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 I think maybe their premise was that only a book can really deal with an idea, certainly not an unpublished writer.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.

dea 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.


Anonymous said...

Hi Rain,

Your blog keeps me thinking, alright! LOL. The blogs I stop visiting are the political rants with nothing substantial to back up the viewpoints. However, I will revisit blogs with other points of view if the ideas are presented thoughtfully and have something to back up the positions. These blogs, at least, have something I can read and learn from.

I don't blog but write privately. Reading blogs is a valuable window into the worlds of other people and how they think and live. Geography doesn't get in the way. Arts and crafts blog get my attention and so do well-written idea blogs.

Wishing you a peaceful weekend from Julie

robin andrea said...

The reason I keep coming here to read your blog, rain, is how thoroughly you think things through. I tend to not go the philosophical route, and blog as a balance to my quiet internal self. I appreciate how you seriously tackle tough issues and ideas, the kind of things I work at steering clear of.

Roger and I started blogging as a daily journal of our new life in retirement. It's been six years, and it pretty much has the same intent, but not so much content anymore.

Paul said...

Great post Rain ! I have had a blog for over 6 years. I do the blog, because I like the exchange of viewpoints, ideas and opinions. Meeting people is a good bi-product of doing a blog for me. My blog is eclectic and it reflects my personality. I like to read other blogs as well, because there is a lot of variety out there and a fair share of intellectual stimulation. :-)

Unknown said...

I’ve been blogging for over six years. My blog is basically a way for me to share what’s going on with me and my family with relatives and friends around the country. Ironically, I have a small following of people I’ve never met who are more interested in the goings on of my small clan than are my own family members. I also add quotes and book reviews so you can pretty much learn who I am from the books I read and the quotes that move me enough to post them. The only time I actually voice a philosophical opinion is when I leave a comment on other blogs. Then, sometimes I’ll rewrite that same comment and post it on my blog. So, Rain, you are a good catalyst for me. You don’t find very many people in a lifetime with whom you can have a good conversation, but writing and reading blogs enables you to garner far more people with whom you can exchange diverse opinions and ideas. There was a time when good conversation took place over a piece of cake and a cup of coffee in our living rooms, now it’s done over cyberspace.

mandt said...

Another well thought post Rain. It is always a pleasure to visit here and also enjoy the high quality of your other reader's comments.

Darlene said...

I think the name of my blog tells what kind of category it falls into. It's a Hodgepodge and I just write whatever interests me at the moment. I do think I reveal way too much about myself, but in doing so I have made good friends on the internet because they share my views and/or experiences and we discover that we are in sync.

People that read my blog know that I am opinionated, pragmatic and an advocate for facts. If I find the blogger is not truthful they lose me. I lose others when I have views that differ from theirs, although I welcome their views. I can always learn from someone else and am very aware that I am often wrong.

Blogging has been rewarding for me, but there are times when I feel burned out and want to leave the computer off for a time. But I always come back refreshed and curious about what I have missed.

I may be off topic here. Sorry, if I am rambling.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Frankly I am amazed that you are able to be so prolific in your blogging, recently your posts have been almost daily. With as many as I follow, it is often difficult to keep up.

Blogging is therapy for me, allowing me to put into writing what usually is rolling around in my head. I tend to NOT blog about hot current events - the incident in Tucson, for example; there are already thousands of blogs and opinion pages on those topics, there is nothing that I am going to ad there.

Indeed some blogs are tedious; particularly when they are simply narratives of people's mundane lives... a lot of young mothers blogging about their pregnancies, for example. I am sure it is meaningful to them but not of general interest to me.

The ones I follow are usually thoughtful and/or humorous or both.

Nance said...

I'm officially addicted to blogging; it's the shy person's answer to having meaningful conversations she'd likely never get to have otherwise. And so many things fascinate me, the tough part is figuring out which of them to write about in any given week.

When I first began, I had an acquaintance whose blog had gone viral within a very short period of time. She knew her target audience and she kept the blog focused on the three topics she'd adopted (only one of which interested me). Her advice to me was that people don't want to read words; they want to look at pictures. She must have gotten tired of all that picture-taking, because she began to post the same ones over and over and over again. And she's still viral. What IS that?

I liked pictures, too, but I liked words even more, so I decided I'd give it a try my way. If I eventually learned that she was right, then I'd know blogging was not for me.

She'd missed out on the idea blogs and writer's blogs entirely; I've found quite a few of them, if turns out. Nothing like viral has happened to me (seems like an affliction, really), but I have some companions in the blogosphere that I really like and have come to care about. It's as the car salesman said, "There's a butt for every seat."

