This week's blogger is: Abraham from La Vie Graphite
[ Part I: About blogging ]01/ How many blogs do you have that are currently active?
I have just one, it’s called La Vie Graphite, now in its 9th year. I started it in July 2006, on MySpace, and shortly afterward – with a growing readership – moved it to the much better and public Blogspot.
02/ What is your blog about? Do you have a tag line?
If anything unifies all my essays, it’s the spirit of reflective writing and life experience. It takes many forms - sometimes as poetry or photo-essays.
The closest thing to a tag line I have is something like this: “musing upon life's fascinating mysteries and living a pilgrimage of trust on earth.” That means each day and each written page is part of a forward movement with time.
03/ Is your blog a reflection of you or just a place for your creative/personal outlet?
The blog is essentially an extension of my daily journal-writing. Committing to completing my journaled ideas with essays and photos has been a great practice for solidifying my thoughts.
04/ How did you come up with the name for your blog?
The blog grew out of journaling – plus the art medium of photography. I studied photography in art college, and then taught it for 9 years while also working full-time as a professional photographer. I’ve been journaling since the mid-90s, and found myself keeping 2 parallel journals: one in pencil (for random thoughts, words, and observations), and the other in ink (for developing those thoughts).
For about ten years, the name La Vie Graphite has been the name for the pocket-sized pencil journals which I still use as creative formats. Pencil marks are made with graphite; like digital documents, they are ephemeral. Graphite, however, comes from deep inside the earth.
I was raised speaking French, and learned English when I was in grammar school, and have always loved words. The word “graphite” gives me a great concept to play with.
05/ Do you have a blogroll or a reading list of your favorite blogs? And what blogs do you like reading?
I do run a blogroll of what I call “kindred blogs,” but am always looking for interesting blogs I haven’t yet read. At the same time, with such abundance on the web, good, thoughtful, and creative blogs are hard to find. I’m among the first bloggers to use a manual typewriter to create blog entries, and the ever-growing group has come to be known as the Typosphere. That loose network has brought me together with many friends, and I’m very grateful for that. Writers can be very passionate about their writing equipment – almost too passionate! I really try to keep to my topics, and consider even the most beautiful pens, pencils, cameras, and typewriters as means to an artistic end. I like writing to be thought-provoking. Once, as a little statement about making tools more important than creativity, I wrote an essay about hands (read it here).
06/ What category or categories do you think your blog falls under? For example: a book blog, a cooking blog, an art blog, etc. OR simply just a blog?
I like that what I’ve been doing seems to defy categorization. It’s surely reflective writing, mainly in essay form. The undertone tends to spirituality and life as unfolding pilgrimage, being that I’m a Christian. But I’ve shied away from stereotypes, and really like that my blog winds up on all sorts of blogrolls, and on sites that are non-sectarian. Good writing is good writing, no matter the topic.
07/ Do you have a blogging schedule or do you post any time you like?
It’s more like I post when I can! When things are somewhat under control in my life, which is always hectic, I’ve posted every ten days. It seems I have a “ten-day week,” when it comes to developing an idea into an illustrated essay. But it takes a lot of focus and time. In 2013, I received a fellowship to live, study, and write at Oxford – and then it took me the recent year to blog about such a dense and eventful experience! The year before, I spent the spring in Wales, and that was also a pleasant challenge for me to encapsulate – some of it while I was still there.
I do wish I had more time to write – though I do write in my journals every day.
08/ Do you use a blog template (brought or free from the net) or do you design your own blog?
I use a template from Blogspot that I still like!
09/ List 3 things that you always have on your blog. For example: an introduction page or a gadget that tells the time.
For each of my essays – except when they are poems, there is always what I call a “lead quote,” which is a quotation from something I’ve been reading that has been part of the creative process for that essay. Many times, while reading, I find seeds of ideas that I develop into my own expressive thoughts.
10/ What advice did you wish someone had given to you when you first started blogging?
I’d like to turn that question into advice about journaling. It took a number of fits-and-starts for me, when it came to writing in a journal. What finally allowed me to find my rhythm was to tell myself that when it comes to your journal, there are no rules. Write anything. Use run-on sentences, make up words, lists, start sentences with “and.” Your journal, your rules. The important thing is to honestly write. I write because I love to write, and because conscientiously I believe I must write.
As for blogging, I’d say don’t be discouraged when nobody leaves comments; just write to your satisfaction.
[ Part II: About the blogger ]01/ Do you have any nicknames? If you have more than one, do you have a preference?
No, I don’t, really. For the blog, I made up a nom-de-plume, to make my identity less important than the writing pursuit. I studied medieval history and philosophy, when I began my graduate studies, and some of the writers I admire wrote anonymously.
02/ List 7 words to describe you.
Contemplative, Inquisitive, Artistic, Particular, Hopeful, Conscientious, Anachronistic.
03/ If you do not have to worry about time or money, what is your favorite way to spend your day?
Writing and reading! With more time, I do more; with less time – alas – I do less.
04/ As far as I know you do a lot of journal writing, do you write whatever comes to your head or do you sit down and start writing without any plan or idea?
Yes, indeed – I just write. There are always thoughts, and thus there are always words. When I was in grad school, I really only had time to write in my journal on Saturday mornings. I’d begin with “the week in review,” kind of like my own sort of news digest. Then, feeling “caught up,” I’d venture into exploring ideas and observing the world around me. The writing really takes on its own momentum when it’s off-the-cuff. The blog entries, as you might’ve noticed, are structured, but that’s because I’ve had the journals to help me focus.
05/ You are very philosophical and all your writings on your blog have deeper meanings (to my understanding anyway), do you find more meaning in things than you used to? And have always been a big thinker?
Well, a thinker – yes! I’m not sure about big! I’ve always been pensive, thinking about things, words, gestures, events, people, and how they all thread together. As a child, I was younger than all my classmates, smaller, and badly bullied. I fought back with my wits. Those impressionable years played a major role in forming my character and perceptions. Fortunately, I cannot live in the past. But working as an archivist and paper conservator, I am cross-referencing images and facts all the time – maybe a bit too effortlessly.
I think that the more one experiences in life, the more meaning can be discovered.
06/ What is the one book that you love that you would recommend to just about everybody?
The Cloud of Unknowing, which was written anonymously in the 14th century, in Middle English. The best edition I’ve found is the Johnston translation.
07/ Do you have a favorite tool or tools that you often use?
My favorites are the ones with their own histories: the fountain pens from my father, the Caran d’Ache “Fixpencils” that were my grandfather’s, the wooden slide-top pencil boxes from my mother, the Olivetti typewriter my father gave me – which he used at his employment for forty years, and the Olympia “Splendid” typewriter which travelled with me through Wales and during my term at Oxford University. These objects have iconographic significance to me, though using them makes them even more special.
Since you’re asking about writing, I’ll leave out favorite books, cameras, knitted sweaters and scarves, and coffee cups!
08/ List 7 of your favorite things.
(1) My antique Rudge bicycle (which I use!),
(2) blue Caran d’Ache fountain pen,
(3) Olympia Splendid typewriter,
(4) Manhattan Portage water-resistant messenger bag,
(5) the religious medal given to my mother by her rescuers during the Holocaust (you can see it in this essay),
(6) pocket-sized King James Bible (which I’ve had to re-bind twice),
and (7) my Subaru station wagon.
09/ When are you most creative/productive? The morning, the afternoon or night or just about any time?
Journal-writing is amenable to any time of the day or night – though I find the early-mornings more conducive to slow-reading, and lunch hours and evenings for writing.
10/ Draw, write, photograph or use any form of communication something that represents you in some way.