Charlie's Blog: Black Dog


Black Dog

Let me tell you 'bout this poor old dog because he was a retriever in his early days, and the only thing he could ever find in his late days was his old lady who lived two houses away from where we were recording. And he used to go see the old lady quite regularly, but after he'd "boogied" and everything else he couldn't get back. And we used to carry him back.

The story goes that Led Zeppelin named the song "Black Dog" after a nameless retriever wandering around the studio at Headley Grange. I always liked the story because it was a nifty answer to a problem that all creators face which is giving a name or title to their work. Even God subcontracted out the naming of the animals to Adam. Lately, I have been ambivalent about blog post titles, so I have been naming them after Led Zeppelin songs. You can blame it all on that black dog.

My ambivalence lately has been the result of the simple fact that I write a blog that no one reads. I could blame this on short attention spans or on the simple fact that I am just one bubble in this vast ocean of information. Or, maybe I am no good as a writer. The problem with that last bit is that people have told me that I was a good writer my whole life. Then, when I tell them about the problem of being unread, they always tell me to promote myself more.

Self-promotion works to the extent that you might reach more people, but they won't stay with you unless there is some sort of substance to what you write. But if you post your cat doing some neat cute thing on YouTube, you might get a million hits in a weekend. This is the internet equivalent of winning the lottery. What's my point? Shakespeare had to compete with the bearbaiting up the street, and I compete with cat videos. I have to laugh at the absurdity.

This brings me to a question. Why do I write? I want to believe that I am writing for God, for the good of society, and for fellow human beings. But since no one actually reads what I write, I am back to the conclusion I reached over a decade ago when I decided to start blogging and writing fiction again. I write for me.

I feel a certain guilt over admitting that now. I did not feel that guilt so long ago when I was an atheist/libertarian/jerk devoted to his own goals and amusements. But no one feels guilt over working out at the gym which is an activity spent on the self. So, if I write for myself, does it make me a better person? The answer is yes.

Writing helps me organize my thoughts and to reflect. I wouldn't read or know nearly as much as I do if I did not write. Recently, I have tried to stop writing. I have tried and failed. I keep coming back to it. I write because I need to do it. I need it like prayer, eating, sleeping, and exercise. I want to reduce writing to something like smoking cigarettes or drinking too much. Is it my habit? Is it my hobby?

Writing is definitely a habit but so is brushing my teeth. It is also a hobby because it has never paid the bills and never will. This only leaves the fundamental questions. Is it a good habit? Is it a good hobby? I have been inclined to say no simply because it eats time. It benefits no one and earns no money. But it does benefit me. It sharpens my mind. It elevates my life above being just a producer and consumer of goods and services.

Is writing selfish? If I wrote something and simply tossed it into the fire, then it would be selfish. But I never do that unless I think it is bad. I go through trouble to publish this stuff, and that act alone makes it unselfish. In a similar way, exercise is also not selfish because it renews the body. It becomes selfish when it leads to vanity. My writing does not lead to vanity because the fact that no one reads what I write is a daily humiliation. When I write, I pour myself into the words with considerable suffering. I publish those words, and they vanish into the vast obscurity of the world wide web.

I have to decide where I want to go as a writer. One thing I know and made my peace with a long time ago is that I am a failure as a writer. To be a success as a writer is to be read. Money doesn't matter. Writers want their words to live beyond them. My words will die with me. So, I am back to where I was so long ago when I decided to write for me. Am I better for doing this or worse? I believe I am better, and that is all I need to keep doing it.