Rain Trueax said...

I aim for every other day here. The political and other blogs just get something when it comes out with no system. I do though plan to cut it to two a week for February and maybe March because of other things going on. I don't read a lot of blogs which helps me some to keep up with those I do read. I like the blogger system that lets me know who has something new and usually check those out and I have a couple of others I always read but aren't on my list yet. I couldn't read a lot of them though and figure if I check out 10 a day, I'm about at my limit if I want to write myself anything.

Some of these blogs just about write themselves but this one on blogging, I spent quite a bit of time considering what I wanted to say there as I hadn't thought a lot about the types of blogs etc. Writing about it led me to thinking about it in a lot more depth.

Diane Widler Wenzel said...

I enjoyed your post and the comments are equally interesting to me.
I really wonder if I will continue my blog on my art journey. I call it a journal. It helps for me to say what my goal is for the paintings I will do next. I don't always follow these goals of course.
Blog Stats are telling me I get the most hits on my posts that include art history. If I should come across some more historic connections I might be taking extra time to include an essay. I have to weigh if blogging is keeping mefrom teaching in a live class.

Tabor said...

The fact that you write so well helps with such a digression on blogs. Many of your thoughts are familiar to me. Glad I stumbled here...cannot remember how...but hopefully will find my way again.

Paul said...

I post almost every day. It's a rare day when I don't post. Other blogs give me ideas for posts a lot of the time and I try to throw my readers a curve once in awhile to keep them interested. A blog reflects the person writing it. :-)

20th Century Woman said...

I like all sorts of blogs. Probably the ones I like the best are the mixture kind -- part personal, part idea and, ideally, a mix of both. Your blog certainly falls into this category. I like posts that tell stories and in telling generate thought. But I also like some blogs that have only ideas and deliberately eliminate the personal. I guess it really takes all kinds.

Fran aka Redondowriter said...

This is one of the most interesting blog posts I have read in a very long time and it doesn't surprise me that I would find it at Rainy Days. Your blog is a combo blog of the two kinds you mention. Mine is a personality blog, or what I call my discipline of writing practice. There is rarely "depth" in my posts and I rarely write about anything controversial unless I feel very sure of being able to hold up if the disagreements become intense.

There are only a handful of blogs I read regularly and yours is one of them. You do the hard work of figuring things out and then I can say, "Ah, hah; I wish I had said that."

The blogs I do read are about being present for that person no matter what they write. I rarely stick with a blog if it is about constant misery. I keep my blog fairly upbeat out of choice; my personal written journals are where the miseries and doubts are worked out.

I've been blogging since 2003 and initially it was such a novelty both posting and reading. Now I have a hard time sometimes "coming up with something interesting," and then I have to remind myself that I do it for me and not for you. We all like to get comments but I know I will never have a large following. I probably could if I wrote strategic and marketing plans, and changed my content, but what would that get me? I have one friend who still longs to go on Oprah. I don't want to be a guru.

It is about being present--for you and for myself, if that makes any sense at all. Thanks again for this very thought provoking post.

Snowbrush said...

Well, you covered a lot of territory, and I have no time for anything but a brief and shallow response, so I'll plunge right into it.

"I read a discussion online where some said idea blogs were shallow and hence a waste of time for writing or reading--"

If you're correct in that the writer meant to suggest that one needs an entire book to express depth, then his or her opinion expressed in an online forum is necessarily shallow, is it not, and therefore of questionable value?

"...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."

"Atlas Shrugged" is certainly long, and "The Little Prince" is certainly short, but which would you consider the greater book in any sense of the word? As for the importance of being a professional, Thoreau had little published in his lifetime, and made little to no money from that, whereas Joseph Holt Ingraham was the most published author of the 19th century, yet his books hardly outlasted him. Obviously, being a professional is no guarantee of quality--or at least longevity.

I should think that the main difference in being a professional and a blogger is that someone had to like your writing for it to get into print if you're a professional--or at least someone had to think he or she could make money off it. After all, some bloggers do write books in blog form.

joared said...

Enjoyed your perspective on blogging. Initially, I thought it wouldn't matter whether or not I had readers, but I quickly learned that I did care. I just don't write with a specific attempt to please any particular reader(s),or adopt techniques to deliberately pursue acquiring additional readers. Some interesting thoughts here which I may want to expound on further.

Khalid FAROOQ said...

Enjoyed your spontaneous stream of thought process post and gona share it on my facebook too :) I was so much lost into it that I thought you were talking in front of me. I have been blogging since sometime but am too young to find an audience I guess. Thanks for this nice post and will keep coming back.

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