Musings on Blogging

18:35 Sun 05 Aug 2007
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It was strange not to write a post yesterday. After doing it every day for just over a year, I was acutely aware of its absence.

In fact, I was quite tempted to write one. But I know that if I had, I would have given up on the schedule of posting five times per week, and would instead have just stuck to posting every day. Which wouldn’t be terrible, but I definitely need to try my current plan for at least a month to see how it works out.

It was a decidedly odd feeling to have to exert any will at all to not do something that thirteen months ago would have taken significant willpower to do. But I guess that makes sense, given the nature of habit. It doesn’t help to answer the question of why or how we can adopt some habits and not others, but that’s a difference discussion.

I had a conversation today with a friend about blogging, and this conversation made me think about what writing publicly gives me. That’s not strictly a question about just blogging, because I’ve had a web presence, under my own name, since around 1996. I don’t remember what the first content actually was—probably a résumé, some details about me, some links I liked… just like many websites of the time, really. The first “real” content I remember putting up on it was the Iain M. Banks interview that Sharon and I did in early 1997. After that, I would put things up from time to time, and I’ve migrated almost all of that content over to this, the current blog-based incarnation. But why put stuff up at all?

In some ways that’s a srtange question. Humans are social creatures, and having a web presence is a social statement. But that should suggest that everyone would have one, or some equivalent, and that’s clearly not true. So why do I have one?

Part of it stems from interest in the technology. I was interested in web design and development and in the internet, so I made a website for myself to see how that worked. That fact that it’s stuck around in various forms since then means that there are other factors.

The obvious one is self-expression. I’ve never been shy about making my opinions known, and a website is like a soapbox from which I can harangue the world, right? Not quite a perfect analogy, because I don’t actually do soapbox speeches. There is a part of me that wants to go “on record” with how I feel about a number of things, and this site is a good way to do that.

That’s only part of self-expression, the later part. Before you get there, you have to figure out how to put what you feel or think into words. Not necessarily a trivial feat. Sometimes it leads you to places you don’t expect (especially in fiction). In a number of respects it helps you to decide/discover who you are. The human condition, telling and absorbing stories which we assemble and disassemble, using them to call something “I”. I’ve been an adherent of the “know thyself, and to thine own self be true” creed for a very long time, although only in recent years have I accepted that it’s not just a question of unveiling the self, it’s also a question of creating the self. Hence the “decide/discover” dyad above. Shape, uncover, shape, uncover. Part of it is squinting through the dusk to catch a glimpse of what “I” looks like. Part of it is nudging the chisel or the brush to alter what “I” looks like.

Creativity and self-exploration (which feel like connected but separable things) are important to me, and I also feel that sharing them is important. Having a site gives me a vehicle for sharing them, and the presence of that vehicle also encourages me to actually do them—which is perhaps as important as anything else about it.

I happen to have forms of self-expression that work relatively well online, too. Writing, foremost, but also occasional photography and design. Theater, dance, other “live” forms of art, would have been much more difficult, and would have probably pushed me in another direction.

Another motivation for having a web presence is that I want to share information as a matter of principle. This especially applies to programming. Some of my earliest content was how-to instruction on HTML. Although I haven’t done much of it recently, I think that my commentary on my coding projects and related tech matters would be helpful to others engaged in similar projects, and that’s been a reason to have a site for quite some time.

I don’t seem to use my blog much for letting friends know what’s going on in my life. Occasionally, sure. But I suspect I can go months posting daily without giving much information about my life. As a form of keeping in touch, it’s more often a slice of what I’m like than a window into my life. I know that lots of people use their blogs quite differently, but the “here’s what I’m doing and feeling” approach somehow appeals to me only once in a while.

(The conversation in the comments, however, is frequently much more like a typical “staying in touch” mode, and those comments are clearly prompted by the posts, so I shouldn’t underestimate the site’s effect there.)

I’m not sure what the limits on what I post are. I know they’re there, as they are for almost everyone, but everyone has a different set. Other people I know write for more limited audiences, or they’re (pseudo-)anonymous. Some will write whatever they want without regard for who reads it. At the moment I’m fairly happy with the balance I have, although I think that I’ve drifted a little further away from the clearly personal since starting the posting-every-day routine. I’m not sure whether or not I should correct that drift, but I’ll see where things take me.

Those are the broad strokes of what I’ve been thinking since talking to that friend about why I post, and why I’ve had a website for that long. I know that a lot of you also have public (or semi-public) web presences. Why do you have them?

One Response to “Musings on Blogging”

  1. Harry Says:

    I think the act of writing out your own thoughts, however mundane, trivial, boring, droll, uninteresting or fantastic they may be, is good for you or rather better for you than not doing so. It’s nice to switch off the constant visceral broadcasts of others and tune into the sticky comforting vibrations within your own soft head.

    SO why share these thoughts with the rest of the world? I suppose keeping it public keeps you honest, if you know some else might read it your that little bit more careful with how you word things and what you say, you question yourself more. I guess its like training with an invisible partner who may or may not be watching.

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