Long post on your dash?
Not sure if want?
Here’s what the post is about:
Writing and inner life.
The public intimacy of blogging.
Protecting your emotions.
I gained about 40 new followers recently, owing to an influx of interest in old posts. I should have said hi; I was a little busy frumping over the hatemail I was also getting as those posts resurfaced as well.
This blog is probably 80% Sherlock, 10% feminism/queer activism, and 10% personal. Topics tend to come in waves. So there ya go.
Fellow bloggers—is the below something you can empathize with?
Managing this space has become… a little odd. I have almost a thousand followers, and they’re almost entirely the result of people who have followed me after I’ve made some lengthy, substantial text post. Sometimes I feel torn between the obligation to be an entertainer, the temptation to vent in public, and the inclination to just ignore that number and treat this blog as a private room that just happens to have a very big window.
I don’t remember who it was, but there was a blogger who did a live art project not too long ago, in which they built a completely transparent room in an art museum and lived in it for a month. He was a fairly famous blogger, and for that one month, the general public got to watch him drink coffee and scratch his sac through his morning robe while he blogged.
Art can sometimes accomplish a great deal by taking something simple and bringing it to its most absurd extreme. This was one of those cases, don’t you think?
Between the gifsets and the rants, some of the most common posts I see on my dash are posts like this:
"Ask me anything! Please! PLEASE! No matter how personal! My askbox is open!"
"Pick a number 1-100, I’ll tell you about it!"
"Do you need somebody to talk to? I’ll give you advice about anything!"
My mental image when I see these posts is of a great harpoon shooting out of people’s hearts, disappearing into the screen and trying to sink itself into something substantial in an endless void of digital darkness.
I have to admit, I anon-troll these types of posts quite often. I try to ask meaningful, raw things; I’m curious how these impulsive grabs for human contact react to an ask that really takes the invitation for intimacy to its extreme. Usually, the response is uncertainty, or simply, “I don’t know that about myself.”
What all this means to me is that everything I thought I knew about writing while I was growing up is slowly dissolving in the face of the modern world.
I used to associate writing with an inner life. An inner life is something that all the people on my dash and, surely, most of the people who follow me, are rich in. Not all people have deep and elaborate inner lives, and that’s fine—but whether it’s a green-house or a sprawling garden, the inner life is one of the most sacred and meaningful parts of being human. Isn’t it? It is inside this space, whatever the physical one, that writers write and artists art and thinkers think. It is the place we retreat to when we require privacy, reflection, comfort, or clarity.
In short, it is a very important space to tend!
Writing, for me, is a way to tend this space. By organizing my thoughts into words—in a way that requires patience and mental exercise—I can trim, water, turn soil, and plant new seeds. I’ve been doing this since I wrote in giant, squiggly letters than cramped in the right-most margin of the page; my mother has journals filled with 1 or 2 sentence entries from my first writing years, full of hilariously misshapen drawings.
The world of blogging, however, turns this process of introspection inside-out. Not only are the gates to the inner life thrown open, but—due to the feedback nature of blogging—others are invited to step in and tend. There is suddenly a third, intimate entity in our hearts: the first, of course, is ourselves; the second is our “IRL” loved ones; and the third is… well, the general public. Even though we section ourselves into “communities”, based on similar interests, we are essentially opening ourselves to a crowd when we post something personal on a blog.
Strange thing is, this interaction is still one-on-one: you and your audience. One you; one audience; one conversation.
It’s a relationship, and it’s a potentially dangerous one, because- well, you know why. People are bad enough when you get them in a crowd and the responsibility of behavior is diluted by sheer numbers. Add the anonymity of a computer screen to all that, and you’ve got the sword of Damocles just waiting to drop.
As I see it, there are only a few ways to deal with the negative backlash once the gates have opened.
1. You can choose to limit your investment in both the positive and negative feedback you receive on the Internet: you can accept that it’s an artificial environment and that your blog is just a hobby, and not a place to be truly vulnerable. In other words—not take it all too seriously.
2. You can take in the good, but beat back the bad with the same stonewalling fervor that it’s delivered. How many “About Me” sections have you read that contain passages like, “If you don’t like what I have to say, then fuck you”?
3. You can try to develop an incredibly thick hide, face the feedback head on, and try to use your judgment to sift out feedback that’s “worth” taking in from that which isn’t—positive or negative.
Choice number one isn’t that popular because many people are looking for a certain intensity of emotional stimulation and gratification from their blogging communities. Option number two is incrediblypopular, but leads to frustratingly disingenuous dialogue, not to mention certain unflattering personality traits. And option number three, well- whoosh! Better drink your Ovaltine.
