Sunday, August 21, 2011

Peeping Tom

When you start writing a blog you are always looking out for topics to write about on the blog. Sometimes you might even do something or travel somewhere partly because you know that will provide opportunities for topics to blog about. Even a bad day's sailing or a bad run can be exploited to provide a subject for a blog post.

It's a little weird once you realize that you are observing your own life and the actions of others with the eyes of a blogger. It feels a little improper sometimes.

I can across a section in a book I was reading this week where the author expressed a very similar sentiment. Except he's not a blogger. He is an observer of life in pursuit of quite a different profession. Can anyone guess what profession that is and who might have written these words (without using The Google - that would be too easy.) The words in italics are changed by me to obscure the real topic of this piece.

The radar is on whether you know it or not. You cannot switch it off. You hear this piece of conversation from across the room.... That’s a blog post. It just flows in.

And also the other thing about being a blogger, when you realize you are one, is that to provide ammo, you start to become an observer, you start to distance yourself. You’re constantly on the alert. That faculty gets trained in you over the years, observing people, how they react to one another. Which, in a way, makes you weirdly distant. You shouldn’t really be doing it. It’s a little of Peeping Tom to be a blogger.


Anonymous said...


Steve in Baltimore

Tillerman said...

Good guess Steve. I suspect that novelists observe life in a way a bit like this too. But it's not a novelist.

O Docker said...

OK, I cheated, so I won't reveal the writer's vocation.

But that actually was my first thought - no, really.

What strikes me as even stranger, though, is how similar this is to being a news photographer - where your job is to capture the perfect moment of interaction between people - the one that tells the story in any situation. You spend hours watching people, trying to anticipate when that moment will happen. You learn to read body language. And all the while, you become an unseen observer, trying to disappear from the scene and not be a part of it.

You may be only a few feet from people involved in conversation - who are very aware that you're there - but the camera makes you feel invisible - you hide behind it.

Tillerman said...

Thanks for not revealing the secret yet O Docker. Actually I have been thinking for some time that there is a lot of similarity between blogging and what the author of this piece is actually writing about. Reading this extract only confirmed to me how similar the two activities are in many respects.

Never thought of the similarity with being a news photographer before, but you should know and I take your word for it.

BeachComber said...

Novelist springs to mind, but apart from being wrong, it would be too obvious. I'll hazard a guess at comedian.

I was thinking about this same phenomenon as I finished reading David Sedaris's Naked recently. Most of his material comes from earlier in life, much of it from unpleasant jobs, but it seems he started seeking out unusual experiences to write about.

On second thought, I think I'll change my answer to songwriter.

Fred said...

Though due to the language barrier, it would be very difficult or insolvable to find an answer to me. it nevertheless gave me a mental leap into some -one tracked mind- Blogger or Author?

Tillerman said...

Well done Beachcomber. The quotation was indeed originally about songwriting. It is by Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones and is from his recent autobiography Life.

Rather than write more here I think I'll write another post soon on the topic of why writing a blog post and writing a popular song have so much in common.

JP said...

I was going to say some sort of writer too.

I was interested in what O'Docker had to say as I usually feel more self-conscious with a camera and less the unseen observer.

Unlike a writer with a notepad with a camera I feel as if I'm intruding

bonnie said...

I immediately thought author or journalist.

Tillerman said...

A journalist has a notepad and a photographer has a camera. Usually you know who they are.

A blogger (or a songwriter) is a secret observer. You may not even know that's who they are. Until you end up in their song!

"You're so vain. I'll bet you think this song is about you. Don't you? Don't you?"

I had a classic case of "I'll bet you think this song is about you" when I wrote Uncrustables!. Believe it or not, somebody associated with a regatta (that I didn't attend and was actually held after I published the post) was concerned that people might think I was writing about them, and asked me to clear up the confusion.

Tillerman said...

Of course, sometimes the blogger is too dumb to realize what he is seeing or whom he is talking to.

After seeing a random picture from many years ago on another blog this weekend, and then some Googling around among race results and recent pictures, I am now 99% certain that I was chatting last week to one of the most famous figures in the sailing world over the last few decades. And I had no idea at the time who he was!

Bloggable moment missed!

O Docker said...

Did he ask you if you knew how to drive a 45-foot catamaran?

Tillerman said...

No, we talked mainly about the Red Sox. He's not involved in the America's Cup as far as I know and I don't think he ever has been.

O Docker said...

Just curious.

Apparently, they're asking everyone that, lately.

Tillerman said...

Round here they just ask if you know how Jon Lester's pitching.

BeachComber said...

Tillerman, your unwitting encounter with a famous person from the sailing world is absolutely blog worthy. It's quite amusing. Also, I'm now curious to know who it was. Maybe that could be another quiz...?

On the topic of this quiz, now that I know it was Keith Richards, I remember hearing his interview with Terry Gross a few months ago. I'd forgotten about it, but it's probably what caused the little spark in my brain.

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