About 13 years ago, shortly after I moved to Alaska, I got a call from George Bryson, a local newspaper editor who was having trouble reaching me. I must have been working on my first or second article for “We Alaskans,” that wonderful and now-defunct Sunday magazine of the Anchorage Daily News, a place where even a recent transplant was granted the luxury of writing 4000 or 5000 words on a journalistic subject of her interest.
Anyway, George called, probably about an edit, and said he was concerned he hadn’t been able to reach my machine.
“I didn’t move to Alaska to have an answering machine,” I said. Long pause.
“That’s cute. Anyway…”
Turns out, Alaskan journalists needed machines, and later email, and all that potentially helpful but also extremely distracting technology, even while reporting about a world where bush pilots, dog teams, and off-the-grid homesteads continue to exist.
I write less journalism now, but even as a fiction writer, I have struggled with my desire to be away from it all (as I tried to be last summer, spending time in the Tongass National Forest of Southeast Alaska) with my desire to get my work out into the world (as I needed to do, last summer, in the weeks leading up to my first novel’s publication). Last year, the issue was staying in touch with potential interviewers by cell phone, in a place where cell phones don’t always work, while still trying to be in the woods. This year, the issue is my decision to enter the blogosphere.
I’m ambivalent. I could say, “I didn’t move to Alaska in order to become a blogger.” And I can name many of my favorite writers (many of them conveniently dead) who didn’t blog. E. M. Forster and Virginia Woolf come to mind.
But while they didn’t spend a few hours each day online, they did spend an equal amount of time sending letters to each other (sometimes twice a day!) and socializing in writerly salons. The correspondence, in particular, must have seemed like an insistent distraction. (“Oh no, another letter from Forster. I suppose he will be telling me every detail of his trip to Egypt, and I suppose I’d better tell him about the latest local gossip or he’ll think I’m being a snob.”) Those great lions of literature wasted time, too. Or rather, they spent time, because there are things that matter in addition to writing: creating community, for one thing.
This blog, I hope, will be an experiment in fostering another little piece of community, with an Alaskan flavor. I hope people who visit will discover new books by my fellow Alaskans, and I hope that I can share what I learn about this technological experiment without letting it take over my own writing life. (I’ll certainly let you know.)
I am logging the hours I spend doing this as I’ve logged some other “free time” pursuits this year, as part of my own investigation into how I, and my fellow Americans, spend our leisure hours. But I’ll save that bit of explanation for another post — must learn to write short, as I didn’t learn back in the glory days of the 1990s.
Thanks and please become a part of this. Guest bloggers, frequent commenters, and loyal visitors are appreciated. You’ll find my email address under “View Profile” but in case you’re also learning your way around blogs, I’ll make note of it here: email@example.com