Wednesday, November 6, 2013

To Blog or Not To Blog?

In December of 2008, I posted the following blog post.  I was new to blogging.  I had not one follower.  I wasn't sure if I should continue to blog or not.  Thankfully, I did continue to blog, but I find it interesting to read what I was thinking at that time.  Perhaps, you will too.

Reflection on Blogging from December, 2008

Of course that is the question...I started this blog, and sometimes I wonder why I continue to keep it. Do I write for an audience? That is a question that just appeared on Jim Burke's ning. It is a question that I am asking myself as I write this blog post. It is a question that does not have just one answer.

I have always enjoyed writing and have kept various types of journals over the years. I kept sporatic journals when my children were small as an attempt to just try and keep some sort of record of what life was like during that period of my life. I didn't really have an audience in mind when I kept those journals, but they were often more than just some sort of daily log of experiences. I wish I had been more disciplined in my journal attempts during those days because now I do have an audience for what I wrote during those busy, hectic times: myself and possibly my children.

Many young moms are blogging these days. They create fabulous blogs full of wonderful pictures of their children. They are pretty blogs filled with flowers and flowing designs. They represent the technological gifts that this generation of moms have developed. I envy these young moms and their blogs because they will have a precious record of their lives with their children. What a gift and a blessing. What I wouldn't give to have the same type of archive of my childrens' activities when they were young. I think these moms must have a permanent camera in their hands to capture all those adorable photos. They also must be incredibly organized to be able to produce these wonderful blogs, cook the meals, do the laundry and clean the house.

When one writes, the audience does not always present itself immediately. We wrtie because we have a need to record our lives. We write to express our dreams, our needs, our disappointments, our heartbreak, our insights, or even as a means of trying to make sense out of what is going on around us. Writing is intensely personal, and for that reason, we are sometimes hesitant to put down our most intimate thoughts and emotions on paper because we fear an unknown or known audience. Audience can intimidate us and cause us not to write or not to write well.

As a teacher, I now see I might have confused my students when I taught about audience and writing. I would tell my students that they did not need to consider audience when they wrote in their journals. In fact, I encouraged them not to think about the reader while writing. I told them that they were just to write. They did not have to worry about punctuation or spelling or any other grammatical rules as they wrote in their journals. I just wanted them to feel free to write without being intimidated by feeling that they must write perfectly if they were to write at all. I told them to focus on developing voice.

Many of my students would write stunning journal entries. They would amaze me with the uniqueness of their individual voices. I would get glimpses into their true selves through their journal writing. Sometimes, I would be heartbroken by what they had to share. Sometimes I would be alarmed. Always, I was grateful that they trusted me enough to write transparently and honestly when they knew I would read what they wrote. I was their audience, and they trusted me enough to write honestly.

Othertimes, when the students had a writing assignment, I would teach about audience. I would remind them that they should consider their audience when they wrote. Unfortunately, many times, these formal writings lacked an ability to touch any type of audience. They became stilted, boring, and seemed to only represent some sort of stylized writing that came about from trying to follow the form style writing that they had been taught in previous years of schooling. This writing would lack life. It might be perfectly representative of a five paragrah essay, but it lacked true meaning. The concept of writing for an audience was difficult for many students to grasp.

When my father became very ill and was hospitalized just days before he died, my students took a quarterly essay test that I had to grade before I could leave to drive over to Grand Junction to be with him. They had to respond to Li-Young Lee's poem, "The Grandfather." They knew they were writing for me - their teacher. They wrote mostly to get a grade. They clearly understood their audience. Interestingly, after all the responses were read, the grades were assigned, and I had left my role as teacher to drive to my father's bedside to become a daughter who only had a few more days to spend with her father, I found that my focus as an audience who had read assigned poetry responses shifted. I found myself recalling the poem, and even more importantly, I recalled the responses my students had shared with me about the poem in their tests. Their words began to comfort me. They gave me strength.  They allowed me to peacefully surrender myself to the moment I found myself in. I realized the power of the written word in a unique way. The freshness of my students' youthful responses that spoke of the value of caring for the elderly grandfather while treasuring his final stories spoke to me. We don't always know what response our audience will have to our writing.

Now, I find that I question the appropriateness and usefullness of my own attempts to write by using a blog. One of the most freeing lessons I embraced during this summer's writing project, was the concept that "there are not final drafts; there are only due dates." I can hear Katherine Frank's voice in my head whenever I repeat this saying to myself. I also embrace Anne Lamott's quote about some writing being a "shitty rough draft." The problem with a blog is that those types of drafts are immediately published! Horrors! What was I thinking???

