Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Why Blog? Part 1 of 2

As somebody who has clearly not been able to get into the flow of creating my own new blog entries very often, I have decided to ask myself (and hopefully anyone kind enough to comment on my thoughts) why it is that we blog in the first place. My hope is that by having a logical and coherent purpose or goal in mind, I can stay focused on the task long enough to actually write here on a regular basis.

I'm going to shamelessly plug (and attempt to analyze) a few of my favorite bloggers in the process, because each of them is fairly prolific at this whole blogging thing, and hopefully I'll come to some sort of conclusion as to whether or not there is any value in doing this, and if so, why I can't seem to get any momentum behind my own blogging.

I think I'll admit right up front that part of my problem is that I'm both a perfectionist and a horrible procrastinator. I feel inspired, begin to write, proofread, edit, proofread, rewrite half of what I've written, proofread, and then edit some more... and that's just the first paragraph. By the time I've tried several variations on a given theme and then scrapped half of what I've written, I've mentally and emotionally exhausted myself with the subject matter, and lost the original thought or inspiration that got me started in the first place. So I save my thoughts as an unfinished Draft, and the procrastinator part of me kicks in and says "I'll finish this later".

I know that I can put together coherent thoughts, and that I can write with reasonable clarity regarding those thoughts. I am almost as prolific while being a blog commenter (on some of my favorite blogs, which I'll look at in Part 2) as the bloggers themselves. Perhaps this is because I have read something written by someone else with a specific theme or outline, and now have a defined space in which to convey my thoughts. When I have too many subjects in mind (or perhaps no subject in particular), I lose focus and end up with nothing at all. Does that make sense?

This brings me to the next point, which seems to play a big part in blogging (or lack thereof) -- the target audience. This is where there's likely to be a lot of variation from blogger to blogger, and perhaps why I find it so hard to get started. Who am I writing for? Am I keeping a personal diary or journal? Am I talking to a group of my closest friends and sharing personal information? Am I talking to "the public" on the internet, and hoping to say something meaningful to anyone who happens to drop in? Will certain baseline assumptions about myself, my audience, or my world view undergird my entries, or will I have to write about each subject as if to a complete stranger who knows nothing about me or my subject?

This is no small consideration when composing a written work. It affects not only the contents of the blog entries, but also the writing style and grammar. It affects whether the writing should be folksy and plain, or formal and proper. It affects whether I talk a lot in the third person, or write just like I would if I were sitting face-to-face with a close friend.

Perhaps I'm overthinking this. Perhaps I should just write stream-of-consciousness with minimal editing, and see what comes out. But for me, that's easier said than done.

In Part 2, I will run through the blogging styles of a few of my favorite bloggers, and attempt to view them with a very unusual approach -- that is, not a critique in the same manner that you normally see written works critiqued, but as an attempt to understand how and why they blog, and what their target audience (or perceived target audience) seems to be. So stay tuned.

14 comments:

  1. Yea! You posted.

    Maaaybe you are overthinking it a bit. Then again, maybe I'm too casual about the whole thing. I suppose I'm more the stream of consciousness sort of blogger. I'm definitely not a perfectionist. I can see how being a perfectionist could hamper your blogging frequency - considering how many people could potentially read any given blog post.

    I guess I don't have any real advice for you. You could do one of two things:
    1. Plan it all out so that you feel more comfortable about the purpose of each post.
    2. Wing it.

    I think either way is good and beneficial. Whatever you do, just blog.

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  2. I'm a perfectionist too. That's why most of my posts end up being on the superficial side, I feel, because fleshing out the other ideas takes a lot out of me. I edit and re-edit and give up. I blog mostly to keep up with my friends, but also to meet others. I like to read blogs that make me think or laugh or inform me about the world.

    I am interested in your part two, and hope that you find your rhythm with blogging, because I always enjoy reading your comments!

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  3. Kat - In case you didn't guess, you will be one of the bloggers I profile in Part 2. :-)

    Perhaps it will be interesting to see how my perception of your blogging compares to your own.

    I do think you're right -- there's going to have to be some "letting go" of my perfectionist tendencies if I'm going to manage to stay in the swing of this blogging thing.

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  4. Amy - Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I understand completely about ending up with "superficial" feeling entries. Most things I write end up feeling that way to me, even when I do put a little more time and effort into them.

    I think I'm just going to have to accept that most things I write are not going to be perfect, and are not going to have a profound message or importance.

    At least you'll be able to look back in a few years or so, and see what your thoughts were during this time in your life, and see how you've changed, and be reminded of things you'd forgotten about.

    Hmmm. And just writing that makes me realize potential benefits and uses for this type of "daily thoughts" type journal for a blog. Thanks. :-)

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  5. Maybe I have delusions of granduer, or I just think too much of myself, but I think most everything I write is worth reading. Conceited, eh. You people and your self-honesty make me feel bad.

