January 14, 2014

To live freely in writing.

That's my longtime motto here on the blog. (Not that I have some other motto that I use somewhere else, though I do, off-blog, frequently deploy my aphorism "Better than nothing is a high standard.")

Writing that last post, marking the 10-year anniversary of this blog, I worked in the old motto. It's the only link in that post [or was, until I added a link to this post], and it goes to a normblog profile of me from November 2004, where the first question is "Why do you blog?" and my answer was what was already my motto: "To live freely in writing." Scrolling down over there, I also see: "What is your favourite proverb? > I'm from the 60s, so: 'Do your own thing.'" My own thing is to live freely in writing.

But I started looking for other occurrences of "to live freely in writing." For a long time — I can't remember when or how long — I kept the motto in the blog banner under my name. That was before that space became the place to stow links to other important stuff, not that anything's more important to me.

Anyway, here's what I found in my search for other occurrences of the motto (which I've boldfaced):

1. November 3, 2004, signing off a guest-blogger stint at Instapundit:
I hope some of you will follow me over to my usual place. I started my blog back in January of this year.... When I started my blog I didn't have a particular topic in mind. I just wanted to express myself. I wanted to live freely in writing. My earliest posts are about high and low culture and life in Madison, Wisconsin. My first post about the presidential campaign was a very silly little thing about Wesley Clark's body fat, not really even political at all. But as the weeks wore on, I got drawn into the fray, and I found my ways to talk about politics, a subject I've normally been content to leave to others. Using my blog to talk about politics, I was able also to see how not talking about politics had been, for me, a way to get along in the hothouse environment that is Madison, Wisconsin. Even though I didn't mean to use my blog to talk about politics, I end this political season exposed on line as a person with political positions that do not fit in my real world environment....
2. June 2006: "Why a Narrowly Defined Legal Scholarship Blog is Not What I Want: An Argument in Pseudo-Blog Form."
I love the simple, time-stamped structure of the blog, with each new item posted at the top. How seductive! How like life itself. In life, you can’t skip backwards and forwards in time. You can only live in the present. A blog is like living — living in writing. What fun!

So I will indulge this now-overwhelming preference of mine to live freely in writing. (My blog readers know that’s my motto, my reason for blogging.)......

I liked getting that encouragement, and I’m not really saying every lawprof blogger should want the twenty/eighty mix that I’ve fallen into as I’ve gone along my way living freely in writing, responding to whatever whispers “bloggable” to me. I’m only selling the beautiful power of the blog and saying — give yourself a chance to write whatever it is you would write if you didn’t make a plan and didn’t stultify yourself with aims and limitations.
3. Audible Althouse #25, a podcast, no longer available (or available somewhere that I'm not seeing), from December 2005. But the description can be seen here:
Does the theme song still fit if I only podcast once a week? Do I deserve a "best law blog" award? Should Congress impose cameras on the Supreme Court? Can the Court write crisper opinions? Can bloggers write crisper posts? Should virgins wear rings that tell the world they are virgins? Did the girl who thought my brother's friend was Bruce Springsteen have a more intense experience than I had sitting two feet away from John Lennon and Yoko Ono? What can we know about ourselves from the things we keep secret and the thing we fail to do? And what do I mean when I say to live freely in writing? 45 minutes.
4. A post from July 2008, quoting Jim Lindgren, who said: "I share Ann's affection for bloggers who are trying to observe and understand what they are writing about..." (in contrast to "always writing op-eds with a thesis they are trying to prove"). But, he concluded: "Unfortunately, I find that many blog readers prefer strongly thesis-driven posts, which they can either echo or attack point by point." I said:
Many... perhaps. But the best blog readers — and radio listeners — are the ones who want to experience thinking in real time.

Jim seems to be complimenting and critiquing me simultaneously. But I detect some wistfulness, some request for permission to cast aside those strongly thesis-driven poststo live freely in writing.
I see Meade — whom I had not yet met in person — in the comments, responding to my "the best blog readers..." and saying, "On behalf of most of your readers... why thank you!" Later, I tell one commenter that I love him, but it's not Meade, my future husband. It's Bissage — who disappeared in late 2009 ("counting oranges" refers to this). He said:
I’m not a good enough thinker or writer to explain my affection for Althouse and so many of her commenters.

So what I just typed out will have to suffice.

But for sure I can say this much: the “thinking in real time” aspect is just part of it.

Thank you for everything.
I said:
Good reading also involves choosing what to read. And when you read on line, you're navigating in a sea of choices. All I'm saying is that those who come to Althouse are doing an excellent job.