Blogging is certainly the new "in thing" to do. I have so enjoyed our family blog. It has kept me smiling when I read the funny responses my children post. It has been a place where we can share our pictures and update our lives with each other. In today's world, so many of us have children spread all over the place, so it is nice to have a place where we can connect. The blog has been that place for us. It almost reminds me of the old round robin letters that my grandmother's family would circulate.

Blogs that are successful, seems to require audience. One would not continue to blog very long if one did not have some sort of audience. The beauty of the blog is the ability to have a place where one can post something that can generate an immedite response.

As of today, the jury is still out. I am not sure of the benefit of this blog except for serving as a place where I can create a bit of a history of what is going on in my life at the moment. I am newly retired. I struggle with my new status at times. I miss the academic life, and yet I am also happy to leave the daily demands of it behind. I miss my students. I miss the interaction. I miss my audience. That is one thing a teacher always has - an audience. As I used to say, "Just give me a stage!" But, I also like to think that my classroom was a place where we were all learning together. I like to think that I created a more generative, constructivist type of classroom. It wasn't just like the classrooms where I went to school most of the time. It was interactive and interesting. Certainly, if a blog is going to be successful, it must be all of those things too. At the moment, I think my blog mostly serves as a place where I can contemplate and explore where I want to go with my life as as a retired teacher. I don't necessarily need an audience to do that. I only need a place where I can record my thoughts and activities so I don't get lost. So, for now the blog continues.

A Short Reflection on Blogging from 2013:

And, now in November of 2013, I wonder what my life would be like if I had not taken up blogging.  I am grateful for the richness that blogging has brought to my life.   What are your thoughts about blogging?  Why do you blog?  Has blogging opened new doors in your life you did not even realize were there?


Sandi said...

Oh Sally! What an amazing gift this was to me! Here I am, sitting at home, waiting to leave for an appointment, and I see a post from you. When you read the one I posted this morning, you'll see why your post impacted me as it did.

I sometimes wonder why I blog, or chastise myself for not blogging enough. Yet, through blogging I've met such wonderful people, such as you! Reading your words from early in your retirement and blogging, really spoke to me.

I've also been remiss about teaching "audience", and found that the kids write the most powerfully when they either write just for themselves, or for me. I love being their audience, and getting to know them through their writing.

Take care, Sally, and keep blogging! Love and hugs!

Terra said...

I don't question why I blog, I enjoy it and learning about so many different bloggers round the world. I love how you assigned the poem and how reading the essays helped you at that difficult time.

Jeanie said...

I started my blog about five years ago for myself as a way to remember, record and reflect upon events in my life and events in the life of my kids and grandkids. It started that way and it has not really changed. It will never be a blog with a big audience and that is okay with me. I had enough of that when I used to write feature stories and a weekly column for a daily newspaper. The serendipity of blogging for me is that I have gotten to know some wonderful people, like you Sally, who it has been a joy to get to know through their blogs. I can't say I have what would be considered a successful blog, but for my purposes blogging has been a successful endeavor.

Margaret Adamson said...

HI Sally I have just read your very interesting post today. I have only been blogging for 7 months and I have learned so much since I stared. I had not got a clue how to blog and it wasa slow up hill sstruggle howeveer I discovered that there was bloggers who were willing to help me to improve in differnt ways. In both my past professions I have taught adults and slowly I have been able to do the same from my blog in regard to birds. I have been surprised that the bloggers who follow me, have been very good about me diviating from my usualy blog. My photography has improved and for me it is a great way to remind myself what I have been doing. I could go on and go but I must catch on on ssome other people's blog now. Have a great day.

Along These Lines ... said...

All good things come to those who

Penny O'Neill said...

I'm so glad that Dee sent me your way and I hope that you continue to blog.
A stimulated repost.
I have blogged for about 4 years now. It has been a very rewarding experience, not only for the people I've met, but, for the sides of me that I've discovered. I enjoy the discipline of writing, though right now I don't write every day as I did early on. It ebbs and flows, this blogging business, and it is a gift, isn't it? I rarely read media book revues for I find the best reviews in blogs. Same thing for recipes. My interest in poetry was reawakened. I've travelled all over the world, all in my room in my house.

Betsy Adams said...

I started blogging in 2006 --and have continued fairly regularly since then. I used to blog EVERY day --but now, I blog 3 days a week --and take off more and more time to do other things.

I love blogging and like you, I love to write. I love to share my life and experiences with whoever is interested. I do it mostly as a journal for me --and it's fun to go back and read what I wrote several years ago, especially the changes in our yard/gardens and also our trips...

