I Do What I Do, Indeed I Do

I have been online for a long, long time. When the World Wide Web launched 20 years ago, I was one of the first people staking a claim to my own website there. I acquired jericsmith.com in 1999 and started blogging on September 7, 2000, before most people had any idea what “blog” meant. WordPress tells me that Indie Moines now contains 975 posts, incorporating articles written here, and at Indie Albany, and at jericsmith.com, and at Upstate Ether, and several of my earlier websites. I received a coveted Freshly Pressed nod in November 2010, and my 2004 “Worst Rock Band Ever” survey went viral in ways that most bloggers can only dream of. At bottom line, I’ve written an awful lot of words in the public domain, and had an incredible number of people read them. I’m pleased and grateful for that experience.

There are few things more boring than blogging about blogging, so I generally try to avoid doing so. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t spend a fair amount of time thinking about blogging, and what it accomplishes, and why I do it. Recently, I’ve come to the conclusion that my primary motivation for blogging is best summed up by one of my favorite Bonzo Dog Band songs, “What Do You Do?” Here’s that crucial cut, well worth listening to, with the lyrics transcribed below:

What do you do?
I don’t know, but I know
I do it every day

Why do you do it?
I don’t know, but I know
I do it anyway

I do what I do, indeed I do
I do what I do, every day
Indeed I do

I do what I do, indeed I do
I do what I do, every day
I do what I do, I am what I am
We are what we are, we do what we can

What do you do?
I don’t know, but I know
I do it everyday

Why do you do it?
I don’t know, but I know
I do it anyway

I do what I do, indeed I do
I do what I do, everyday
Indeed I do

At bottom line, in 2013, I blog because it’s what I do. Indeed I do. Why? I don’t know, but I do it (almost) every day. Is that enough? Today, I find myself answering “no.”

The most rewarding blog experience I had occured in 2004, when I set myself the task of writing and publishing a poem a day, for a full year. On December 31 of that year, I achieved my goal. Many of the poems I shared that year were, to be honest, marginal works, at best. But the discipline involved with producing them also resulted in occasional moments of brilliance, and I think some of the strongest writing I’ve ever done occurred that year, with a dozen or so of the poems I wrote going on to see publication in traditional print outlets.

After I finished the Poem A Day Project, I lost any sense of urgency for blogging, so I took a year-long blog sabbatical. When I returned, I found myself with a more engaged audience than I’d had when I retired my keyboard, so it seemed like absence actually made a lot of hearts grow fonder for my piffle and tripe. A phrase which, if you’re not a long-time reader, stemmed from a poem I once wrote, as follows:

“Piffle and tripe and balderdash!”
roared Lord MacCormack, his purple sash
rucked up beneath his ample chin,
as he pounded his desk again and again.
“Codswollop, blarney and twaddlerot!”
the good Lord raged, his temper hot,
his anger roused by news reports
of politics and sex and sports.
“Bosh, bunk, claptrap, bull and fudge!”
MacCormack the day’s events soundly judged,
while flinging his papers across the room,
and gesturing angrily into the gloom.
(His manservant, Roger, knew this was the cue
to roll in the cart, with the buns and the stew).

I have been thinking about tackling another project of the Poem A Day variety in 2014, to mark the 10th anniversary of that rewarding foray into sustained, public creative writing. But this time, I am thinking that I need the sabbatical before I start, not afterwards. So with a little bit of regret — but a larger amount of relief — I announce my intention to take an Indie Moines blog sabbatical until January 2014 to recharge the batteries, focus the thinking, and come up with a reason for blogging that’s more profound than “I do what I do, indeed I do.”

Does this mean that I’m going to quit writing? Of course not. I wish I could say that I write because I want to, but the reality is that I write because I need to. In my 2001 novel, Eponymous, protagonist Collie Hay (who I have always publicly denied is me, though everyone knows that is just diversion and posturing) is quoted as saying: “Writing is the only way that I can actually get facts and my thoughts about them in order, then do something about them and (more importantly) begin to believe that they actually happened. To me, no less. Because if I don’t (or can’t) write about something, then it’s generally not real to me — and I’ve reached a point where I want my life and my history to feel real.” That’s a true statement, made in a fictional context.

