Friday, January 22, 2010
Why do we Carlisleans blog? For so many reasons…
If Freud were taking part in the social media revolution, he might pose this question: “What do bloggers want?”
Of course, if Freud were in on the Web 2.0 wave, he’d probably be far too busy with Twitter, instant messaging and updating his status on Facebook (“Just met with A. That uterus of hers seems to be off on another walkabout…” “Gr8 session w/P today. OMG does he [heart] his mom.”) to pursue the question of what motivates bloggers, but it’s a refrain we bloggers grow accustomed to hearing: “Why would I want to write about myself all the time? And why would anyone read it?”
But narcissism, or exhibitionism, is not generally the driving force behind most bloggers, any more than it is behind most writers. While the first generation of blogs did tend to have a “Here’s what I had for dinner last night” feel, once the ease and popularity of blogging grew more widespread, so did its reach. Sharing one’s personal life is just one option for bloggers these days; far more common is to share expertise on anything from travel deals to food allergies to health insurance policy to digital scrapbooking – to name the themes of just a few of the blogs I regularly follow. Meanwhile there are also people like me who blog about daily life.
For me, a professional journalist and essayist, it’s a terrific daily exercise in writing practice. I’ve long started every day with ten minutes of uninterrupted free-writing, and that still remains to my mind one of the most critical practices a writer can employ, but blogging provides an interesting twist on the exercise: in addition to the free-writing, now I try to produce about 600 words a day on a topic and in a form that, unlike my personal journal, I am comfortable having other people read. While publishing essays about my personal life is something I’ve done for a long time now, both through this newspaper and through various other publications, blogging is a little bit different because the result is not formally published in print; it’s just online, and if I make an egregious error, I can go back and fix it. Plus the circulation of my blog is smaller than any of the other publications I write for, even the Mosquito – some days a lot smaller, and I know this for a fact because I can actually track the numbers, though not the specific identities, of my blog readers. (An editor who was considering a book proposal of mine once asked me how many readers my blog attracts. “Let’s just say that on days when my mom is traveling and doesn’t have Internet access, it drops by about 50%,” I told her.)
Moreover, though regular readers of my column might find this hard to believe, there actually are topics that I deem too trivial or elusive to serve as column topics even though they interest me. After all, my column is monthly; I have to feel that anything I write merits four weeks of value and validity. I always have a running list of possible column ideas; it used to be that some of them simply got scratched off the list once they were deemed unworthy. Now, those half-baked or ambiguous ideas become blog entries instead.
And I’m in good company here in Carlisle. When I put out the word that I wanted to hear from other bloggers, I discovered that there was a range of blogging emanating from the 01741 frequency. Like me, local author Tracy McArdle blogs to expand on the ideas about household and family that characterize her two published novels. “Why blog? Because it’s cheaper than therapy!” McArdle joked recently. But then she addressed the question more seriously. “You never know who might be reading it. You might spark the interest of an editor, but you might also touch someone in a way you didn’t expect.” The comments readers leave on McArdle’s blog confirm for her when she has written a post that other people can relate to; readers often simply note that they feel the same way about a particular issue. (Links to all blogs mentioned in this article are listed below.)
While blogs are a natural outgrowth for writers like us – perhaps now more than ever, with Julie Powell becoming a major publishing sensation after her blog developed into the bestseller Julie and Julia – there are a number of Carlisleans who are not professional writers but are enthusiatic bloggers. Steve Kirk blogs about fishing. Mike Hanauer blogs about environmental concerns and local climate change initiatives. Reverend Steven Weibley offers his view of work and worship at the Congregational Church here in town. Terry Golson blogs about raising chickens, and she includes live video streaming of daily life in her chicken pen. Robin Hillyard writes about (in his words) “travel, dogs, railroads, beer, birds, music, history, Carlisle, football.”
Interested? Starting a blog is easy, and a great way to test your writing skills, promote your ideas or just keep friends and family up-to-date. An easy, free program such as www.blogger.com will give you everything you need to get started, and there are books like the inevitable Blogging for Dummies as well as websites like www.problogger.net to guide you on your way.
Ready, set, post! ∆
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