I will admit that I'm not nearly as enthusiastic about blogging these days as I used to be. I have SO many interests and just not enough time to blog regularly now. I have a good-sized audience and so many wonderful friends. And I feel guilty when I don't visit their blogs as much as I used to... But something had to give and visiting other blogs was IT... I try to visit a couple times a week to those who blog most everyday...

I find that I enjoy blogs like yours the most --which have something to say. I go to so many blogs which say almost nothing --and truly, as much as I love those people, I do not care for their blogs... But--I still try to visit them also when I can.

About a year or so ago, I was accused of having a blog which was too long... That upset me --so I started my Photo Blog (one photo each week with few words). BUT---my audience for the Photo Blog is still very small.. SO---I guess most people who come to my blog regularly still like it even though it is LONG. Oh Well. We cannot please everyone, so I need to tell myself that.

The best thing about blogging for me is making so many new friends --like you... I would never have met these people if I hadn't have started blogging. That makes it all worth it...

This is too long. Sorry!!!

Linda Myers said...

I started my blog in January 2010 at the recommendation of a friend who told me it would help me get over my fear of being a bag lady. And it mostly has.

In the meantime, I have met people through my blog who are precious to me and who I never would have known otherwise.

And the blog has become a writing discipline for me. I do more writing now outside my blog as I have become invested in expressing myself. As to audience, I am writing for friends now, and for myself.

Betsy Adams said...

OH---other other thing... And this makes me sad. My sons (none of them) ever (or at least seldom) read my blog and don't seem interested in my life these days...

I even joined Facebook to keep better track of what is going on with my sons and grandchildren. YET---even though I'm on FB all of the time, I seldom ever hear from family members...

Wonder why?????


Friko said...

I wrote a post “why do I blog” some time ago too. I think most of us do, eventually.

I am afraid I still haven’t fully worked out why I blog. I know why I started: Because I could. I know why I continued: Because I got into the habit and because I began to like the feedback.

Why am I still blogging: I don’t know. Perhaps I feel obliged, perhaps I feel that I still have something to say.

No doubt, like most bloggers who have gone before, I will eventually stop and spend my time doing something “worthwhile”. Is blogging worthwhile? Yes, if you consider that we make friends with other bloggers. As a journal? Possibly not, because nobody else is really all that interested in other people’s children or family,or daily life, unless it’s extraordinary.

One of these days I might come up with an answer to the question. Until then, does it matter? I blog because I blog.

Arkansas Patti said...

I found it so interesting that your family reads your blog. I have one sister who is a devout reader but the rest of the family just ignores it. My original intent was to write for them but it has morphed into just a fun exercise. It keeps my brain active, lets me write with out concerns about publishing, gives my week discipline, and I get instant feed back from some really neat people I have met through blogging. It has been so worthwhile.

Jeanie said...

I've been thinking about this a lot lately, as I've started thinking about my sixth blogaversary post (which will go live in December).

I started blogging because some of the women in my art exchange group did and I thought it was a fun way to share art. What is surprising is that given this was my inspiration for doing so, I post relatively little art! As I read more blogs I saw all the possibilities and I discovered inspiration in ways outside the art world. I read wonderful stories -- real life stories -- and I saw what a wonderful vehicle it was to express something -- anything -- pain, joy, pride, concern, fear. I learned about things I didn't know I wanted to know about.

And of course with it came the friendships, which as you know, are priceless. Whether one has met in person or just online, I have never discovered anyone inauthentic. I've never been disappointed in meeting a fellow blogger.

I think I blog because I must. I learn from everyone. They are genuine and care about me. And so far, I've had something to say. I hope I never run out!

Olga said...

I am glad that you kept at your blog. It never ceases to amaze me how our lives are expanded through reading and responding to the thoughts of others.

Barb said...

Hi Sally, You and I have similar blog anniversaries - I started in Nov of 2008. I recently went back and read some of those posts. I sure was a lot more wordy back then! Only family read the blog for awhile, and nobody commented (except sometimes by E-mail). Finally, I started to "meet" other bloggers, some of whom remain my friends even though they've stopped posting. Now, I "just do it" because since I was a little girl, I've always written. It gives me pleasure, and I guess someday, I hope maybe my grandchildren will read and enjoy the posts. Keep blogging, Sally!

Jackie said...

