Oregon writer, Rain Trueax, and Oregon painter, Diane, co-author Rainy Day Thought, where they write about experiences, ideas, nature, creativity, and culture. The latter might appear at times political, but we will try to avoid partisanship to speak to the broader issues that impact a culture. This is just too important a time not to sometimes speak to problems that impact society. As she and I do, readers will find we often disagree and have for over 50 years-- still able to be close friends. You can do that if you can be agreeable that we share more than not despite the difference.
Diane posts on Wednesdays and Rain on Saturdays. There may be extra days or changes as situations warrant. Comments, relating to the topic, are welcome as it turns an article into a discussion, but must be in English, with no profanity, hate-filled comments, or links (unless pre-approved).
Fantasy, the painting by Diane Widler Wenzel, cropped a little to fit the needs of a banner.
Saturday, January 29, 2011
a blog about blogging
Blogging, whether reading or writing them, can lead now and then to a reevaluation of purpose. For the reader (which most blog writers are also) it might be: why am I spending time reading this? Does it benefit my development as a person? Is it a welcome respite from more serious pursuits-- i.e. fun? Is it something that a new year should find less of? Is it enriching or depleting my life?
For the writer, the questions are somewhat similar: why do I do it? What are my goals for it? Is this the time to stop? Do I need a new direction? Is it still meaningful to me? Do I have more to say? For a writer, these questions are not about whether to write. Writers will always write. It's whether to write a blog; and if so, in what direction to take it.
Not so long ago, I read a discussion online where some said idea blogs were shallow and hence a waste of time for writing or reading-- too many shallow ideas out there already. I think maybe their premise was that only a book can really deal with an idea, certainly not an unpublished writer.
Not arguing over whether they were right, it led me to think a bit about whether any blog could be anything but shallow. They aren't very long. Most are not written by professionals. Then came another question-- if they were deep, thoughty, challenging, how many people would read them? What do most blog readers want from a blog?
As I thought about the blogs which I regularly read, I decided (correct me if I am wrong) there are in general two types-- personality blogs or idea blogs-- and only rarely are any of them purely one or the other.
A personality blog has a journal format which may or may not be in current times. Such a blog tells me what the writer has done or is doing-- or at least what they are willing to share of that. The writer of such blogs might keep it purely upbeat or truly delve into what their lives are like. They could even create a persona who is who they wish they were. Whether readers stay with them will be dependent on how much they end up liking that person. How many of us care who went shopping and what they bought? Generally, when we do, unless the writing is really superior, we care when they are family or we like the writer.
Where it comes to personality blogs, in surfing, I have come across a few where the writer was literally ripping their life to shreds as they delved into their failures or those of someone else's. You could feel their anger or anguish. I am not sure how popular that kind of blog is, but it has no appeal to me at all to read or write. I understand some people need to do that. Fine and they should. A blog is after all about what we want to write; but I felt like a voyeur and didn't go back.
On the other hand, if had been reading a blog for awhile, where suddenly something traumatic happened, I'd stick with if I felt I could offer help in anyway. Mostly I follow a philosophy in such situations-- am I part of the problem or can I be part of the solution. If it's neither, I won't probably read them or offer comments.
One of the most successful personality blogs is probably Pioneer Woman's. She has made a lot of money, fame, plus published several books, from writing about her life from an upbeat personality view. She doesn't pretend she writes about everything. She keeps it light and fun.
With her loose formula, using a lot of excellent photographs, she has found millions of readers because people feel they would like her if they met her (she strikes one as a very nice person); and she leads a life (ranch living, home schooling kids, cooking, photography) that people, especially those who don't live on ranches, enjoy seeing photos and reading about. (It doesn't hurt that she has a hunky cowboy husband whom she calls Marlboro man not for his smoking but that he is smoking hot!)
I got distracted.
Back to my train of thought, such as it was. An example of an idea blog could be on many topics but in politics, how about Andrew Sullivan. He has several who help him and he also picks up links to other ideas that have attracted his attention. He only very rarely writes about what he is doing personally.
Idea blogs can be political, philosophical, nature, art, literary, etc. etc. They have very little of what the writer is doing daily and sometimes nothing about who they are beyond a name. Either personality or idea blogs might have authors who use a pen name. Since some have gotten death threats from what they have written, a little anonymity is a safety aspect to a not letting yourself be too easily found.
Although I think of my blog as being an idea blog, a lot of my personality is in it. It's not a journal but now and then I write about things that are going on in my life-- usually when I see them as about an idea that they illustrate. I don't write about everything.
