Monday, January 05, 2009

Thinking about Blogging

I am afraid to check my statcounter, just as I'm scared to step on my bathroom scale. (If they traded numbers, that would work for me....hmm, maybe then I'd be TOO thin). I haven't looked at either the scale or the statcounter for a long time, though I usually try to check once a week for both. I will wait until I am in the mood for challenge.

Reasons for my Statcounter Anxiety:

Firstly, people probably don't even really read blogs during Christmas season, except maybe to glance at other peoples' pretty holiday pictures and maybe get a sense of what others are resolving for 2009.

Secondly, even if they are reading during Christmas, the Catholic homeschool audience I imagine I get mostly probably aren't dying to find out more about Kant and Peirce and Descartes (or one person's perspective on them) when they are focused on trying to clean up their houses and recover from all the visitors and viruses and sugar.

Thirdly, my recent blogging volume has been at a steep clip, about 2 long posts a day on average, as I try to process mentally, which makes things even more off-putting.

A summary of my recent blogging history would go something like this (sung to the tune of "On the First Day of Christmas")

Five Newman Quotes!
Four posts on Kant,
Three retrospectives,
Two posts on fitness,
And the Dickens DVDs!

Yawn.... sorry folks. I can hardly think of another person in the universe who would have any interest in all this. Except for Dickens and retrospectives, none of it is terribly inherent to the Christmas season. A lot of it is rambly and a real drain on the busy person's attention span.

I have been trying to integrate my blogging and confine it mostly to this one place instead of scattering it over four or five blogs like I used to; the down side is that focus suffers as a result. You get a smorgasboard. Trivia about my fitness goals mingled with notes on family life and endlessly long quotes on how intellect and religion fit together.

On the "up side", though, is that I have been enjoying reading and rereading my blog. Seriously. It is just SO suited to ME right now : ). It is real. I actually did think things through while writing that I probably couldn't have thought out any other way. Blogging in its potential for an audience -- even if the potential is un-actuated -- challenges me to think things out in a way I wouldn't do otherwise. I have had more time to think -- our family tries to protect our holidays so besides some clan celebrating, we didn't have that many places to go -- and the transition to the new year has made me feel like reflecting and sorting through. Looking back at the last 1000 plus posts, I realize I have something like a scrapbook here, something like a journal, something like a commonplace or "copy book" but more of a treasure to me than any of these would be in itself.

I guess this post is becoming a way of thinking through why I blog, though I meant it to be short (all my recent posts have fallen into precisely that pattern).

Here are the two primary reasons I blog --

(1) to think things out and record life so I can go back and look at it later
(2) to communicate or network with others.

Both motivations are equally strong. Sometimes they work together in perfect harmony but more often they seem to tug at each other. Perhaps it's time just to figure out how to be comfortable with that recurrent tension. Perhaps it's healthy, like the seeming tug between the active and contemplative aspects of life.

I have been fortunate to have a few really thoughtful and consistent readers who comment occasionally and others who don't comment much or at all but have mentioned they follow my blog. I am very grateful for this, especially during the times when I feel I'm stretching the limits of their patience. Honestly I do very much value the occasional feedback and the sense of people listening and caring. That was one of the big things I have been pondering during this holiday season -- friendship and the ways it can come about that are different from traditional ways, but creative and real.

When I first started this blog, almost four years ago, I intentionally kept it very private because I was afraid I would hesitate to say things honestly if I knew anyone was listening. It was several months before I got my first comment. That was very rewarding -- to know someone was listening and responding. So then I actually mentioned my blog to people who already knew me online, and over time I got other readers from other venues as well. I found that some sort of readership did change my focus a bit, but it was very well worth it. Following the blogs of those who comment here has made me feel more part of a network than I would otherwise. I feel I have made some friends.