If I were to dish out advice, I would probably say to keep a balance between 1 and 3: don’t take the whole blogging thing too seriously, but when you doput yourself out there, make sure you have the energy and the perspective to deal with the response. (Including if that response is—well—nothing.)
However, when I look at a lot of the teenagers who are using the blogging platform (and some adults, but mostly you teen folk), I wonder if dishing out advice like this is akin to the useless advice I used to get from my own parents: “Oh, you can’t form real connections on the Internet. Don’t take anyone you meet there seriously; you’re just chatting with a screen.”
Obviously, that’s not true. Heck, the reason I live in Chicago is because I moved here to be close to my best friend of 14 years. 10 of those years were long-distance—and we knew each other for 5 years before the first time we ever met. Two of my long-term romantic relationships started online. (One of them is still a friend, and is flying up to visit again this May.) There are people on the other side of the screen.
Difference is, when I was a teenager, blogging wasn’t a thing. Communities revolved around chat-rooms and forums: shared spaces. Blog sites, on the other hand, are a network of personal spaces. People’s blogs are like their digital houses; inviting someone inside is no small thing. And you’re really not inviting people in one at a time: you’re inviting in huge tour-groups.
There’s a whole ‘nother set of dynamics at play there, and I suspect that when I say, “Don’t get too emotionally invested in blogging,” it’s like my mother telling me not to get too emotionally invested in those faceless chat-room SNs.
Another ingredient that’s surely at play here?
When I was 15, posting your picture on the Internet was like personally mailing a pedophile your address, phone number, and blood-type. Because, you know, predators use special face-recognition technology to match your features to an extensive database of faces that lists people’s addresses.
When I was 15, revealing what city you lived in was like covering yourself with honey and walking naked into a bee-hive. (Granted, that’s still not a great idea if you live in a small town—especially if you’re a “target” population for stalkers, eg. underage—but common sense tells me I’m probably OK revealing that I’m one person in a population of four million.)
Many people were slow to hop onto the Facebook bandwagon because the idea of doing anything on the Internet with your real name was mind-boggling to most people.
Now-a-days, the Internet is a casual extension of many people’s, er, Earth-bound presence. What you worry about these days is how to consolidate your privacy with your content: if you post erotica, do you really want to post it under your real name, for example? What might an employer find if they Google you?
All this adds more “realness” to online connections. I’m looking at your face: it’s right there next to your blog post. I know where you live, I might even know what university you go to, and I know real-life things like what you do for a living or who you’re in a relationship with.
Thing is, I probably also know what you masturbate to, the rawest depths of your gender struggles, what you think about when you’re depressed, and what you’re too afraid to tell your family. Hey, what else is personal blog for, if not to reblog some porn and vent about sad stuffs?
In what other context, except blogging, do these two types of familiarity coexist in an acquaintanceship (or even purely voyeuristic) setting? Celebritism?
All this creates an odd mixture of the personal and impersonal. The inner life and the social life. The stream-of-consciousness and the guarded.
I very much wonder how teenagers who are growing up with blogs, in blogging communities, are going to feel about the experience ten years from now—twenty. Mostly, I’m curious how you feel about it now.
Does your blog influence the way you see yourself?
What’s the balance between your blogging social life and your IRL social life?
Within that, do you have close friends IRL to confide in, or is the Internet your primary “confidant”?
How emotionally invested are you in your blog and the feedback it generates?
How do you deal with hate/poopheads?
How do you see your blog growing with you as you age? Do you think you’ll delete when the content feels like it outdates you, or keep the memory?
If you’re one of the people who does not emotionally invest in your blog space, what’s your take on all this?
I wonder what would happen if the Internet focused its untapped infernos of rage on commentary that is actually elitist, harmful, and topical.
Instead of, you know, writing a three-page response to a self-deprecating, comedic essay, and then wondering out loud how any twat could have taken the time to write it in the first place.
Like- it’s so frustrating because I know there is NOTHING I can say that will make these irrationally angry people take off their “people are out to oppress me where-ever I turn” goggles for half a second.
I mean, don’t we have enough problems with the fact that people really are out to oppress us left and right—if we happen to be queer, female-bodied, trans, not white, not sexual, etc.—without baring our teeth at each other?
It honestly makes me want to quit Tumblr every time this post makes its rounds and I get the inevitable reblog-commentary and inbox-assault of dirty, cruel, vulgar attacks. How in the hell am I the oppressive one when you’re the one who throws out words like “shit-head” and “douchecanoe” without a second thought?