Interesting to read your thoughts on blogging when you first began. I imagine it was just as interesting to you to read years later.
Some of my best friends are blogging friends. I've never met them...but that doesn't mean that we aren't connected by the heartstrings. I am so happy that I began to blog. I didn't think it would last as long as it has. I can't imagine my world without my blogging friends. They are the best.
Hugs and love,

The Furry Gnome said...

Sure has! I just wrote for myself at first, but started exploring other blogs in the spring. Now I have an audience, and feel so connected. It's amazing what a blog can do for you!

Elizabeth said...

I keep coming to read your blog because of the quote at the top about Gardens being a form of autobiography. That is certainly what my mother thought. She created a series of wonderful gardens in her life and last Sunday we bade her farewell. My lovely mother:

Linda Reeder said...

I started blogging in 2008, just before taking a trip to Europe. It was to be a travel journal for my family. I didn't post any photos until I got back. Magically I picked up a few readers, namely Kay in Hawaii, and from there I learned I could have an audience outside of my family and friends. My blog became a place to share my growing interest in photography.
Today i have a treasured blog family as well as the friends and family who read but never comment. I link my blog to Facebook as an easy way to let those friends and family to look for new posts.
So yes, I do blog for an audience now, and their comments mean a lot to me. I also blog just for me, as a way to express myself through words and photos. I find sharing thoughts and feelings and events with other bloggers enriches my life, and commenting gives me an additional avenue for self expression.

Weekend-Windup said...

I enjoy blogging. I have learned many good things through blog and also improved my English knowledge by reading many post.

Joanne said...

What an awesome post! I love how your students (without realizing it) were able to comfort you with their words during such a heart wrenching time. Why do I blog? I guess to fill a need, quench a thirst that I have had all my life. Writing thoughts down, seeing the words in front of me fills my would be writer's heart.
Have an awesome Day!
Blessings, Joanne

Tom Sightings said...

Sometimes I wonder why I blog. And then I think of something interesting and I think: I've got to tell people about this!

My kids don't read my blog either. They think it's for old people. And ... they are right!

mary said...

I don't blog but I read all of your posts. I am also an ex teacher with many of the same life experiences. I look forward to your writings and want you to know I look forward to them so much.

Cait O'Connor said...

This has got me thinking, I may blog more again now that it is winter and I am indoors more. I hope you continue to do so as I have only just discovered your lovely blog.

BLissed-Out Grandma said...

I began my blog to record precious moments with the grandchildren. Before long I added posts about some aspect of my own life, not just the kids. And I became very interested in reading and commenting on other people's posts. Recently I decided the underlying reason I blog is to give myself a reason to sit at the computer for a chunk of each day just as I did when I was working. And to stay in touch with people like you, from whom I learn a great deal and whose virtual company I enjoy.

Keicha Christiansen said...

I blog for me. It helps me focus on what I'm feeling and why. It helps me express my feelings, which is much more comfortable for me to do in writing than it is to for me to do verbally.

Blogging has helped me in ways I never imagined. It's helped us both heal from our grief. Where would we be without our supportive, loving blogging friends?

When I started blogging I was pretty sure you would be the only person to read my blog. I still write just for me, but I do love the connections I've made through it and the support, encouragement and feedback I get from the few people that read my blog.

DJan said...

I read your post from 2008 and thought about it as I read all the comments. Many of your commenters are my personal blogging friends! That amazing connection that we have with people who read and comment on our posts, it is a new thing in the world. This connection is very real, but different because we don't meet the other person in the flesh, but in words and pictures. If it had not been for blogging, I think my life in retirement would be rather boring. But now I spend a fair amount of time on line every day, and it has brought deep satisfaction into my everyday life. And you know I love YOU, dear Sally, for who you are to me. Through blogging, where it all started. :-)

troutbirder said...

I always loved to write. The halfway through my career as a social studies and history teacher a creatively minded principal allowed me and a similarly minded English teacher to create a jointly taught two hour double credit "Humanities" class where my insight into reading and writing skills and understanding was seriously upgraded. More opportunities. More insights. More fun for all. I loved it. Yes I miss it but blogging has opened new opportunities and I love to write more than even.... even though us history teachers do have a reputation for being to wordy....:)

Rose said...

Sally, I had to chuckle when I read that this was the title of your first post--it was also the title of my first post! It just shows that English teachers never really retire--we'll probably still be quoting Shakespeare in the nursing home one day:)

Beyond that initial reaction, though, your post was so more reflective and thought-provoking than mine. I remember reading journals from my students, too, and often learning so much more about them from what they had written, sometimes heartbreaking information.