An example is how the month of January went for me. The shooting in Tucson led to blogging on it because it upset me personally on many levels. But a lot of other things were going on in my life in January that I had zero interest in writing about. Some was good and some not so much. Between trying to figure out why I had pain in my jaw and around my ear, and breaking off a tooth requiring a crown, it seemed the left side of my head had decided to do war on the rest of me. Visits to dentist and doctor (crown and ear infection respectively) and taking antibiotics, the last thing I felt like writing about here was what was going on in my own life. I didn't see it applying to some bigger idea other than-- when will spring be here???
I never have pretended what I write here reflects the essence of me. If Farm Boss and I had an argument,you won't find it here. Most of the things I do in a month will not find their way here. It's not because they aren't interesting or might not be to others but some is a sense of privacy-- especially where it involves other people. Mainly though it's because I like to write about what interests me or might inspire someone else. Things like going to the dentist or doctor are bad enough to have to do, let alone write about. It's not important enough to feel a need to have to inform and so I usually won't.
Whatever is here is true as best I know it, It is though my truth and not all of it. If I met someone in person, whose blog I have been reading, I might, with their permission, write about it later (might not too), but would always keep it light. Any thoughts I have on other people won't find their way here. I would save that for fiction where they get used as a character they won't even recognize ;).
Personally, one thing I have never wanted to have happen is that I might do something, make any part of my life happen, because of writing about it in a blog. I have seen how easily that could happen. I live, therefore I blog is fine; but no way do I want it to be that I blog therefore I live. IF I ever found I did something just to write about it, I'd quit the blog.
Ideas are what interest me. I have too many diverse ones to do a one topic blog. I do think about the meaning of life, question why things happen as they do. I like to write about it, enjoy researching, not only to better my own thinking but to hear how others see it. When comments expand on something I wrote, even when they disagree, that's really the icing on the cake.
A lot of times my blog benefits from synchronicity which requires no planning except I have to be able to recognize and grab it when it comes along. A recent example was a New Year's digital art slide show. The art was a mix of something I was enjoying but it did expand due to knowing I had a place to share it. I wanted music but had no idea what would work. Then I got a lovely cyber New Year's card from a friend. The song on that card was IT which led me to finding a version that worked for my slide show.
I don't remotely claim that always my ideas are deep or have great meaning-- although they might. An idea is an idea and it doesn't have to be worthy of putting in a time capsule for me to find it worth exploring. I am interested in little things and big ones. Some of my favorite blogs to read are of the writer discussing a walk they took, insects they photographed, or stories of their pets. Write about pets (but not sad stories unless there is simply no choice) and I'm hooked.
For any blogs, idea or personality, how weighty can they be given their length rarely goes over 800 words. I have to be honest, if I am reading other blogs, when an individual one goes on too long, pretty soon I am spacing off unless it's extremely well written and hitting on a topic I happen to be passionate about. Otherwise, I'll read the start, maybe a bit of the middle, the end, and if the end doesn't make me feel I need to figure out how they got there, I'm done.
Idea blogs can be risky as you can lose readers over them through either they don't want to have a blog asking them to think (plenty of places for that, thank you) or other times when the reader disagrees and doesn't want to come back where it irked them. I get that too. Boy, do I get that!
A blog isn't a book, although a few morph into one. It is just a place for friends to stay in touch, which is the personality/journal type blog; or people can share ideas that matter to them, sometimes educating others about an issue, or simply to share a stream of consciousness that is developing. Idea blogs can be about appreciation of nature, a book, a video, philosophy, history, painting, or a hobby. Readers might know a lot about the writer or nothing other than their passion for their subject.
(The most visits that I have ever gotten on a subject was one I wrote some time back and it regularly gets visitors from around the world-- praying mantises. Knowing how much interest there is in them, I'd love to get more photographs, but it seems they are alerted to my goals and I almost never see one these days even though they must be around. When we were in an art gallery at the Coast, Farm Boss saw the above bronze sculpture by Dan Chen and took the time (with permission) to photograph it against an appropriate painting conveniently placed behind it.)
For me there are two things that matter in reading or writing a blog. One is honesty. I don't mind people using pseudonyms as obviously I do that myself; but if they pretend they are living a certain type of life, have a certain profession, and I found out it was imaginary, I'd be done with them.
Second is that we (reader and writer) do what rewards us. If that is taking off the layers and sharing a deep inner side to ourselves, that sometimes is unpleasant, well the reader has a choice whether to go along or not. The question for the writer and reader is the same-- is it worth my time? If it's not, we quit visiting or if we are the writer, we take a break.