Monday, October 25, 2010
I place part of the blame on a good friend of mine with whom I had lunch last week. She's a regular reader of this blog, although it should be acknowledged that she has no choice -- we've known each other since 8th grade, and if she didn't read my blather, I'd know. (I quiz her regularly about recent posts: "So! Which funny thing that I wrote recently did you find the most funny? You can give more than one answer.")
We were talking about my recent blog frustration, which has been caused -- well, by a lot of you people, frankly. You fellow bloggers. I'm reading you regularly, and you're putting out a lot of great stuff lately. You know who you are. You, with your sharp wit and smart writing, your ability to draw me in with your great stories, the way you open windows into your lives. You do this thing where you get me reading a post, get me to follow along, chuckling here and there, and then you laser me with an insight I didn't see coming, leaving me sitting in my chair, dumbfounded. You're quite talented, you know. But how the hell is your talent supposed to make me feel, huh? Who failed to get the memo about how the universe is supposed to be constantly validating my existence? You, Mr./Ms. Talent, that's who.
I was describing my inadequacy issues to my friend, who's heard it all before. This is someone I've known since 8th grade, which means she's been listening to my "Why aren't I more talented?" bullshit for decades. The only other person who hears all this crap is my wife, who's kindly and patiently endured my bellyaching ever since we met fourteen years ago. Pity her. I'm no picnic, is what I'm saying.
So my friend listened to me moan for a little while: I've got writer's block, I'm not doing anything new or interesting on my blog, all the other bloggers in the world are better than me, the universe loves them better, yaddah yaddah blah blah blah spew belch shutthefuckupalready.
It was embarassing, now that I look back on it. No one likes a whiny pirate.
"I have a question," my friend finally asked me when I stopped being pathetic long enough to take a breath.
"Ok," I said hopefully, ready for heaps of praise about how I'm so awesome and I don't even know it, which makes me even more awesome.
"Here's the thing about your blogging," she said. "I like reading your writing. I think it's good stuff, and it's cool that you do it. But... what's the point?"
Huh? I looked at her blankly, unable to comprehend the question.
She continued. "I mean, what's your purpose in having the blog? Is it supposed to further some goal? Is there money in it? You're a writer -- do you picture it as a way to help you sell a book someday? Is there a reason to make a name for yourself in the blog world? What do you personally get out of it?"
I forget exactly how I replied. I think I said, something like, "Um, well, erg, uh... I don't know, what do you get out of.. your face!?!"
Her question was, of course, excellent. Damn her.
What do I want to get out of blogging?
I realized that I'd gotten a little confused about why I blog. Hence my existential spiral.
Most of my posts are about parenting and teaching, the two endeavors that fill my days, so those are my main contexts. Within the realm of Mom and Dad sites, I've seen that some blogs give advice, while others ask for advice. Some tell funny stories, some teach lessons. Some report news, and others promote products. Some blogs are about contributing to a community of like-minded folks; others are about getting more page hits and drawing more eyeballs to the site.
Well, let's face it. We all want more eyeballs. I'm no exception.
There's nothing wrong with any of the above reasons for having a blog. Readers have different tastes, and there's an audience out there for everyone. We all know what type of blog keeps us coming back, and which ones we only visit once.
But that last part? The getting more eyeballs part? That's become a bit more of an obsession for me that it should. When I read over recent posts, I see several that I wrote purely because I thought they'd get me more readers. "Now this is funny stuff," I thought right before hitting Publish. "This will definitely get me more readers, several of whom will try and figure out where I live so they can camp outside my house. Excellent!" And those posts are, predictably, pretty shitty. Wild flails.
My friend asked the question, "Why do you blog?" and I was forced to engage in some introspection about this humble pirate blog and about myself. Here's what I'm slowly figuring out:
1. I like Funny, but Funny isn't easy. Funny is hard to pull off on a blog, and there's a thin line between Funny and Trying Too Hard. I've been guilty of the latter often in my life. I'll bet money that I'll be guilty of it again. Possibly before the end of the day.
2. Obsessing about followers doesn't work. When I write a post solely in the hope that it will increase the number of little pictures in my Follower box, I write some pretty rotten stuff that isn't worth anyone's time. Sorry 'bout that.
3. Good stories come from real stuff. This one I already knew, actually, so that's good. I have yet to make up a story just to fill a post. Between my family and my job, there's a surplus of interesting stories out there. So that's a bit of good news.
4. I suck at strategizing. Some say a successful blog is one that's positioned very distinctly: Dad Blog. Mom Blog. Teacher Blog. Gossip Blog. Wacky Humor Blog. There's plenty of evidence that this is true. This blog is not well-positioned, sadly. I do like defining myself as a Dad Blogger; I like being a part of that contingent; there are some great guys/great writers in that group. And I like writing about the ups and downs of teaching college too. I need to be able to do both, and more. So I bounce around a lot.
5. I am a pretentious ass. There's an element of Look at me look at me look at me! in every blog, and this one is clearly no exception. The fact is, writers by nature are pretty self-absorbed. Writing an entire post like this one to discuss my worth as a blogger is Exhibit A, right? I will never talk shit about other writers/bloggers who seem obsessed with themselves, since we all are. It's just true.
6. I might use this blog for a promotional purpose some day. I won't pretend otherwise. Like so many others, I too have a novel-in-progress that's currently crouching in a dark corner of my hard drive, mocking me. If I ever finish it, and if it ever gets sold, I can absolutely imagine using this blog to help put the word out about it. For this reason, I'll never knock blogs that have some promotional content.
My friend asked, "Why do you blog?" and I gave it a lot of thought. I decided to write a post about it in an attempt to feel better about what I'm doing. So here's what I've come up with:
At the end of the day, I have this blog because I want to fill a space in the world. I want a reason to write, even when I don't feel like I have anything valuable to say. I want to, yes, call attention to myself.
Most of all, I want to write things down and interact with other people who write things down. I want to have a seat at that table. I think that's as good a reason as any to have a blog.
You know what? I do feel better.
Posted by Didactic Pirate at 2:24 PM
What say ye?