Whither the blog

Tue, Jul 21, 2020

Whither the blog

In which direction will writing take me? Online or the written page.

This is a strange post indeed. Writing about writing in my hill journal. The other day I had a cracking day out on the local hills. Wind, rain, low cloud, freezing cold but lots of wildflowers on the ridge, shining seascapes between storm blasts and completely without people. A couple of days later, not relishing starting up the laptop, firing up the backup disk, loading the increasingly burdensome gubbins to write, instead, I took down my old journal from the shelf, opened the pages and saw that my last entry was almost thirteen years ago, to the day.

Those thirteen years have been recorded on the blog. Personal adventures, philosophical musings, rantings, ramblings and noting what I’ve been reading. There has been the occasional gear review but not many, thankfully. Mostly it’s been an online version of my personal journal. Except, when you write online, the audience is different and I think that changes how you write. I think it is less personal. Less me.

There are also the practical aspects of writing online. You need a computer. You need an internet connection and you need somewhere to display that writing. The computer is ancient now. The internet is slow and the costs of a website of one’s own are not inconsiderable, although they’re not too bad. Worth it I’d say, to have your own presence outwith the major platforms. At every turn of the technological screw it has been more and more of a faff. I used to include Facebook metadata in the posts. Boring and pointless in the end. More work in case someone wanted to share a post on their page, the metadata allowing it to display nicely but I binned Facebook years ago. I still use Flickr but mostly as an image disk rather than a socal network. Somewhere to keep my photographs. Somewhere they’re available to link to from the the relevant post. I never thought to add the post URL to the Flickr album once published but in retrospect, so what. This is a personal journal, of sorts. It’s a case of edit photos, upload to Flickr, write the blog post embedding selected images and publish.

There’s a whole support rigmarole in the background when writing online. You can minimise the faff by using a framework such as Wordpress but it takes a fair amount of maintaining, keeping it up to date, cleaning out the crap, binning spam comments. All the usual shite generated by being on the internet. So over the years I’ve taken the blog from Wordpress, got fed up needing a database and lots of PHP code, to writing lots of code to automatically migrate to Octopress and make the blog a static site. Then I decided to move, again after writing lots of scripts, to Hugo. I just preferred Hugo. The blog is still a static website. Just a lot of HTML, CSS and some Javascript. Pick it up and dump it on any web server and it’s good to go. The posts are still using embedded images from Flickr but I wrote some scripts to change that, going through every post, downloading the photo and changing the embed to a local file. Making the blog truly independent of platforms but with a much bigger data footprint in the process. The cost of using Flickr can be diverted to more space for the local version of the blog and if anyone ever wanted to bung it on a spaceship and take it into the far reaches of the galaxy it would just be a case of taking a single folder on a disk. A server isn’t even required. A browser will do.

None of this was relevant the other night, in the monastic silence, in the pool of light under the led lamp. Eleven o’clock and the last of the day’s light was lingering in the north west, pale blue against the black of the hillside. The only sound was the quiet scrape of pen on paper. The short sharp sshh as my hand moved along each forming sentence, the creak of the chair as I straightened now and then to flex my underused manual writing muscles and to check on the progress of the night. There was no hum from the laptop. No tick tick of the decrepit disk. No rumbling from the backup disk under the desk. No clicking of keys or waiting for Chrome to update the ongoing account of my day. I simply opened my twenty year old journal, clicked open my pen and started to write. No upgrades required. The ink was the same it’s always been. The paper still accepted it. I didn’t need to download upgrades to the journal to make it compatible with modern ink. I simply wrote. The words flowed, in a new way. The only audience was me. I felt suddently (re)connected to the wee lad thirty five years ago who squatted behind the sofa in the student digs, writing out compass bearings on a sheet of paper the night before a solo bivvy trip into the Cairngorms. The journal and all the other journals on the shelf, was a bridge to a past I’m glad I have. It was a wonderful return to the self in the quiet of the night.

Of course, the computer still plays its part. It lets me print my photographs and I stick them into the journal at appropriate places in the text. The photographs have a new life as well now. No longer imprisoned in digital dungeons mostly never to see or be seen ever again, they now live in the pages of my journal. Words and images, on the real page. Perhaps that’s why I published The Little Book of Gaiku. I think more writings and publishings are required.

So here I am, writing about not writing in the blog and enjoying the experience immensely. There is the issue of preservation of course. Digital copies of my journals. Scratchings on stone, quill on velum, ink on paper, everything eventually ends up as data.