Long before I started blogging, I was a regular contributor to several email groups and loved the interaction of a written conversation. It gave this introvert, living in a rural community, a way to connect with people without going to great lengths to drive all over the face of California. When Aidan was born sick, this virtual community became a Real Life community as many people prayed Aidan through crisis after crisis. It became a paradigm for the Body of Christ.

Blogging seems more distant to me in some ways. You don't usually get the dialogues so much, though some of the people who read my blog do admirably in compensating for that. This is something very valuable to me. ... the interaction and feedback. I get less of it by blogging than I do by participating on boards and in virtual groups. And there is always the possibility of someone reading hostilely or coming here just to spam. So in that way sometimes I feel blogging is both less private and less instantly rewarding than group discussion.

On the other hand, blogging can reach a different type of person. For instance, I'm on a classical egroup and an unschooling egroup. Sometimes the conversations overlap but usually, they run on different tracks, and the focus is on the conversation, not on journalling moments of my life and thought. Blogging is a wider thing that way -- it can cover a wider part of one's life, and speak to people who wouldn't necessarily join either a classical or an unschooling group. The possibility of people reading who come from a very different background and worldview gives me reason to think things through in a different way than I would in a focused group where I am singing to the choir, as they say. And like I said, my commenters usually bring a lot to the combox -- they further my thinking, affirm my hope that I am not the only person in the world who thinks or feels or experiences whatever I have been blogging about. And they have widened my range of internet kindred spirits.

Just sort of thinking aloud, I guess; I can't think of a way to tie this up but there is a sort of theme running through it like a river : ).

That reminds me, and you'll see why it reminded me -- Lissla's post on Prequels No One Wants to See totally made me laugh out loud, especially.

The Ugly Kid with the Mask Who Likes Opera
A Stream Gradually Erodes It
I'll leave it there! If you are still reading and want to leave a comment, whether regular lurker or regular commenter, I'm welcoming you to take an opportunity to just say HI or Happy New Year or I'm Bored with Kant and Descartes, or whatever. If you want a topic, you could tell me why YOU blog if you do, or why you don't if you don't. If no one takes the opportunity, I'll try again some other time at the FRONT of a post instead of as an afterthought at the end of a longggg ramble.


lissla lissar said...

Well, you have one devoted reader who was checking your blog a great deal throughout the holidays, while trying to stay sane from people-related stress. :)I've always escaped from too much personal interaction by reading- reading blogs has become a good (although sometimes too easy and escapeful [which is definitely a word] addition to biblioholism), because it combines my other favourite activity- conversation.

I don't even have a statcounter. I'm too scared. I think I have, oh, possibly ten people who check regularly. That includes my husband, and possibly the toddler on my leg, who likes pictures of himself. :)

Anyway, I just woke up from a nap, so this is more than usually incoherent, but I like your blog (I've liked all of your blogs), I always enjoy finding out what people I like are thinking about. So, keep it up.

And I wish I could take credit for the prequels, but all I can do is post them. Did you ever hear about the massive online message board thread entitled "If LotR had been written by someone else?" You'd like it. I'll stick up a link.

Oh, and my favourite prequel is still A Loaf of Bread Sits Unguarded in France.

lissla lissar said...

And, you know, I just focused my eyes enough to notice the question at the end of your post.

So, I blog because I like to keep things- daily events, thoughts, lists of books- but I've never been organized enough or dedicated enough to have a real, paper journal for more than a month or so. That leads into the second reason- I like to talk to people. I like to hear what they think, and what they think about what I've been thinking.

I'm part extreme introvert, and part social butterfly. :)

Idzie said...

I found your blog in a search for unschooling, and I very much enjoyed reading this post. :-) I totally know what you mean about blogging being an excellent way to think things through, and an awesome way to connect with people you might not connect with otherwise. And it is also a very nice feeling knowing that people read what you write, and even nicer when they understand perfectly. :-)

Amy said...

Another devoted reader here, just always so low on brain power that when I read, I go, "Wow, I bet that is fascinating, I wish I had something interesting to say back!" LOL And I don't think I show up on statcounter too much as I read through google reader. Don't forget those feed readers! ;-)

LLMom said...