Make a joke about how Sherlock is always stocked up on lube just in case the opportunity to seduce his completely straight flat-mate arises? Get called sex-negative, receive long lectures about the other uses of lube, am told that I’m shaming Sherlock for being a sexual human being, get particularly cussed out by a person who uses lube to shave her legs, and who the fuck do I think I am anyway?
Make a joke about how people in fics always use condoms for intercourse, but always seem to skip them for oral sex? Receive long sex-ed talks about the practical and medical benefits of using condoms during anal sex, am accused of spreading misinformation, am again accused of being sex-negative, and who the fuck is this ignorant twat who thinks she has a right to write these things anyway?
Seriously, why the fuck do I want to be a writer. No wonder Moffat’s such a troll; my essay only has around 5000 notes, while his work has hundreds of thousands (or more). I think I would throw my arms up at that point, too. My sense of responsibility toward coddling people’s feelings by dissecting my work line-for-line and explaining where the misunderstandings are happening (which I did at first) is slowly being replaced the less-than-virtuous urge to just bark, “Go have a cream tea on me and get a sense of humor while you’re at it.”
*Head-desk* I don’t want to become a mean person just so I can do what I love.
Can you imagine?
"You may be tempted to jump straight into an action sequence. Don’t do that. It’s not your style. As soon as the gong sounds, run deep into the forest of your mind and start with some toned down character exposition.
Just stick to your tense, and you’ll be fine. God knows persistence is the only thing you’ve got going for you.
And remember: don’t die.”
Years and years of writing on the internet has ruined me. Writing that deviates from present tense, first-person stream-of-consciousness seems like an abstraction. Even that is an abstraction, because who maintains a strictly verbal account of their experiences inside their heads? I do far more than what’s sane because I conceptualize my life through the written word; a part of me is always in touch with my Invisible Audience. But even I spend hours and hours lost in raw imagery; think with emotion; contemplate sound through its shape; finish my own internal sentences with unspoken references to stored and cataloged truths.
With my Friend, that’s how I write. We stay forever in the present tense, but weave in and out of first person, third person (for those wordless thoughts), and even disembodied person, as necessary to communicate the stream of a character’s experiences.
Sloppy. Chaotic. Emotional short-hand.
Doesn’t matter, because it’s all for us.
It inevitably makes the transition into “real” writing such a jolt, though. When we’ve had a few good sessions, and the electric dance of my creative center has fallen into those familiar old grooves. Opening a new word document and continuing my third-person story feels like a bit of a joke; a private joke that I share with the audience.
We watch the characters dance through a veil and we don’t really know what’s going on. We just pretend to.
One thing that really struck me while I was reading The Hunger Games was the cleanness of the first person present tense. There was none of the fray around the edges that active thoughts tend to have. I viewed it, therefore, as my Invisible Audience narrative; the stream-of-consciousness that is compressed into words as it goes along. Only hers never stops. Ever.
I was comfortable with that level of abstract.
Then, in the second book, she makes some blatant allusion to the fact that these words are presented after the fact. I think it was something she asked herself: would I have done this differently, had I known?
The structure that holds the story in my head collapses, and I’m forced to rebuild it in an instant, mid-action.
Is that the only realistic voice, in the end? The one that happens after-the-fact; the one that is blatantly put to paper? It cannot be one that ends in mid-flight. It must end with the character taking the time to write their story down. It cannot all have occurred in their heads; the experiences must be second-hand.
To accept this robs the author of so much.
We are forced to know, from the beginning, that the character will find themselves with the comfortable luxuries of time, clarity, and paper at the end of the story, no matter how hopeless it seems at times. We are forced to accept that we are not really there, peeking over the character’s shoulders or seeing through their eyes: everything they write is colored by their own hindsight.
We are forced to know that certain things are probably omitted, consciously. That certain things are highlighted, or exaggerated, for narrative effect, because the protagonist knows how it all turns out, and they have an agenda, even if it is an unconscious one. We are all the most biased authors of our own experiences.
This isn’t really tending anywhere, except to put my thoughts on paper and to procrastinate my spring cleaning a little longer. I have to do floors next. Ugh.
She experiences a vague and fatiguing sensation of defeat when her eyes sweep across the soap-stained floors. She doesn’t know what possessed her to blow bubbles indoors.
What people imagine writers do:
Well now, I’ll just go ahead and freeflow this awesome chapter! No worries, I did all sorts of fascinating research about the [XYZ Society]. All the relevant details are stored here in my mind, and if I need to look something up, I’ll consult one of my many leatherbound volumes on history and philosophy.