What and where will I write? First off, I have some bigger writing projects that keep getting back-burnered — since given the choice of doing a hard writing job or an easy blog post, the latter almost always wins. My primary writing objective for 2013 is to finish a theatrical adaptation of Eponymous that Marcia deftly framed, ideally creating a work that she and I can shop to local stages and actors to see if it has real-world audience appeal. I think it will, and I think Des Moines is a great place to launch it.

I have half-a-dozen short story ideas parked on my office whiteboard, so I look forward to having time to develop them fully, undistracted by self-imposed blog posting requirements. I also have many research pieces related to the Salisbury House library and collections that I will post to the blog I launched on behalf of my employer, here. I have worked as a volunteer “Art Blaster” on behalf of the Des Moines Art Center, so I intend to coordinate with volunteer and curatorial staff there to develop an outlet, somewhere, to help them interpret and share their extraordinary collections online, one way or another.

I also intend to continue communicating in the public domain via the Indie Moines Facebook and Twitter feeds, so I heartily encourage you to like or follow those pages, if you are not already doing so. I find lots of cool stuff in my forays online, and I look forward to sharing such things with you all via those social media outlets. If I place any work in traditional print outlets, I will announce it on those sites. When I travel or have other photographic adventures to report, I will post them at my Flickr account, so you might want to follow that as well.

For most of the past decade, I have done 95%+ of my pleasure reading on the elliptical at the gym or while sitting in my hot tub, so I also look forward to having more time to just sit in my own living room, reading. It will be refreshing to step away from the computer in the evening, since I’ve rarely done that for many, many years. And, finally, I am also looking forward to having our lovely daughter, Katelin, moving to Des Moines in May. It has been seven years since we’ve lived in the same city on a permanent basis, so I want to be available and accessible to her, without feeling like I have an online community that must be serviced as a priority.

All of this being said, I am humbled at the response that my writing has garnered in this and other, earlier spaces over the years, so I thank you all — my faithful readers — for your support, encouragement and interaction. I hope that you will return as active supporters in January 2014, when I launch the next phase of my blogging career, whatever it might entail. I think the break will do us all good.

I hope that you all agree!

8 thoughts on “I Do What I Do, Indeed I Do

  1. While your piffle and tripe will be missed, when the creative batteries need a recharge, it is wise to heed their cries.

    Certainly well-deserved — enjoy. See you around the innerwebs.

    • Thank you sir! I will see you in the Innerwebs, and am juggling calendars with work and volunteer obligations, but may be able to see you in flesh next week for grilled cheese and sausage if I can make schedules work! I will be in touch via e-mail to let you know what’s going on and see if we can’t pull a visit . . .

  2. I had a feeling this might be coming, whether officially or quietly. Good luck on your sabbatical! Spring is a good time to start to recharge & renew. I’m not sure I agree with you that blogging about blogging is boring, however. Maybe endlessly blogging about “why I blog” is boring (although self-reflection is good), but blogging about the phenomenon of blogging and asking questions about its impact on writing, publishing, communication, free speech, public discourse, etc. — definitely not boring.

    • Did I telegraph the (temporary) end too obviously? I’ve been thinking about a hiatus for several months, so it might have permeated what I actually posted . . .

      You are right, and I agree, about how discussions of blogging as a communications idiom are interesting and important. I just hate when bloggers turn them into existential crises that over-inflate the relative importance of what we do. While I could have just stopped posting here, I’ve learned that when bloggers do that, their final posts take on inordinate weight in terms of how people perceive the stoppage . . . so while it’s self-indulgent of me to discuss my own feelings about my own blog, I figure it’s better to say it directly, rather than to just disappear and have my final blog posts be viewed as some sort of epitaph . . .

      I remain awed, all that being said, by the persistence and vision of Gully Brook Press . . . and its occasional Nileston subsidiary!!

    • Thanks, Bill! I hope you enjoy the exploration of the Bonzos . . . they were an amazing band in their heyday, and singer-songwriter-guitarist Neil Innes did much of the music for Monty Python in years following!

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