And I love you too, Bissage.
5. A February 2007 post titled "Another lefty into the vortex," reacts to some blogger who said he writes because he has "a burning passion to say something to the world" and — as I put it — "can only imagine that I must be an idiot to write and let politics be one of my subjects if I don't burn with a political mission." I linked back to the old normblog profile: "Why do you blog? > To live freely in writing" — and added: "Words to perplex a vortex victim."

6. A post from September 2012 embellishes the motto: "Live freely in writing... or die."

7. A post from October 2008: "One more round of the old question: Why aren't there more female lawprof bloggers?" (Note that what I was calling an "old question" 6 years ago is something I was calling a really old question 2 days ago here.) In the 2008 post, I was reacting to a female lawprof blogger who was pressuring lawprof bloggers to do more to boost female bloggers:
[Mary] Dudziak tells bloggers that they ought to read, blogroll, and link to women bloggers more. You know, it's not that easy to link to blogs. Links need to be worth following, and you won't be a successful linker if you disappoint your readers by sending them to posts that aren't interesting enough. I don't want to link to something that is going to make readers think I'm trying to help women (especially if it looks like I'm trying to help those most privileged of women, women law professors). I'm not blogging to benefit other bloggers. I'm blogging to benefit readers.

AND: Glenn Reynolds links to this post and seems to disagree with my line "I'm not blogging to benefit other bloggers. I'm blogging to benefit readers."
Hmm. I'm more with SayUncle: "I do this to amuse me, not you."
Well, I agree with that too. I'm definitely in it for the personal satisfaction, and perhaps I flatter myself to think that by doing what pleases me, I will benefit you. But I do think that. I do think that blogging is about living freely in writing, in real time, in front of the world.

Glenn has a theory:
In that spirit, here's my own hypothesis: Men are genetically programmed to try to stand out through action, in the hopes of attracting women. It's true, of course that blogging is a relatively ineffective way of doing that — but so are many other ways this urge manifests itself, like extreme Star Trek fandom. The point is the genetically programmed urge, which isn't programmed into women in the same manner. Is this true? Beats me, but it's amusing.
This theory suggests that it's much harder for women to achieve great things. We don't have the ulterior motive. We're only doing something because we think it's worth doing for its own sake. But, then again, it may be a different kind of advantage, to have no ulterior motives.
Now, that post, written about 3 months before I first met Meade (and 10 months before I married him), has some great material about not marrying:
I think it is much harder for women to say to the men and children in their house that this is time I demand for myself and then to sit there staring at a screen and clicking on a keyboard. It looks so cold, this melding of human being and machine.

I think wives get annoyed at husbands who spend too much time staring at the computer. But men who want to do it claim that time for themselves. Women, I think, worry more about looking so self-involved and unconnected to the real, fleshly human beings in the house. They are more vulnerable to guilt and guilt-tripping that they are not loving enough.

I'm no expert on marriage, though I was married long ago, but I can imagine what a husband would say if he was witnessing my writing habits. I picture him telling me it's absurd to live like this. It's unhealthy. It's insane.

Wait. That's why I'm not married. Let me try again.

I picture a wonderfully delightful man who is always luring me away from the keyboard with sex, food, tickets to movies and music shows, travel plans, and ... whatever... long walks in the damned rain. Without Bad Husband or Good Husband in the house telling me/showing me what I should be doing with my time, it's easier for me to choose to do something I want and love to do.
Meade does not appear in the comments there. He was already working on a plan, as revealed here, 3 months earlier, quoting something I'd said in a vlog ("...I've often thought I should just charitably marry someone... I'd just marry them to be nice..."):
Gee, I'm single now, happily single, and thought I'd just remain that way.

But considering all the benefits, I guess I'd really be a fool not to take a close look if Althouse were to, just out of niceness, propose to pity-marry me.

What could I offer in return? Let's see - I could prune those redbuds, take out the garbage, trap squirrels.
Later, he says:
I could fetch her newspaper, scrape snow and ice off her car, shovel the front walk. Draw her bath. Pick her up at the airport. Rinse and dry her wine glasses. Form a circle-of -safety to protect her from Hillary Clinton-type madwomen who randomly come up to innocent people on urban sidewalks and punch them in the back. I make excellent salads, grill superb steaks and vegetables. Play a piano sonata. Pick up dry cleaning. Wait patiently while she shops for shoes.
So he'd already begun the itemization of things he could do: prune those redbuds, take out the garbage, trap squirrels. I was adopting his format when I listed: "sex, food, tickets to movies and music shows, travel plans, and ... whatever... long walks in the damned rain." Unbeknownst to me, we were coming to terms on a deal. (Men are genetically programmed to try to stand out through action....)

