I had other blogs before it. A LiveJournal and notes on Facebook. The A Cappella Blog that’s run since 2007. My weekly wrestling column at 411mania that I always looked at more as a wrestling-centric blog than anything else.
This blog, though--Three Words That Became Hard To Say--has been different from the beginning. I started it to have a place for miscellaneous writing about whatever I wanted to write about, not to mention a home base on the web where I could regularly self-publish, regardless of what happened in terms of other websites, or what literary journals saw fit to accept my work. It evolved into a place for short, relatively raw personal essays—often nostalgic, sometimes esoteric, and rarely given more than one pass at revision before I share it with the world.
No doubt, a part of why I’ve stuck to the project is to externalize ideas. As I came to accept from a pretty early age, I communicate better in writing than in speech—more clearly, more cleverly, more assertively. It’s what made writing workshops, let alone teaching writing such an interesting conundrum, simultaneously frustrating and fundamentally important for learning to articulate what I knew, via instinct and decades of practice to be true about the written word. When it comes to day-to-day life, though, as much as I enjoy catching up with an old friend every now and again, or talking to my wife, I still find there’s no substitute for me to putting the words down on paper or on my computer screen, for fully realizing an idea and for achieving intellectual discovery as one idea transforms or evolves into the next. So, the process of writing this blog has allowed me to not only conjure memories, but connect these seemingly disparate moments and ideas.
When I’ve taught writing, the subject of audience tends to come up. Who are you writing for?--the great rhetorical question that differentiates academic papers from op-eds from creative writing from personal blogs. But what of a blog with no central focus other than what’s on my mind when I sit down at the keyboard? Can such a project possibly interest anyone but me personally on any kind of a sustained basis? And if the blog were just for me, why not keep it as a private journal? Why put it out to the world?
One of the most surprising discoveries of these years of blogging has been just who is reading. There are the family members and close friends whom it’s sensible enough would be interested enough in whatever I’m writing, at least to the extent that they’d peruse my latest entry to see if it rests in our overlapping areas of interest or experience. But then there are those more casual friends—co-workers, classmates, the sort of people I know better on Facebook than I do in real life. Every now and again, these people will say something about the blog in real life, or leave a comment when I share the post on Facebook. Something surprising. Something that shows they engaged with the material far more than I would have expected for them to.
This might be the greatest pleasure in blogging for me—this essence of engaging in conversation with people, like me, who are more comfortable writing than speaking, more at ease reading than listening. People I might enjoy a cup of coffee with but for whom, all things being equal, might draw even greater enjoyment from knowing we’re sipping coffee at approximately the same time, reading the same words, mulling over the same ideas, from hundreds, if not thousands of miles apart.
There’s an undercurrent of fear around social media and the Internet at large. This culture of connecting without proximity or touch. Of hiding away in our various holes in the world without human contact and what that might do to a person’s sanity, to a person’s soul. I’m not here to argue that we should embrace any number of nightmare-scapes from Black Mirror or dystopian fictions; that we ought to let our bodies fester in favor of robots acting in our place (I’m thinking the 2009 film, Surrogates). But there’s also something to be said for what technological advances we’ve had and to this ability to maintain, or even create different kinds of relationships, in no small part through the written word.
I don’t know that this post has answered the question of why I blog. But maybe I’ve offered some new fodder for you to think about; maybe I’ve inspired you to write, or see if Surrogates is streaming somewhere. And that modicum of influence, from me to you across long distances, over the screen of your computer, phone, or tablet—-maybe that’s the point.