“So who reads your blog?” my husband asked me recently. It was just after I’d posted the last time and was trying to express to him that satisfaction of having completed a post.
“Well, no one,” I said. “At least not as far as I know.”
“Why do it then? What’s the difference between writing in a journal and posting stuff publicly on a blog no one reads?”
Well, after a slight pause to reflect as I got ready for bed, I had an answer for him. I’ve been thinking about it ever since, too, and thought I’d just weigh in on the topic in this public space that no one seems to visit.
Why post to a blog, indeed. Let me list the reasons:
1. If you’ve always wanted to be a writer and you happen to be a shy perfectionistic sort of person, you tend to hold what you put on a page or screen pretty close. Right now, for instance, I happen to be writing this on an airplane for posting later. I can’t stop looking around me, over my shoulder—is anyone reading this? It makes me cringe to think they might be. There’s this temptation to change my working font size from an easy-on-the-eyes Times New Roman 12 to about an 8 or 9. So the thought of being read, my labored-over thoughts scrutinized by strangers, makes me break out in a cold sweat that is entirely unrelated to the turbulence we are currently encountering over Salt Lake City. But I’m supposed to be a grown-up now. A grown-up who, although the dreams of youth are fading, still wants to be a writer. So although I could decide to fantasize about becoming the next Emily Dickinson posthumously, I think it’s a much better idea to just take a deep breath and get some stuff out in a place where there’s at least the possibility that someone might read it and respond as they are so moved—to gripe, praise, ridicule, send me an invite to a lurid porn site, or whatever.
2. Because I am a perfectionistic sort of person, I can’t blather on without a clear sense of organization as I likely would in my journal. Or at least I should say that I feel the obligation, if I am blathering on while writing something for the blog, to form a point, a thesis to my blathering, if you will. So although I may start writing a post with a less than 100 percent clear purpose, I will labor over it until a theme seems to emerge. At least that’s the way it seems to me. Maybe some of you nonexistent readers would care to disagree? I didn’t know this would happen when I first started doing this, but that is what happened right away. Writing for a blog forces me to form my thoughts as mini (or sometimes not so mini) personal essays. That’s harder work and more time consuming than writing stream-of-consciousness style in a journal for one’s own eyes only, as valuable and therapeutic as that may at times be. But I’ve found that to be a good thing. When you force yourself to write personal essays, you make those fleeting inspirations work themselves full circle. I’ve found that by the end of most posts it’s (A) taken me at least two times as long to write as I would have thought when I first sat down, and (B) surprising conclusions are sometimes reached, or at least are fleshed out more than they were when I first started.
3. Although I have come to consider posts crafted pieces of writing, they are nevertheless crafted quickly. I like the pressure of writing these pieces in a short period of time. I haven’t thus far started a post and then come back to it for days at a time, carefully rereading and revising. No. It’s something in between writing a formal paper and writing a journal entry. Write something coherent, hopefully entertaining, and with a clear theme, but do it in one sitting and get it published.
4. I find it interesting to see what voice emerges. I like to feel myself taking a risk and letting that uninhibited writer side take over, knowing that sometimes my critical side tries to censor it and say I can’t possibly commit whatever it may be to a public place because it’s just too whacky and yet forging on rebelliously, typing away about the alchemy of crochet or about warrior horses that represent some inner drive or about Seth and just letting what's true to me actually be expressed.
5. This one’s more personal, less about my concern about invisible readers. I love it when something really magical happens and I discover something and it works. I’m thinking particularly of my very first post. I loved how I was reading Thoreau and found that great stuff about him and his journals. Looking back, that very first post pretty much summed up why I blog: because I hope that my mini essays become the basis of my life’s work, that they will help birth something larger.