Saturday, April 19, 2008

Thoughtful Blogger – or Anyway, Thoughts on Blogging

Paul “tagged” me to write about why I blog.

Mostly it’s for myself; an outlet. I don’t like to see, or hear, or think something and not put it into words, one way or the other – it feels lost if it’s not passed on or written down. Any day on which I’ve done some writing is a day when I feel better about myself and the world. And that may sound a bit airy and self-important, but it's pretty practical too, because feeling better about myself and the world is a huge help in weathering whatever else comes along with much more equanimity. So, writing keeps me (a bit more) sane. If I don’t do it fairly often, I tend to get more mopey and defensive. I am a nicer person to be around if I've been writing. Well, a little bit nicer.

Why write in public, though? Some folks are more reserved and would not want others to know what they are experiencing or pondering; they might confide in a very small circle of people and/or keep a private journal. It would cost them, in some sense, to “open up,” perhaps seem like a sacrifice or a discipline. But I’m not like that. Staying quiet would take much more discipline and sacrifice! I want other people to hear what I say. I want to talk. And writing about things is even better than talking about things. You can pick your words more carefully, and/or go back and change them after, and they last longer.

Blogging also helps me think more clearly. I aim for 70-80% intelligibility when I blog. So, not great writing, but something that moves me forward from the 50-60% intelligibility (or less) of unexpressed thought. If occasionally I pull off a 90-100% post, that’s good. But I’m not going to hold myself to those standards here. I aim a bit higher with newsletters and stuff that gets published on paper or where my words are intended to represent a group of people instead of just myself.

If keeping a blog helps or stimulates others, great. If it makes me a few new friends, that’s nice too. And if it helps people who care about me keep tabs on me and feel connected, responding with encouragement or accountability as needed, all the better. Feedback through comments, while there isn't a lot of it, can be quite helpful. But that's not why I blog.

One thing that’s challenging is that my readership is more diverse than a group I might spend time with in person. Face to face, I am much more in the habit of contextualizing my message, sticking mostly to topics of interest to whomever I’m speaking with.

The blog is read by people with whom I share very different patches of common ground. So I can’t contextualize. Or I don’t, anyway. While some bloggers stick to one basic topic, tone, or area of life (or keep multiple, discrete blogs), most of us don’t. This tension kept me from starting a blog for some time. I didn’t know which part of my world I’d blog about, or for whom, and didn't want it to be incoherent. But, like many bloggers, I do produce a hodge-podge.

That means, on any given topic, I risk confusing, offending, or boring some segment of my little readership. Face to face, I wouldn’t show my missions-y side to my non-Christian family members, at least not as much. I wouldn’t show as much of my liberal side to my more conservative friends. Would I complain about my job-related issues to my coworkers and supporters? Ah, well, I might – I do. I disapprove of covering things up; I consider openness a better policy. But it is also risky behavior.

My favorite posts are whimsical or intellectual. I am both, but I know those aren’t “cool” things to be. So I tend to tone down those attributes in social situations to avoid being mocked or seen as eccentric. Here, I can be myself – that side of myself. It feels safer.

Now, whom should I tag? Why do YOU blog, bloggers?


I Was Just Thinking.... said...

Not related to this entry...this past weekend the kids and I traveled to kansas city to be with in-laws. We walked the plaza and ended up in barnes and noble, the christianity section. Perusing the books I was pleasantly surprised to see Through her Eyes by Marti Smith. Ah, Ah I cried out to anyone within ear-reach..."I know this woman!" My family and Dave's were impressed (not that I know you but that your book was at the Barnes and Nobles in kansas city.
Maybe you should do a marti smith book watch and find out where all your readers can discover your writings.

Paul Merrill said...

Thanks for your reasons, Marti.

I, for one, am very glad you blog.

Marti said...

Whoa, my book in the Kansas City B&N...? Remarkable. I never did the things I should have (which I thought others should have done) to publicize the thing when it came out. I know better now. But I'm just glad it's still selling.

Anonymous said...

Interesting, this is your cousin, Michelle, and I wasn't aware you wrote and published a book. WOW! I can see that you will never cease to amaze me. Sorry it isn't related to the topic of why people blog, but since "i was just thinking...." brought it up, had to comment.