Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Will to Blog - please explain!

From my ex-blogger friend's tumblr page:

The will to blog is a complicated thing, somewhere between inspiration and compulsion. It can feel almost like a biological impulse. You see something, or an idea occurs to you, and you have to share it with the Internet as soon as possible. What I didn’t realize was that those ideas and that urgency — and the sense of self-importance that made me think anyone would be interested in hearing what went on in my head — could just disappear.

Emily Gould - Exposed - Blog-Post Confidential

This is a great article for anyone who has (or has had) a personal blog. I certainly never experienced with my old blog (nicolasix) the kind of exposure she did from her blog and her time at Gawker. So I admit it seems kind of silly that I should relate to this. But in maintaining my blog over the years, I nevertheless wound up feeling nearly all of the same emotions and conflicts she describes. And it’s comforting to hear that somebody who has had such “success” with blogging (as opposed to remaining in relative obscurity) has struggled with the same things.

The text in the first paragraph comes from a TEN PAGE article in the New York Times (link available on the Notsolinear page, linked above). The second paragraph was written by an ex-blogger friend, someone I know personally. He's a doll. Even though he's no longer into blogging we stay in touch on FB, have a drink or two or three whenever he's in DC.

I don't know about all of you, but I wasn't able to relate to much of what was written about Ms. Gould's blog. I have definitely felt inspired by blogging, almost entirely from what I read on other people's blogs rather than by my own posts. My thoughts were already inside my head, so writing them down as blog posts is actually not inspiring. But reading other blogs, reading what people who comment on my blog are thinking about? Now that's deeply inspirational! I love all our different points of view coming from all our different experiences. I love the things we have in common, too, no matter where we live or what age we are or how our lives are shaped. The synchronicity factor among blog friends is really cool, don't you think so?

Ms. Gould's sense of urgency/compulsiveness is also something I don't relate to. I know I post almost every day, but I also brush my teeth every day. I meditate every day. I put on clothes every day. Are those compulsive activities? Doesn't ring true for me anyway.

It must be hard work for bloggers who post but do not read other blogs; too much information going out into the internets, but nothing coming back in? Sounds lonely to me; no wonder she burned out. It's ironic, at least to me, that I have never heard of Emily Gould. As popular as her blog allegedly was, it wasn't big enough to include me.

There's no way I could feel more grateful for my blog friends and family, especially after reading this honkin' hulkin' NY Times article. Blogging is for readers as well as writers. It is a social network, yes, but I also think of this space as a gathering place for photographers, artists and writers, a twenty-first century salon. It is not a place for the impatient, not a great application for those with fractured attention spans. We write, yes, but we read, too. We even read BOOKS here within this blog family, entire books. No wonder I can't relate to Ms. Gould.

What do you think?


Deborah said...


thank you for the distraction
as I continue to wait for
job possibilities
and health care coverage

i'm out today
if the car starts
if it doesn't
AAA is the first call I'll make

love and more love

NanU said...

It seems to me there are three kinds of blogging:
- For just yourself, like a diary, not expecting or caring if anyone reads
- For a select group of regular readers who are now your friends, a sort of big Facebook post without all the clutter
- For The Adoring Public
(whether they actually come read or that's just a fantasy)

The reasons we blog are different for these different groups, and can change over time. Urgency and compulsion I think tend to go with the third group. I don't feel it - I'm in the second, and I feel like I'm talking to friends, or my mom, when I blog.

Tess Kincaid said...

I happen to enjoy the community aspect of blogging. But, like NanU mentioned, the beauty of blogging is that it's whatever you make it.

Janelle said...

ditto. i love my lil bunch of bloggin' buddies...they rock! x j

mouse (aka kimy) said...

so well put - I join with in in celebrating the community and the diversity of experience and expression that blogging brings....

it is what we want it to be and should it quit being that then it's time to move on

glnroz said...

