Monday, August 4, 2008

Now, let's see if we can't figure out what you are, my little friend

I had been thinking about starting a blog for a while now.

I've long wondered, why do people choose to write a blog? What's the compulsion to keep writing despite few prospects that the writing will lead to pay?

(Side: am I too focused on being paid for work? If writing is my skill, is it too much to ask to be paid for it?)

How many bloggers expect people other than friends to read what they write? How do these bloggers deal with the vitriol written in the comment sections of the Web - the bathroom walls of our generation?

Blogging, I think, is an intentionally selfish pleasure. You intend to write for yourself and you write in the hope that you will gather a following.

More than anything — meaning, more than simply sitting somewhere and trying to think why people blog — I learned a lot about blogging from a piece in The New York Times Magazine.

Click here to read "Exposed" by Emily Gould.

Gould, a former Gawker blogger, started her writing career as a self-published blogger at self-titled Emily Magazine. She says she felt a connection with the people who read her blogs and left comments. "As nerdy and one-dimensional as my relationships with these people were, they were important," Gould writes. The community was important.

Blogging is equal parts sanctuary and public square. Gould says that she thought blogging provided an outlet to write whatever she wanted to write, and that she felt a right to say it - no matter how private the situations that inspired the writing. In spite of this, Gould writes about how her willingness to share is as thrilling as it is scary when people find her blog.

Gould equates blogging to an open house where strangers can look in. She believes that people blog because they like the idea that a record of their lives is being kept somewhere. People "can check in on you, compare notes with you and tell you what they think."

(Side: We really need to work on different nouns, verbs and adjectives for the word “blog.” It shouldn’t make sense to say, “I blogged on my blog about blogging.” This, of course, being the subject of this blog.)

It's funny. Whenever I hear a name, I imagine all the places I can search for information about the person behind the name. Google. MySpace. FaceBook. LinkedIn. Yelp. Blogspot. Sacramento County Court Index. I can learn more about a person than they would likely share on a first date or from a first-encounter.

And that funny thing is, if I somehow did this before I met someone, wouldn't they be caught off-guard if I said, "So I see you're a fan of Radiohead?" In this digitally-intertwined generation, face-to-face dialogue is awkward and stilted if the information doesn't come from the same conversation. The mention of something freely given on Web is uncomfortable.

Gould gets at this a bit. She digitally overshares and is called on it. She went so far as to have a separate blog while at Gawker so that she could write personal content. Oversharing is the summation of inspiration and compulsion. Gould cites these as the two ends of the "will to blog" spectrum. See something. Blog. Think something. Blog. The persistent need to blog, and the feeling that the blog is important, leads to oversharing.

The article is interesting in that the reader sees when blogging goes bad. Blogging is so impulsive, yet that same impulsivity can be so bad. While it seems somewhat counterintuitive to blogging, I plan to do a fair amount of sketching before I blog. I feel uncomfortable at the thought of not attempting some level of depth and analysis.

I'm blogging to get back into the grind of writing. Too often, I have said, "that would make a good SNL skit" or "that would be funny to hear on a radio show." I need to blog, for no other reason, at least, to flesh out some of my ideas. If I get feedback, awesome; if not, it would be no different my dormant LiveJournal.

I don't kid myself. I don't expect to gather much of a following. My blog will be an exercise and I hope to improve my writing and criticism. I don't plan to cover too much personal information and I will seriously choose my spots in what I write. I'll keep my comments to a minimum regarding my current job and the same can be said of any place I will/could apply.

I intend to focus on what I know about journalism and plan to criticize local and national media. I have some rough thoughts about my next couple of blogs and it’ll be interesting to see what I come up with.

Thus begins my blog.

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