And, in the end, Good Husband was able to lure me away from the keyboard and let me continue the daily mad freedom of living in writing.


Left Bank of the Charles said...

To freely live in writing would have been a bolder motto, but might have netted you a Trekkie.

traditionalguy said...

Sharing your charming written thoughts has been a real pleasure. Thanks for the ten years.

Henry said...

Congratulations! Thanks for your postings. I've enjoyed your writings for long enough now that I now have a mental tag for "that sounds like an Althouse post." This is most often triggered by the New York Times where our reading overlaps (can you live freely in reading? I think so). Amidst the pablum ipsum lorem I will spot that one squib that stands out in baroque interest -- or awfulness -- and mark it in my mind. Occasionally I'm right and it is an Althouse post.

As for this post in particular, thanks for giving me a smile on a gray day in Boston. You and Meade get the last laugh.

SomeoneHasToSayIt said...

Congratulations. Quite an accomplishment and, though you likely didn't set out with this expectation, your blog is one of the most enjoyable on the whole internet, and it truly enriches the public square. Thanks for creating it, and keeping it going all these years.

Amexpat said...

Congratulations and thanks! I've been reading your blog more or less regularly since the Fall of 2004. Looking forward to your 2020 vision.

Shouting Thomas said...

Congratulations, Althouse!

Deirdre Mundy said...

Good grief, has Bissage been gone that long?? Have I been reading this blog that long? Shoot... I guess I have, actually, since I started reading.... probably 9 years ago (when we got high speed internet at home and I needed something to do while nursing... 10 years ago was the year we experimented with no internet... )

Good grief... time really did fly by...

Richard Dolan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Richard Dolan said...

"To live freely in writing."

By writing down the thoughts, following them wherever they may lead, just letting it flow and go. It's the image of the Wanderer, who knows no bounds and respects no boundaries (Ok, maybe a few), exploring an interior space with no pre-set destination in mind. Interesting how the image starts with the idea of 'leaving' some familiar place, and ends up with the idea of arriving, in her case at Meadhouse.

It's a bit different from familiar images of the Wanderer -- Wotan and Odysseus come to mind. They would be delighted to know that others, coming long after them, are following the same path but in their own unique ways in a blogland they could hardly have imaagined.

Thanks for the 10 years.

Stephen A. Meigs said...

"Live freely in writing... or die"

If you are not living, blogger will make your writing in fact die if you are not careful. Google will delete your account (and your blogger postings, I believe) if you or others you have deputized haven't logged in during the (default) past 9 months. One can change that in account settings by activating Inactive Account manager, but the maximum setting in that menu is 18 months. I plan to migrate or copy my blogger blog to another site that understands some people want their writings to be available long after death.

Lucien said...

Et tu Althouse: "marking the 10-year anniversary of this blog"?

Don't you give your readers credit for knowing that "tenth anniversary" means?

Mark the occasion by going out to a Mexican restaurant and ordering some "pollo chicken".

Ann Althouse said...

@Stephen A. Meigs Thanks. Seems like the key to keeping the blog alive then is to have someone else on the list of bloggers who can post now and then and who will themselves pass it on. But that can't go on indefinitely, and somebody might screw it up.

My blog is too large to download. I learned that a while back. It might be downloadable without the comments, but if that's done, there still needs to be somewhere else that doesn't go away, somewhere that would need to be paid for, so that would be trouble to keep up.

Ann Althouse said...

Thanks, Lucien. I hope when you have a birthday you don't call it your birthday but the anniversary of your birth.

Lucien said...

Thanks Ann, but why should I use four words for birthday instead of one?

My comment was not about choosing one equivalent phrase over another, but about inserting a redundant word to explain the word that comes after it in a way that suggests a "dumbing down" of discourse.

Stephen A. Meigs said...

@Althouse I'm not sure what exactly would work. The safest thing would appear to be to ask young trusted family to log into your Google account every now and then after your death. The trusted contacts you list in inactive account manager I believe would just be allowed to download the data that you beforehand specified for them to receive after inactivity, which data they probably wouldn't be able to download any more than you can. If other people are allowed to edit your blog but your blog is in your account, Would the blog still get deleted if no one logs into your account? I don't know. The documentation is poor, and getting worse now that Google is trying to integrate everything in the effort to replace Facebook with Google+.

It seems a very poor business decision on Google's part. It's probably the people with interesting, timeless things to say who most mind their accounts getting deleted after their decease, and if those people choose other blogging platforms, blogger will get a reputation as a place suitable only for simpletons, rather like the reputation AOL got before its precipitous decline.

SomeoneHasToSayIt said...

This should annoy Lucien, then.

"At the end of 7 innings, the game is all tied up at 2 to 2."