I don't comment much anywhere, but I read. Lots of heavy stuff to ponder here.

Sailmom said...

I also checked your blogs throughout the holidays (I love my Google reader!), and enjoyed your perspectives on Kant and Descartes. :) I've blogged for several years now, but I do it more for my immediate family than for any outside audience. Oh, and my kids and I got a huge kick out of those prequels. They've been coming up with new ones all morning. Thanks for sharing them!

Dawn E said...

I've got your blog in my reader...I've been silently enjoying it for some time.

I blog for various reasons: to keep long-distance family and friends up to date with the happenings in our home, to keep a sort of homeschool log, and to journal my epiphanies along this journey of grace. It is nice (though sometimes intimidating) to know someone is listening. I would be severely thin, alas dead, if my weight was equal to my audience. :)

Anonymous said...

So my advice would be to get rid of the statcounter (and the scale). You don't blog for a big audience. You blog for yourself. Very worthwhile. And sometimes the rest of us learn something (quite a lot really) and connect with people we wouldn't otherwise connect with. I check all the time. I've not felt up to deep philosophical discussion lately but sometimes you get on a jag that does really interest me. And if blogging helps you with the Kant and Descartes, I say keep blogging about it. Beats the heck out of depression and psychotic episodes (which can also come from reading too much of that stuff).

Katie said...

I also read through a feed, so I don't know if I count for stats. I love watching you wander through all the philosophical stuff-- much of it is brand-new to me.

I blog because I like to put things out there-- half hoping people notice, and half not. I just feel like I will explode if I don't say what I am thinking sometimes, and before I started blogging I was really bad at taking over conversations. (I'm still kind of bad at that, depending on the group, but not *as* bad.)

I have a stat counter, but I haven't been able to access it for over two years. I lost my password. ;o) But I have a *very* small regular readership-- I would say around 20 people.

Anonymous said...

Happy New Year, Willa!

I enjoy your blog and I really like your new template. Thanks for giving me things to think about.

Laura A said...

Willa, I was gone for two weeks and am just starting to read and blog again, but I just wanted to say that I do appreciate your blog very much. And once I decide to read anyone's whole post, I usually click off the Google Reader and onto the blog itself. It can be especially rewarding this time of year, when many people "redecorate."

I won't do the stat counter or even list the blogs I read regularly on my own sidebar. And I try not to consider too much "what other people want to read." All those things tempt me to focus too much on whether people "like" me, and that's not why I blog.

Blogging is for me the one place where I really get to say what I want, no matter how esoteric or scattered, and find out whether anyone else is interested in the same things--even if it's Kant or Descartes. I used to always jokingly complain to my husband that you can't exactly go to a baby play group and start a conversation with, "So, anybody reading any John Donne lately?" With blogging, you can do just that, whether anyone comments or not! Mostly not, I'm sure, but one reason I do read your blog is that I can imagine you posting on the likes of Donne.


Willa said...

Yes, I can see where the statcounter can be like a popularity meter and pull the focus towards "do you like me?" If it were just that, I wouldn't even have it. I journalled happily for years in private.

But with blogging I suppose I do feel that it's in some way a community enterprise, and in that way feedback seems important. Like, if you were going to hang out at a New Year's party, say, or the gathering after church, you would try not to just go on and on about something that everyone was obviously bored by. I wouldn't go to extreme lengths to get attention, either, with lampshades on head and all. There would be a middle ground. Hmm.. still thinking.

Us! said...

I was away for the holidays on the coast (trying to escape the cold which kind of followed us!).

I am also a devoted reader- your thoughts give my brain a much needed workout at times and I can so often relate.

I blog, very infrequently, to get some of the thoughts roaming in my head into something coherent. I also like to keep a bit of a record- this will sound very strange, but in my down days (the -40 ones) I can pop up my blog and think, my what a happy, busy family that is!