On Starting a Blog (Again)

Alternatively titled: “On a Wednesday, in a cafe, I watched it begin again.”

Dear readers,

Welcome to my blog!

In my life thus far, I’ve run 4 blogs; the first-ever one is now hidden (visible only to ME!), the second one is here (pictured below), the third one is a secret tumblr that I mostly use for following Swifties, and the fourth one is this one right here! So far, I plan on using this space for writing about translation, my postgrad life, and anything else that I deem blog-worthy. I might write about politics. I’ll likely write about Taylor Swift. I might share photos of my morning oatmeal. I’ll aim to post at least once a week or bi-weekly (Haven’t figured that one out yet). But one thing’s for sure: I’ll write in my own voice.

If you’re reading this post, it means that I published this entry and decided to formally “launch” this blog. It wasn’t such a straightforward decision. Questions I asked myself included,

  1. Why bother?
  2. Will I continue to maintain this blog or will it fade out of existence like my foodstagram?
  3. Who is even going to read it?
  4. Am I doing this because I’m unable to give myself a break?
  5. Why post stuff here when I could be writing things that can be published somewhere?

Well. To give you some context.

Before college happened, I was a steady blogger for literally 7 years, from 2009-2016. I also wrote in a diary almost every day for a large chunk of my childhood, but that’s another story. 2011 was when I began blogging “seriously,” i.e. re-branding my blog into a book and film review site, posting aesthetic photos to go with each post, connecting my posts to my Goodreads account, and so on. I would blog about every single book I read (unless I read it for school, e.g. Shakespeare plays, sorry William) and basically every film as well. I would read books that I found challenging; books like Blood Meridian, Disgrace, and John Updike’s essays and criticism. I would press myself to post about each one, even the not-so-interesting-ones, like The Cambridgeshire Report on the Teaching of Music (lol). Blogging helped me become a more critical reader and, more importantly, a reviser; I would proofread my posts over and over again before I hit “publish,” even though I knew probably only one (1) person would read it (ME!). I would deliberately try to choose books that were “esteemed” and “canonical,” and in doing so managed to become vaguely well read (just vaguely, mind you. I’m skeptical of canons now). Blogging trained the critical, editorial cogs in my brain and allowed me to become a better reader of literature. Blogging, in essence, helped me become the writer I am today.

I mention above that I blogged about every book I read except for the books I was reading for school. This is mostly because I was already writing about those books in a critical, academic setting; I didn’t always feel the need to give them extra love on my blog. I still had plenty of time in high school to read leisurely, anyway. This all changed in college, however (surprise, surprise). I was reading tougher texts, writing longer essays, and in my spare time socializing and doing other things instead of reading and blogging. Swing dancing on Saturday nights v.s. blogging about a book? I’ll take dancing, thank you very much. I tried to keep up my blogging practice for a bit longer, but eventually gave up. The last time I “blogged” was on December 31, 2016.

And yet, I was still writing. And this time, my work was appearing in places where people would actually read them (I think). As an undergraduate, I contributed over 50 articles to the arts section of The Chicago Maroon. I submitted an essay to a journal at my school and saw it published. Two years into college, I fell in love with literary translation, and started sending my translations to various Submittable portals. I wanted to find a “legitimate” home for every piece of writing that I was churning out. After years of writing essays that would never see the light of day after receiving a grade, I was yearning to put my words out there, to publish.

But thinking too much about “publishing” did something to the way I thought about writing. Sure, sending in work for publication made me revise even harder and think more critically. It’s also nice to see your name in print. But back in the day, I was blogging not because I thought it would be good for a portfolio or resume, but because I simply felt the urge to write. To speak in my own voice. To, essentially, self-publish. To hit that “publish” button for a post I knew only I would read. To say yes to myself.

To me, blogging provided me with a paradoxical but ultimately ideal form of freedom: I was publishing on a public platform, but writing primarily for myself. Now, don’t get me wrong: I do love to publish my work in places, particularly work that I think should be shared more widely (translations, for instance). Part of the reason why I am starting up this blog is to also share my publications more widely (see the “My Work” tab) and write about the creative process behind my translations and other critical work. But I think it’s also important to think of individual, personal writing as important, as valid. I should think of the book review I’m writing right now (for the Hong Kong Review of Books) as being just as valid as this blog entry I’m “spewing” out. The former will be more widely read and is certainly more culturally significant, but the latter provides a space in which I can just be ME! and spew away. Blogging will be how I take a break. I stumbled across a New York Times op-ed today titled, “You Are Doing Something Important When You Aren’t Doing Anything.” Bonnie Tsui writes,

“Fallow time is necessary to grow everything from actual crops to figurative ones, like books and children. To do the work, we need to rest, to read, to reconnect. It is the invisible labor that makes creative life possible.”

Prior to attending college, all the blogging I did helped me grow into the reader and writer I am today. Now that my college days are over, and I actually *have time again* (or so I think), I hope that the words I put on this blog will help me become the kind of person I want to be: someone who understands how to “rest, to read, [and] to reconnect” in order to live her best creative life. Thank you for reading this far!

Loooove,

May

P.S. “ME!” is Taylor Swift’s first single from her latest era. I can’t stop quoting it unironically.

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