Made me nervous, though you were considering "hanging up the spurs". I enjoy the interaction and "bouncing" of ideas. I have read some blogs that never reacted to my comments. They soon became dry and seemingly micro-important specifically to the blogger. Yours is totally opposite of being "dry", :)

Susan Carpenter Sims said...

I agree with you Reya.

The synchronicity factor is majorly inspiring to me, and so often what I blog about is directly inspired by what I've read on other blogs.

I've made a couple of true friends through blogging, and I've expanded my business.

But most importantly, I've come into a new sense of wholeness because a) blogging has allowed me to fully claim my identity as a writer, which is important because b)blogging is the only medium I've ever had access to that fully nurtures my intrinsic desire for collaborative meaning-making.

Hilarywho said...

My blog falls into the extra big Facebook category. It's read by a few friends and some occasional strangers and fellow bloggers, and I don't usually address anything too deeply. But I do sometimes feel slightly obsessional about it. I've found myself in bed at night, or driving my car and thinking about future posts. And I often feel guilty about the time I spend posting and reading other blogs.

My blog is a creative outlet, and I enjoy the communication with other bloggers, but it does eat up time that I could be using for so many other things.

Dan Gurney said...

For me, blogging replaces just about all corporate media and almost all of NPR, too. The sole exception to this are books and a bitty Netflix account.

Blogging, I listen more than I talk. I like having a place to share the occasional thought that seems worth sharing.

Mrsupole said...

Why do we blog? I am not truly sure, but one thing I do know is that those who do not blog, do not understand why we blog, and since we do not understand why we blog, then why do we blog.

When I first started blogging and no one read anything I wrote, at that time I had no idea how blogging worked, then I started with that "next blog" thing and saw that people had comments, well actually you were the first blog that I ever visted, then I left a question and you answered it for me, and then Ronda came to my blog and left a comment and so I went to her blog and left a comment and so we would go back and forth, then I started visiting more blogs and leaving more comments and got more comments, while at the same time I was reading things that others had written and so then I thought I can do similiar things and so I wrote different types of things, I joined my first meme at Willow's and then I had come up with a daily themes. Sunday was Alphabet Sunday, New Word Monday, Tuesday was Life's About, Wednesday's Time for a Recipe, I had already joined Theme Thursday (huh, might be where I got the theme thingy stuff), Friday was Reflections, It's Saturday...Politics Anyone. Wow that lasted for a few months and then I would find other things to write about. I think that was too much structure and I like freedom to do what I want when I want.

Back then I wrote something everyday and after my surgery it became too much. Now I just write when I feel like it, sometimes once a week, maybe two or three times, I think I spend so much time reading other people's blogs that I do not have time to devote to mine, well except TT.

I feel like I have a blogging family and some visit me a lot and some visit sometimes and some just pop in now and again, but they are all dear friends. I have learned that bloggers are the most amazing people and the really great bloggers give something back to their readers, not so much to answer their comments but by visiting their readers sites and leaving their own comments. And the amazing thing is that we all do this for free. No one pays us, no one tells us to do this, we do it because we love our blogging friends and family. And only other bloggers understand this.

Possibly this is why that blogger did not make it, by her never visiting anyone she never developed a family relationship. A family bond can hold people together forever.

I love you all so very much.

God bless.

janis said...

I so look forward to greeting my blogworld friends daily. They inspire me as well as help me to appreciate myself more. I love my blogger buddies & their blogs! I have several varieties to read and love them all.

Ronda Laveen said...

Yes, it is a social platform but, for me, it is a virtual playground of artistic expression and experimentation. I get so much from reading, seeing and experiencing other's blogs that the variations on a theme never seem to stop.

And paraphrasing a comment on my blog by Berowne, the talent contained in Blogland is amazing.

Unknown said...

Dear Reya,

I'm not sure where you got the impression that I don't read other blogs -- or books. This seems to be something you completely invented? It sure wasn't based on anything in my article. And even a cursory glance at my blog would show you that it's dedicated to celebrating authors and the written word.

I think you're the one with tunnelvision here, not me. I hope you do some double-checking before the next time you assert something untrue online. As I had the opportunity to learn the hard way, it does tend to come back to bite you in the butt!