"…and before he’s finished the thought, the door swings-" Wait, the door swings what? Now-a-days there’s fire codes and ordinances that dictate whether a door swings in or out. Even that varies by district. Not that they were nearly as bureaucratic back then—not so much with the consumer protection—but surely they had their own practical habits. Damn. Would the door swing in or out? I’ll just put “[in/out]” for now and spend an hour on Google later.
Perhaps we need one another’s.
After all, if Claire Clairmon, Lord Byron, and Mary Shelly hadn’t decided to gallivant about Switzerland together like the flange of hippies that they were (“They summered together,” my high school English teacher deadpanned), then we might never have had Frankenstein. If Oscar Wilde and Arthur Conan Doyle hadn’t dined together in 1889, we might never have had The Picture of Dorian Gray or The Sign of Four. How many of Diana Wynne Jones’* ideas were inspired by C. S. Lewis or J. R. R. Tolkein’s lectures?
The point is, we lot are and have always been intertwined. We’re a family of black sheep, full of introverts and philosophers and pseudo-plagiarizers. We habitually think decades, sometimes centuries, ahead (or behind) of our time. We are dangerous because we are students of the human condition, to a far more frightening and obsessive degree than any career psychologist. (And, if I may say so, far more often dead on.)
Here, on this website, there’s a cult of us who love to write fan fiction. Sherlock Holmes fan fiction.
Ivyblossom encapsulates my thoughts on fan fiction writing completely. It’s an organic writer’s community that doesn’t spend its time groaning at “inferior” talent, nor hissing at superior skill. Everyone is writing from a place of love for the subject-matter, and we’re not afraid to shamelessly reference each other or even to re-try or expound upon ideas started by others. In fact, it reminds me very much of Pentecostals who vomit books and musical albums and t-shirts about God, and are only far too happy to drown in their own crack. (Er, odd as that sounds.)
Are you still with me? Please keep reading, because I’m about to ask you a big ol’ favor here at the end.
It’s astounding how broadly we can explore the core of a character simply by incarnating them again and again. I’ve read fan fiction in which Sherlock Holmes is a Slytherin, a Hollywood movie star, a Halsted prowler, a woman, and any number of other things, and yet I rarely ever feel as if I’m reading about some random character who just happens to have Sherlock’s face pasted on them (though that is a danger). The authors take the kernel of a personality and transpose it onto different situations to feel out how it will react, or how it may have come to be itself in that universe.
I feel like there are many sort of… ephemeral Sherlocks (and Johns and Mycrofts and so on) floating around out there, cooperatively created as authors bounce off each other and explore different aspects of this subject. Over here, a Sherlock who drugs himself to escape a dark past; over there, a Sherlock who drugs himself to escape his ordinary existence. It’s all valid, it’s all interesting-
It’s all fine.
So! The favor. You’ve probably guessed it already. I have insane, painful amounts of writer’s block. There are so many possibilities to explore in the Sherlock Holmes universe that I’m stuck, petrified, in the middle. I need what most writers have needed throughout history: I need structure, I need community, and I need
mischief fun. Let’s shack up in a metaphorical Villa Diodati, what do you say?
Let’s challenge each other to explore different topics or ideas; write short drabbles and review and discuss. It’ll give us a chance to be topical (immensely good for one’s focus), to feel read (almost essential for one’s ego), to read interesting things (we all love Sherlock), and to have mad amounts of fun (“Ohh, I would have never thought of doing it that way! Say, what if you threw in some jam in chapter one?”).
Who wants in?
*She passed away earlier this year. She was brilliant, and if you haven’t read any of her work, what are you waiting for? Howl’s Moving Castle is fantastic.
"My mother’s eyes were a sparkling shade of pale green, but unfortunately we do not select in this life whom we would prefer to resemble."
This is a line from a Canon!Holmes fic.
It is not from some paragraph of explanation about Holmes’ upbringing or home-life. It is merely a stray thought, casually tossed in during a playful, shwatsonlocky little interlude about the colour of Holmes’ eyes.
And yet it says everything.
It speaks volumes upon volumes upon volumes about Holmes’ past, his relationship with both his parents, his attitude about it now, the evolutions he has gone through since then… Brilliant.
It’s simply brilliant.
I’m having one of those nights where I’m sitting here, thinking, “I will never write anything even a fraction as poignant as that. I can weave turns of phrase till I turn blue in the face and I will never hit home with that type of expert aim. That- seeming effortlessness, in a single line buried among hundreds, is true artistry. The master’s touch in every thread of the weave, no matter where you hold the glass.”
You can read her work here.