Why posting every day might not always be such a good idea

November 1, 2011

Late yesterday night, not quite ready to turn in,  I came across a talk on TED by Jonathan Harris. An hour later I was still riveted to the screen having followed a link to one of his other projects.

The initial TED talk is about how we are increasingly expressing ourselves through websites, blogs and social media, and thereby leaving behind footprints. ‘Footprints that tell stories of …moments of self-expression’.

Jonathan writes computer programs which collect and study these expressions of feelings on the web, then organises them into dazzling visual displays which are actually complex data bases. It is a brilliant talk and concept, but it is not what brought the instant of insight and recognition to me at 2 AM.

One of Harris’s recent projects was, starting with his 30th birthday, to take a photo a day for a year, write a short story about it, then post it every night before going to bed. Watching the short film about it on his site is an amazing experience, they are great photos and each photo is shown for a second only, compacting a year’s worth of impressions into a few minutes.

It started out straightforward enough, but towards the end Jonathan had some important insights which exactly correspond with some real reservations I’ve been having about living life so publicly on the internet. And which have time and again prevented me from joining Facebook or Twitter.

He found that taking a picture a day of his life, and having committed to writing about it and posting it publicly started to take on aspects of performance, rather than the spontaneous ( more or less) unself-conscious sharing of a moment. Whether he wanted it to or not, the project began to take more control over him, ‘it was like the project was running my life’.

I’ve noticed in myself and in others who keep blogs, a compulsion to write for the wrong reasons.

Not because you have something of worth to share, but because you feel obligations to your subscribers, or to keeping up a momentum so as not to lose the internet presence gained up until now.

Personally, while finding my way with oil painting, I’ve resisted posting images of my work because I’ve experienced an intense need to keep this part of the process private. I felt somewhat conflicted about this because I enjoy sharing other aspects of my life here.

Jonathan, towards the end of the film about his photo a day project finally worded what was lying, for me just beneath the surface. In our frantic lifestyles, we are accumulating moments of experience and information so fast, there isn’t time to create stories, to make sense of our experience.  An important thing he learned while making a photo a day and posting is was that

 ‘you need privacy and space to contemplate and to grow’.

 ‘I wanted time to contemplate it and assimilate instead of having to post about it
every single night to other people’.

I’ve been having lots of thoughts about the purpose of blogging and about the creative process, and there is always a part of the process that needs darkness (out of the spotlight) and solitude to ripen. I’ve spoken before about the incubation phase, where things don’t seem to be happening above surface, but below, there is a creative chaos going on that eventually if trusted, will emerge as a new insight, inspiration or idea.

 I regularly give myself permission to disappear, let go, create nothing, lie fallow.

Even here.

9 Responses to “Why posting every day might not always be such a good idea”

  1. just what I’m doing right now: creating nothing!

  2. I like the points you make here about performance, and the near obsessiveness of posting every day.
    I saw a blog post yesterday that argued for the importance of the art blog (I share your reticence to post pictures of my own work, but I go ahead and do it anyway… lots! I believe it was Bridget Riley who said that an artist must never disclose what they are currently working on. I am sure she is right but I take no notice.) Anyway the other post about the value of the art blog is at http://www.criticismism.com/2011/10/26/canvasing-views-a-survey-of-uk-art-blogs/

    • szoutewelle Says:

      hi Andy, thanks for responding. I enjoy your irreverence re posting your work. Refreshing!
      I read the blog post about art blogs, great link. Will take some time soon to go and look around some of them. Am not sure I quite agree that a blog about a show in Dundee might not be relevant to someone in NYC. I think there might be some local insider’s knowledge which would cause one to miss a point or two, but I personally love reading about things happening on art scenes anywhere.

  3. Laura Hughes Says:

    Hi Sarah!
    Once again, your writing has mirrored something I’m experiencing! I’m finding that reading all lf my fave blogs everyday, in order to keep up, is proving to be tedious rather than enjoyable, no matter how good the content. As a result I’m changing how I use my blog.
    Thank you for your insight and the support I get from your perfectly infrequent posts! I feel that you are a cyber-mentor to me! I hope you don’t mind! Bright blessings, Laura

    • szoutewelle Says:

      Hi Laura,
      thanks for your kind words.
      I visited your site and it is looking really good, I love the playfulness that shines through, and the design and typeface fit too. Your dad sounds/ed like a wonderful person.

      Curious to see what you will change in relation to your blog. Maybe you’ll inspire me!
      Love the phrase ‘perfectly infrequent posts’! 🙂

      I’m completely flattered that I may be a cyber-mentor to you at this point, of course I don’t mind, and I expect you will be the same for me or someone else at some other time down the road. bright blessings right back at you, Sarah

  4. I totally agree with what you are saying. I have actually thought of stopping from blogging because it is beginning to pressure me to write about something just to maintain the blog. At first, i got so affected by the counter. I get depressed when there are weeks when it seems it’s only me reading my posts! It led me ask deep questions and to re-connect with why i started the blog in the first place. Thanks for sharing your thoughts…

    • szoutewelle Says:

      Hi Alpha, thanks for responding. I like your recent work. And your blog seems to me to still be heart felt. My guidelline for my art and blog, is to ask ‘Does it matter to me?’ If it does, it will probably matter to a few people out there as well. Give yourself permission to take a long break from your blog if needed. You’ll come back fresh and full of new ideas. And one friend recently thanked me for my wonderfully infrequent posts or something to that order. So people don’t want to be swamped with information anymore either. warm wishes, Sarah

  5. […] (And if  you are interested, I just ran across a past post of mine, ‘Why posting every day might not always be such a good idea’, inspired by Jonathan Harris, which addresses some issues related to blogging, story, creative […]

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