Our Backstreets #12: Why I Blog

By Marilyn Ferdinand

Yesterday, I got the surprising request from an on-line publication called Reconstruction to write a piece and post it here on why I blog. Why surprising? I’m always surprised when someone finds me here among the billions of words on the internet and talks to me—that is, now I am.

At first, I thought my blog would be a steady stream of content from me and commentary from my readers. In fact, I get very, very few comments. I think that may be a function of writing about obscure films. How can you comment if you haven’t seen the films. “Gee, I like your writing” or “I’ll put that in my Netflix queue.” I have taken it on faith and am content that people will find me, read me, and some of them will come back again to see what’s new on my site.

Why do I blog? I am a professional writer and editor who makes a living covering subjects about which I have an interest, but no fervency. It never seemed worth the time and effort to write pieces about my personal interests and submit them to publications that might not have the desire or space to publish them, and so I didn’t. I’m not the type to write only for myself; I’m not a diarist, which I suppose sets me apart from a lot of bloggers.

Of course, like many people, I instantly recognized the potential of the internet to help me reach beyond my immediate surroundings to people and places I would never meet in a lifetime of searching. When I went from film fan to serious film buff, I became intensively involved on a film discussion board with approximately 40 regulars. At this omnivorous stage of my film education, I was hungry for information and views that could expand my horizons, as well as to express my own views to a knowledgeable “sounding board.” I also liked meeting new personalities from all over the world and making “friends.” I felt part of a community that seemed like a foreign country to people who were staunchly offline.

After several years, however, the limits of discussion boards became all too apparent. It was hard to attract and engage new people into the established group, which had a virulent hostility to newbies (my own acceptance into the group was a very long and agonizing process). As such, the opinions and behaviors of posters about film became predictable and of decreasing value. Personality clashes and a chat room atmosphere began to take the place of information exchange and the camaraderie of mutal interest, making the board very disagreeable to me. Additionally, I found out that, for me, friends are made on the ground, not in cyberspace.

I had begun to write reviews of films for this discussion board, but was painfully aware that they were virtually ignored. At the same time, my film knowledge and growing acuity as a film critic were becoming apparent to me, to the few people who did read my reviews on the board, and to members of the film community in my hometown I met in classes and at screenings.

When I made the decision to leave the film discussion board, it was with the intention of starting a publication-quality blog where I could indulge my love of writing and film at the same time, with total content, illustration, and layout control. I hoped to provide unique content by following my offroad approach to film viewing and analysis and thereby fill a need. I focus on every type of film, from every era and country, with a strong complement of reviews of silent films and documentaries, and a handful of overlooked current releases. I also review some television miniseries of particular worth, and provide commentary on issues about which I feel strongly, though the latter concern is a relatively minor part of my blog. I have a contributor who also left the film discussion board for much the same reasons as I did. His writing and knowledge of film are first-rate, and he adds immeasurably to the quality of my blog.

I have decided to align my blog with a website that complements my personality and whose work I admire. I have mixed emotions about this. I won’t be as obscure, which may, happily, stimulate more discussion. But I rather enjoy being somewhat unknown, like the films I review, to allow for more freedom of movement without pain. I’m also worried about losing creative control. If that happens, I’ll go back to being an independent blogger. My blog is a labor of love, and while it is not confessional in any major sense, you can probably learn a lot about me from the way I write and what I have to say about these flickering images of the human condition. l

  • Jeremy spoke:
    4th/02/2007 to 10:06 pm

    Hi Marilyn,Please don’t feel your efforts are totally unread or unappreciated. I enjoy popping into your blog periodically and continue to be amazed at your prolific output. i just wish i had more time to contribute. That said, I do wonder sometimes whether this much vaunted cage of communication is anything of the sort and whether in fact most bloggers are talking to themselves in an illusion of discourse, in a modern tower of babble.

  • Marilyn spoke:
    4th/02/2007 to 10:13 pm

    I know I have readers. Other bloggers are even more widely read than I am. Starting this blog was one of the best things I’ve ever done.

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