Good luck, and happy blogging,

Emily Gould

Reya Mellicker said...

Emily! Apparently you DO read other blogs. Good for you. Maybe I missed that somewhere in the article, or maybe I just imagined that your burn out was somehow based on being someone who wrote but did not read. Thanks for stopping by.

I never feel guilty about reading blogs because the blogs I'm drawn to are written by thoughtful, insightful people. If I want to read about all the horrible things people do, I read the newspaper. The blogs I enjoy most show me the best in people, and give me an inside glimpse into the way people live. The blogs I love are not written by famous, high powered people.

REgular people, writing and connecting - that's what I love.

Rebecca Clayton said...

Wow, make a mildly critical comment on her New York Times Magazine article from Spring 2008, and this gal still needs to slap you down. I remember the big fuss over Emily Gould several years ago--I took a peek at Gawker, found it uninteresting, and forgot about it.

Reya, you raise an interesting topic about why we blog, and I'm enjoying the comments. A type of blogging no one has mentioned here yet is the "how to" blog. When I have a Linux problem, or a craft question, or want a new recipe, a search engine often shows me just what I need on someone's blog. Sometimes I just get what I need from a blog post, and go on; other times, a blog becomes a regular read for me.

That's why I post those "how I fixed my Linux problem" stories, and put up knitting stitch patterns and recipes, and assemblages of information on common weed species, and my favorite garden seeds....People have shared information with me, and I want to give back to the community if I can.

Reya Mellicker said...

Actually I don't feel slapped down. What I thought when I read Emily's comment is that of course she, too (just like the rest of us) is an actual person, not a symbol. I'm going to change the name of the post based on that reality.

I, too, looked at Gawker today. Made me nervous - too much going on there for my middle aged eye. I am so not hip.

Meri said...

a gathering place for photographers, artists and writers, a twenty-first century salon. yes. And I love learning what others are thinking. Finding new inspiring quotes or poems. Seeing photos that make me work harder with my camera. Being able to give long-distance support, however meager, to those who are struggling. Trying to discipline myself to write and photograph on a consistent basis.

Pauline said...
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Pauline said...
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Pauline said...

I am reminded of a bit in Richard Bach's Illusions when Richard says even in his best moments he can't figure out why we're here (read here as earth, blogland, wherever) and Donald replies that there are two reasons - fun and learning. Everything Richard came up with fell under those two categories. Why pick apart the reasons for blogging? It's fun and we can all learn something.

Reya Mellicker said...

Blogging is such a brand new art form (still new, even though it isn't the newest) that I think the language to describe it is still evolving. That's why I like to think about the reasons why we do it.

How to blogs are great. There are so many knitting blogs, for instance. And cooking blogs. It boggles my mind.

tut-tut said...

This certainly stirs the post, er, pot, Reya! I'm liking FB just now for the one or two sentences that connect in my brain. I can't seem to string together much more.

Anonymous said...

I read the Emily Gould article ages ago
and thought she was a tad self-important (aren't we all?!!!)
I do love my blog chums who have more in common with me than many of the people I interact with on a daily basis.
I wish I had an adoring public........
I think I have 3 secret admirers well, sort of....

I love your blog because it is always thought provokig.Mine tends to be a bit lazy......just photos and stuff.....

Rosaria Williams said...

Something you say triggers a thought in another.
Something you read inspires you.
Knowing the real person with all his/her unique life-styles seems to ease communication, to put it all in context.

I enjoy the entire experience.

Linda Sue said...

I started a blog because i didn't have a web site and I needed to post some felting for a show in SF- Then my little chick flew the coop- got a life of his own and the house became tomblike- Bloggers, the best sort came in and shared ideas, comments, brilliant posts- and I fell in love with everyone, including YOU Ms. Reya-great company! If a blog is too wordy, or too needy I usually skip along to another more inticing blog- WITH photos or art - always liked picture books best. Blogworld is so rich- and diverse- no reason to come down on any one blog-it's a do what ever you want sort of deal- I avoid self absorbed downer bloggers. If I post something like that I avoid my own blog...and the comments are one syllable , like "oh" or "hmmm" then I know I have wasted everyone's time. I am amazed really that anyone reads mine- amazed! Blogs are cool! I learn so much and am inspired every day!

