Let’s be honest: when all this started I had no idea what I was doing. But it’s best we go back a bit.
In the autumn of 2009, I spent a month as an artist-in-residence at Bundanon, Arthur and Yvonne Boyd’s gift to the Australian people on the Shoalhaven River just south of Sydney. On the last night the other artists and I had a few drinks and shared stories of our time in the glorious creative isolation as well handed out business cards and email addresses and website URLs. I had none of those things – really, how committed was I to writing? By the time I’d driven home, I resolved to at least get the internet put on at home and set up an email address.
By October of that year, I had indeed got these things, but I also had a website designed, and I set up this blog. I knew next to nothing about blogging other than it might be a good way of sharing news, if, that is, anyone was interested. So here we are, in October 2012 and it seems almost impossible to believe that Under the counter or a flutter in a dovecot (which is, to be frank, a ridiculous name for a blog, a ridiculous name for anything) is heading into its fourth year.
It’s probably as good a time as any to reflect on the positives and challenges, so let’s do it, the reflection thing.
On the whole, I’ve enjoyed my time in the blogosphere, even if most of the online energy appears to have shifted to Facebook and Twitter, leaving blogs to feel just a little old-fashioned, which to a certain extent suits me fine because I’m an old-fashioned kind of guy. Thankfully, when I started this thing, I promised that I’d post only once per week, and I’ve kept to that, more or less. Is it true that at the beginning I had no idea what I was doing? Yes, it’s true, and I still might have no idea, although I have come to think of this blog as a diary that I write with other people in mind. But it’s not a personal diary; I’ve been fairly keen to focus on writing and literature, music, other arts activity, and some quirky investigations into those little things that happen in a day that might have deeper meanings. Like the last days of a chook.
I’ve enjoyed asking myself during the week, what will I post this weekend, what’s happened or happening that others might be intrigued about? There’s a discipline to that, on a number of levels. I’ve also found it fun to try out different things: writing music reviews (which is surprisingly difficult), trying to approach technology in new and weird ways (the On the other side of the city ‘survey’, and what sprung from it, has been a highlight), and it’s good to know that every one of the fifty or so First Word columns that I’ve written for The Canberra Times is stored here, and the features I’ve written have also had a second life online, meaning that the artists I’ve interviewed have been able to link to them (The Canberra Times has only very recently made Panorama, the paper’s weekend magazine, available electronically).
Plus there’s been the great pleasure of getting to know a number of the regular readers of Under the counter – all of whom, it’s amazing to realise, aren’t from my real-world community, some are even from overseas. In a way, you are modern-day Pen Friends, or maybe that should be Keyboard Friends. Some of you have become significant contributors to Verity La, that other part of my online life, and for that I thank you. And, of course, there’s the handful of blogs that I comment on regularly, because the posts are frequently excellent and thought-provoking – have a look at the blog-roll to the left for the links. Some of these blogs, for example Whispering Gums, are becoming influential, particularly in the funny little world that is literature, and that’s a great thing – a strong and sophisticated writing culture comes from articulate and erudite public discussion about creative practice (even if that observation and the sentence make me sound like a wanker).
What about the challenges? There have been times, it’s true, when I’ve been all out of ideas, though this can also be a positive, as it’s forced me to still produce something, even if it’s a hastily put-together collage that looks like a six-year-old did it. A key part of my blogging routine is commenting on other blogs – I can hardly expect readers to comment on this blog if I don’t comment other blogs. Do comments matter? Yes, they matter. I do want to know what people think; I do want to know if readers have been moved, and a comment is a sure sign of that. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you for commenting – it’s made my day. But it can be exhausting – and time-consuming – to find posts that I want to absorb and comment on.
It was – and continues to be – most gratifying that the National Library of Australia selected Under the counter for archiving in-perpetuity (if that isn’t a tautology) as part of its PANDORA program. To think that maybe, just maybe, a researcher will stumble across this little old place in a hundred years time is a bit special. There’s no doubt that without the commenters commenting and the National Library’s interest I would have stopped long ago – there’s only so often you can call out into the digital abyss. And there have been times when I’ve wondered if the end might be in sight; in fact, to be completely frank, I can see the end right now. I won’t keep this blog going forever, nor should it just keep rolling on and on and on. But I’m not done just yet; there’s a bit more fuel in the tank, even if the engine’s developed a rattle.
Many many thanks again, and here’s to a bit more Under the counter or a flutter in the dovecot. For the time-being at least.