I started my blog soon after I retired, too, but I had only read some gardening blogs, and that was the focus I intended to take. In the early years I occasionally wrote about other things, but I found that I was uncomfortable sharing too much personal information in public, and decided to stick mostly to garden-related topics. In the last year, especially, I feel like my muse has left me, so blogging for me has been more about keeping a record of my garden.

The best part about blogging, other than gaining so much practical knowledge about gardening, has been meeting new friends, both virtually and in person. I've gone to two gatherings of garden bloggers, and what a delight to meet the people behind those voices!

I wish I had found your blog from the beginning!

Perpetua said...

A fascinating post, Sally. you were far more reflective about it than i ever was when I started. I began a blog because i enjoyed reading blogs and felt i might perhaps have something to say. i hadn't the faintest idea how much I would enjoy it all: the writing, the comments, the interaction. The wonderful thing is that that enjoyment is still there and has been joined by a real feeling of friendship and kinship with those who read and comment and those whose blogs I read and comment on. A marvellous experience.

Kathleen McCoy said...

I'm so glad you continued to blog, Sally! Your posts have touched my heart so many times! You have such an ability to connect and reach out to others when you write about experiences and feelings that are personal and yet, in so many ways, universal!

I started blogging at the end of October, 2010. At first, it was because my agent insisted that I do so as part of my "platform" as a professional writer. And, like you, at first I had almost no followers and very few comments on my posts.

But, in time, I've found so many other, better reasons to be blogging -- the primary one being part of a wonderful blogging community. I really treasure blogging friends. I've also grown as a writer as the result of blogging. As a journalist, I was very uncomfortable writing first person articles and posts. Now I have a greater comfort level with writing such posts.

In fact, recently my new agent asked me to write several e-books to increase my visibility online and in the marketplace. One of these -- "Making Peace With Your Adult Children" was inspired by the many reader comments about my posts involving adult children. The other e-book "Aging and Other Surprises" is a collection of blog posts about aging and is much more autobiographical than I originally intended!

These two e-books helped my newest book on Therapy Cats to sell last week to a major publisher.

So blogging has helped my writing career, as originally intended.

But I realized, particularly in the past six weeks, when writing the e-books and tweaking the Therapy Cats book proposal, that I missed blogging not because I see it as a means to an end, but because it helps me to know and keep in touch with some amazing people -- mostly women, but also a few men -- whom I value as blogging friends and for their insights and inspiration!

Midlife Roadtripper said...

"I only need a place where I can record my thoughts and activities so I don't get lost."

That was my intent when I began my blog. When I look back, I'm grateful for those entries. Having been absent fairly consistent in my absence the past two years, I now hope it is again a place where my thoughts and activities don't get lost.

Enjoyed this post. Lovely.

Grandmother (Mary) said...

I started blogging almost 5 years ago to chronicle my retirement, move to Italy and my general journey into this next life phase, elderhood. As others have said, one of the unexpected benefits has been the blog friends and acquaintances I've met along the way, especially the ones trying to negotiate this becoming an elder. My life is richer as a blogger. I hope you continue to write, Sally, since you're one of the blog friends I value.

Bossy Betty said...

Ah yes! I loved this. We don't really know what is to come when we start blogging, do we? I am so happy I started to blog. It has added so much to my life!

Cape Cod Kitty said...

What a great post, and, by the way, I always feel that way after reading your blog!
I wonder the same thing and find my writing ebbs and flows. I escape so much in to nature, our drives, and trips. I used to write much morre about feelings and now find myself a bit restricted because so much of my family reads what I write. Thus, I feel, Ms graysea is what it is on a daily basis and I have decided not to be too concerned. As you say, at the least it is a record of what is happening in my life these days and of a lot of beauty.
I hope you will keep writing, especially about your adjustment to retirement.

Maggie May said...

I for one, am really pleased that you stuck at the blogging because I find your posts really beautifully written and often full of moving and useful things and always beneficial in some way.

It is a wonderful community.......... Blogging, though I've lost a lot of original Bloggers from 2008 because quite a few were lost in favour of Facebook and other such things.
Here's hoping that Blogging will go on and that we will all write to a possible audience!
Maggie x

Nuts in May

Kay said...

I'm really grateful that you continued to blog, Sally. You have added such dimension and perspective to my thinking.

I started blogging when I left Illinois to move back to Hawaii. The blog initially was a way to keep my children and Illinois friends informed of our doings. I then discovered a community of retired teachers who were also blogging out in the cyber world. From there my world grew. I've never felt alone since. All I need to do is turn on my computer and I can touch minds with a world of friends everywhere. I do love it. I don't think I could ever stop.