California Girl said...

10 pages sounds excessive. they must've had alotta space to fill. poor English, I know.

I tried blogging because my husband thought I'd get in some writing and perhaps enjoy it. Yes, I am a frustrated writer. I realized after reading many another blogger's works that there are many frustrated writers out there who feel they are connecting in some small way w/o worrying about rejection from a publisher, etc. I know I feel that way. I don't post every day because I don't always have something to say. I work full time and I like to read other folks' work and I'm just not always that interesting. In fact, when I force a post, it reads as forced. When I feel something, deeply, it flows.

LadrĂ³n de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

This winter I find myself coming back to blogging more and reconnecting with some I've not read in a while, like revisiting old friends. I still prefer blogging to Facebook, Twitter and the like which seem less than even shorthand. It's odd, at times, to see blogger friends on Facebook, like running into a classmate or coworker at a bar and saying, "What are you doing here?"

Nancy said...

I'll have to read this article, it sounds interesting. I agree, blogging without reading would feel sterile. It is all about the interaction. I learn so much from reading.

steven said...

hey reya! i love writing my blog every day. i love sorting things out for myself and seeing the connections between my daily visual seeing and my daily textual seeing and then the seeing that went before me from someone else. i love reading the words of the people who leave words about my pictures and words. then i love to visit other people's blogs. for all the same reasons. it isn't hugely important to me to have people read what i say but it's part of my work to bring whatever goodness i can into the world so maybe that's not true. i've not really thought about this and it shows doesn't it!!! steven

Reya Mellicker said...

When I started blogging, it never occurred to me that I could - and would - make such meaningful connections with other bloggers. I owe that revelation to k.o.b. of DCBlogs, who first introduced me to blogging as community.

Today was a fascinating journey. I think I'm a little bit smarter than I was this morning about all the different kinds of blogs, and all the different experiences of bloggers.

Wow. I love learning. Thanks to all, including Ms. Gould. Seriously, thanks!!

Mary Ellen said...

Great post and great comments - thanks for so faithfully showing up and being who you are, Reya. Good night!

tam said...

My urge to blog has dried up entirely. For now. It's not for lack of reading. Its a different kind of crisis. I hate writing just for the sake of saying something, and right now I'm in a phase where I second-guess everything I say or write. So I'm just shutting up for the time being. Also, my lifestyle has changed since I began blogging. I have less time online, less time in front of a computer, period.
It will come back, I guess, that urge, so I'm not burning any bridges just yet. Do I feel guilty about not reading or commenting on friends blogs? hell yes! But I know you're all so forgiving...

Anonymous said...

"a twenty-first century salon"

Ooo yes i really relate to that idea.

I love having many of the blogs i read on 'safaris Top sites' It's set to my home page and i can immediately see who's updated.

Also the blogs icons are all collected together just like people in a real salon. What a cool image!

lettuce said...

hi reya

thats all

Reya Mellicker said...

I read as much as I can, but I don't feel guilty when I don't/can't read. There really is only so much time anyone can spend sitting in front of the computer.

Hi Lettuce! And Magda!!! Yay! You're back. Excellent.


Steve Reed said...

Wow, what an adventure you've had here -- not only writing about the motivation, process and benefits of blogging, but also hearing from Emily Gould!

I read this article when it first came out in the Times and really enjoyed it -- even though I don't really feel much kinship with Ms. Gould, given the popularity and attention her blog gathered. I like toiling in the trenches of obscurity. :)

This discussion comes at an interesting time for me, though, as I'm once again feeling the need to back off blogging for a while, and I've been questioning my reasons and motivations for doing it. It's interesting how that writerly impulse ebbs and flows!