t commit to writing). I can definitely relate, having left off painting right around the time I started getting serious about blogging (so far as I am) — there are only so many hours in the day. Anyhow, I hope someday some of these bloggers will return.
To extend the idea further, though, I wonder if maybe there’s too much of an emphasis on attracting “creative people” to weedy places like Syracuse, and not enough emphasis on teaching commitment and discipline. Maybe commitment can’t be taught, maybe it has to be inspired; but I think discipline can be modeled. For some reason, our leaders just aren’t modeling it for our citizens. (Sean Kirst has been writing on this theme lately, though from a different angle than the way it has occurred to me — but to be honest, I often see this same concern running beneath other things I read on various blogs, particularly when it comes to how our leaders just aren’t showing self-discipline as officers of democracy.) What’s worse is that there is a whole generation of Syracusans who perhaps have even less guidance on how to be Syracusans, than my generation did. No wonder they drift away, or have civic priorities out of balance if they stay.
It’s been truly said that Syracuse has already got much of what it needs to get by, but that it’s just not being utilized the right way. The response to this observation almost always is the development of a broad scheme. But the schemes’ component parts never get attended to. No one is tending to anything, no one is managing, and it goes without saying that no one is planning ahead. It’s tempting to simply call for “law and order,” but that’s not really the challenge, as I see it. Syracuse has no editor; one is probably not coming over the hill, so maybe those who care about Syracuse have to tame its own tangle at the edge of a wilderness always poised to take over… to self-edit.
Which is a hard life — ask the forest — but has its rewards as well.