Where does the Blogger’s Code (you know those self-appointed men that harangue from street corners) stand on updating old posts? I’d never thought much about it, except to correct typos, until I read One Activity You Should Do On Your Blog Every Day. Then I forgot about it for a few days.
Today I’ve been reading Lev Losev’s Joseph Brodsky: A Literary Life and reflecting on the subject of genius. Losev writes:
“Genius” is not a scholarly term. Its common use is mainly emotive: “You’re a genius!” For me, “genius” is first and foremost a cognate of “genetic.” A one-in-a-million genetic makeup creates a person of unusual creative potential, willpower, and charisma. It may offend our democratic sensibilities to admit that such rare birds are so different from the rest of our common flock, but in fact they are.
That’s a definition I can accept. It lead me to search Time’s Flow Stemmed for how often, in a delirium of enthusiasm for a book I’ve just read, I overuse the term. My search led me to an old post on Aristotle’s hypothesis that mastery of metaphor is a sign of genius. Revisiting led to the sacrilegious act of updating an old post, then to an act of time travel, linking from that old post to one four years later.
Brodsky, almost certainly a genius, in an essay about artistic creativity said, “The lesser commenting upon the greater has, of course, a certain humbling appeal, and at our end of the galaxy we are quite accustomed to this sort of procedure.” Brodsky’s phrase: that the lesser cannot comment upon the greater. This pinpoints my intuition about most literary criticism, that however brilliant the critic, there is always something important left out.
I don’t update old posts unless to add an edit at the end to flag something that’s come up since (I do that very rarely, but did today with a review of a book which has just come out in a new translation and I wanted to post links to reviews of the new version), or if I happen to spot a typo.
I don’t update the content. It’s not a religious objection, it’s that since I’m never happy with anything I’ve written it’s the only choice that preserves sanity. There has to come a point where I say – it’s shit, but it’s as done as it’s going to be – if I kept going there’d be no end and I’d still be tweaking some random review I did of a book I didn’t even like back in 2009.
There is of course always something left out. That’s precisely why personally I don’t update. Entirely happy for others to do so though. They may have more discipline than me.
I can identify with that feeling that everything I write is shit, so just put it out there and to hell with it. But the urge to tinker and tweak is sometimes irresistible.
I don’t update old posts unless it is to add an addendum at the end and I always indicate it with “Update:” If is read an old post and feel like I have left something important out or want to say something in addition to it, I will write a brand new post and include a link to the old post in it but I won’t revise what I already posted.
When I transferred this blog from Blogger to WP, some strange text was added to the title of the posts (like: <<ght). When I spot one of those old posts getting traffic, I correct the garbled title, and often find the urge to tweak irresistible.