We continue with my series On Blogging. Here are parts 1 and 2. My guest today is Servetus. You know her from her popular analytical blog Me + Richard Armitage. This is how she describes herself:
Servetus: child of G-d, daughter, sibling, aunt, friend. Thinker, believer, reader, writer. After a decade of waiting to exhale, now exhaling. Searching (still!) for a livable life and trying to be less scared about the future. Needs desperately to feel that she is making the world better or at least not any worse. Likes: Richard Armitage, grapefruit, espresso, The Great Gatsby, complicated liturgies, Alsace-Lorraine, looking at the sea from a convenient sea-side terrace, complexity, long naps. Much less enthusiastic about: Michael Fassbender, fried beef liver, Guinness, The Deerslayer, car alarms, Tucson, actually putting her body in the sea, oversimplifications, staying up for more than 36 hours in a row. Over-educated. Under-prepared. Working hard at compassion for others and herself.
J: Hello Servetus. Thanks for joining me.
S: Glad to be here.
J: I think we know why you started blogging: to analyze your fascination with Richard Armitage. Do you think you’re any closer to your stated goal?
Sometimes I do. Sometimes not.
On the “do” side: I’m closer to understanding the specific things in his work that triggered my attention (even if I can’t always bring myself to publish what I’ve realized). I understand better now how my need to analyze things works — what triggers it and why it’s there and where it comes from — as well as the dangers it harbors for me. I think this recognition has developed because just before Armitagemania hit, I experienced a long period of creative death. So I’ve learned a lot through this fascination about how my creative processes work because I’ve been able to observe them revive after a long period of dormancy. I hope this knowledge will help me to help myself, should that ever occur again.
On the “not” side: I’m not any closer to understanding why Richard Armitage (as opposed to another actor) triggered this. I have a hard time accepting that it might have been coincidence. Also, although the writing has been therapeutic and enabling, I am no closer to knowing why the particular nerves he’s touched in me are issues in my life. And the main thing I really still don’t understand is where this unbelievable (and for me atypical) tidal wave of emotion that centers on Richard Armitage comes from. Intense preoccupation with something is part of my personality pattern, and it’s been cultivated by academic research, but intense positive emotion about a preoccupation is not like me and unique in my experience of myself. I have come to accept it, since it’s persisted, unabated, for over a year-and-a-half, but I still think it’s strange and often disturbing. But I’m not done blogging yet, and I’m changing, so that understanding may come eventually as well.
J: How long have you been blogging?
I started in March 2008. I had been reading blogs since 2005, when I became interested in conservative Christian women’s blogging, and I had discovered the world of academic blogs in 2006, but hadn’t contemplated writing anything myself. I didn’t have much time, and I didn’t think I had anything different to say. But in summer 2006, I was granted a two-year research leave, and the break from teaching meant I had more time for myself. Late in 2007 I began having a very specific, troubling problem in my workplace (one of the chain of troubles I refer to periodically in my current blog) and it eventually became unbearable. I had found an academic blog that inspired me a great deal with its unwillingness to look past injustice, and I started to wonder whether thinking about my problem in that way would help me confront it. So I started an academic blog to find people to talk to and to advise me. It was slow going, not least because my writing was so different from and so much less system-conforming than other academic blogs, but it was an anonymous outlet, and I had attracted a small readership of the like-minded and found an outlet for my anger, so it served its purpose.
Unfortunately, in the summer of 2009, a post on that blog was linked to a national higher education publication, and reader numbers went off the charts — going from c. 70 readers per day to more than a thousand overnight. I had been sure up till then that no one on my campus had been reading, but that exposure made it impossible to guarantee continued anonymity. Back then I maintained a much stronger commitment to continuing in academia than I do now, and I’d been writing about a scandal. Not many people knew about it, but if it came out, the shit was clearly going to hit me as well. I made the decision to take the blog private two days later. (Now I think that might have been a mistake. One of the spheres I was trying to protect exploded anyway because someone else revealed the same information I had, two years later.) Anyway, I tried to restart a public blog again a few weeks after going private, but the joy had gone out of it, and my postings dwindled in number and length. I wrote the last post on that successor blog in May 2010 — about three months after I had started “me + richard armitage” — and made it private in September 2010. I haven’t deleted those texts as they record my life, but I doubt they’ll ever see the light of day again.
J: Why do you choose to write about anything on any particular day?
S: My goal for the blog is to post at least once a day. I try to present a variety of stuff during a week so it’s not the same sort of thing over and over again. Other than that, the choice is usually entirely random. Sometimes there’s news to report or comment on, sometimes something in my own life is pressing that I need to talk about; sometimes a post turns out the way it does because I have a lot of time — or no time; sometimes, if I sit down to write and nothing occurs immediately to say, I look through my long list of things I’ve wanted to write about from time to time and pick one; and so on. Sometimes I want to write about something but don’t have time to cut the necessary video. I frequently write things that never see the light of day — what makes it into view is probably about a third of the wordage that gets drafted. I decided when I started this blog that a basic rule was going to be that I would never write here out of obligation, as that issue had dogged other writing experiences I’ve had to their detriment. (That doesn’t mean I feel no obligation about the blog, but that’s a different matter.) As a consequence I allow myself to do what I want.
J: Why do I link to some stuff and not to other stuff?
S: It’s also almost entirely random. If I don’t see something, obviously I don’t link to it. I link to stuff I read and like, but not to everything I read and like. I probably read more stuff that gets pushed to me in email than stuff I have to seek out — which means I’m slightly more likely to link to a wordpress blog than a blogger blog, for example. I don’t link to many fanvids because I don’t watch all that many, so if I do link to a vid it’s probably because I’ve watched it at least ten or fifteen times. Then again, if I don’t link to a vid, it doesn’t mean I didn’t like it, either. If I link to a fic it’s because there’s something I liked about it, but if I don’t link to a fic it doesn’t mean that I disliked it, either. Sometimes I really like something but I can’t figure out how to write about it. So I guess what I’m saying is that no one should make any assumptions based on what I link or don’t link, or feel badly if I don’t link to them, and above all, no one should assume that I’ve seen or viewed everything and that what appears here in links involves my judgment about the best of Armitageworld. Another rule that I made when starting this blog was that I wasn’t going to attempt to be comprehensive or comment on or link to everything. (That’s another thing that I had to do for work, and since I do that there, I wasn’t going to force myself to do it here).
J: What priority does this blog get in your life?
S: That’s easier to answer. Right now, my intellectual priorities are: (a) anything I have to do for my students; (b) morning pages; (c) Armitage writing of any kind — either this blog, or the therapeutic fic I am writing, or both; (d) academic writing. It’s a little complicated because every now and then (d) has to take priority, but (d) is never possible unless (b) has happened. Sometimes I can do (c) without (b), if (c) involves a direct confrontation with stuff that would normally be put down in (b). Anyway, the consequence of this priority means, for example, that right now I’m unlikely to say much on a Tuesday or Thursday unless it’s done well ahead of time, because on those days I am almost completely occupied with (a). And for anyone worried about the relatively low position of (d) — I’m not on a contract right now that requires academic publications as a condition of either current or continuing employment. So for this year, academic writing is just as inconsequential or consequential to me as any other kind of writing. Ultimately it will be important only if I continue on as a professor, whereas (b) and (c) are important for me to maintain my equilibrium as a human.
NEXT TUESDAY: THE CONCLUSION OF A CUPPA WITH SERVETUS.