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  6. Wait, I've never had a single comment on one of my posts. If what I write is so worth reading (as I believe it is, after all, I wrote it) then why doesn't anyone comment. Must be a Blogger problem that prevents the hordes of people reading my site from posting. Yeah, that's gotta be it.

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  7. I love it! This might be the most organized, intellectually, and beneficial example of blogging about blogging I've ever seen. I'm very interested to see what you find.

    Since you're looking, I'm not sure I have much of a method. I approach it two ways. Obviously, some of what I write is inspired at the time of its writing. But often I will sit down and write at least the ideas for, if not the whole thing, multiple blog entries. I've always got a cache of saved drafts. Sometimes I use one when don't have anything topical for a given day, sometimes I plan a time to use them ahead.

    My mom is an English teacher and has been all my life, so I feel you on the editing thing. I again, do it both ways. I edit as I go along and I edit again before posting. Sometimes I'll transfer the whole thing to a Word document so that I can see more of it and edit better. Sometimes I compose in Word and then transfer. I wonder what all that says about me. Editing just has to be done. I don't want to sound ignorant or foolish, so it's just got to be done. That said, I guess I figure that I'm not perfect in any other area of life, so if a mistake slips through... eh... it happens.

    I must confess, I haven't given much thought to the 'why' of blogging. I enjoy it. Maybe I'll have more insight after reading what all you have to say. I, for one, think you should write more. You're good at it. And I don't know how anyone else feels, but I value the interaction more than anything.

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  8. Euphrony - Thanks for stopping by and commenting. For what it's worth, I've read your blog and I think it's great.

    I read way more blogs than I typically comment on, and have deliberately limited myself to only commenting in a few specific places (unless a subject brought up on a blog that I don't normally comment on is so in need of comment that I can't help myself). I only have a few minutes of blog-time each day, during breaks at work, so I have to be careful not to take on more than I can read in the time allotted (which I could easily do if I'm not careful).

    Researchers say that only a very small percentage of web site visitors will actually comment or interact, so I wouldn't necessarily take a lack of comments to mean anything in particular.

    I suppose this does sort of touch on the subject of the "target audience" that I was talking about, though. If you're not getting comments, you may be like a late-night radio DJ who is talking, but not getting any phone calls -- and wonders if anyone is out there listening at all.

    If you're dying to know (or just curious), you can install or set up various types of web site monitoring software, that will actually tell you how many hits, visits, unique visitors, etc. are coming to your site. Most people are surprised to find out that they actually have more visitors than they realized.

    I suppose that your biggest problem is likely that you are an Aggie, hanging out online around a lot of Baylor people. Perhaps they just think they are too good for you. :-)

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  9. Cach - Thanks for the encouragement. I can't even begin to tell you (seriously) how much I've enjoyed and benefitted from you, and since I've only met you online and not in person, that indicates to me that this medium does have tremendous potential, and I'm enjoying it immensely.

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  10. Hammer - So where's part 2? In the editing room? :-)

    Euphrony - I've actually commented a couple of times on your blog but when I submitted it it said something along the lines of the fact that you moderate your comments. I wonder if you're using an old email address and all your comment notifications are not getting to you.

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  11. Kat - I'm moderating my posts? That's news to me, since I remember specifically setting it up to not moderate. I'll have to check the idiot-proof blogger setup and fix the problem. (Found and fixed, I hope, so comment away!)

    Hammer - How ashamed I am to be hanging around a bunch of bears. But I know what you mean about selective commenting - there is only so much time in the day. My two comments above were more a tongue-in-cheek jab at myself and my own vanity, but my humor does not always translate well in person, much less in writing. When I decided, a long time ago, that I would write encouraging letters to my friends I commented myself to the fact that this was something God wanted me to do and that acknowledgement from others was not to be expected or to effect what I did. In other words, I knew to do something whether I was praised for it or not. I made the same commitment with blogging. I write to try to encourage, and I accept that God will take the message of encouragement to others. And I know that other people see my blog from the two tracking maps I use (Clustrmaps and Mapstats).

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  12. Kat - Well, Part 2 is about 95% finished. I've got to get a little time available to finish it, and I'm sort of looking for a dramatic pause in the timing of its release. But I guess I shouldn't wait too long, or it will cease to be dramatic and simpy be annoying. :-)

    Euphrony - By the way, I lived in Bryan for a year or so just before I joined the Army (took my ASVAB on the A & M campus). When were you there? I left that area around 1991, had a lot of cool friends there that I eventually lost touch with.

    I went to Emmanuel Baptist Church in Bryan, had many Aggie friends, and had a good friend who was a professor at Blinn College.

    Before that, I lived in Brenham for almost four years.

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  13. I came to College Station in 1991, and stayed until 2001. (I was not in school the entire 10 years, thank goodness.)

    By the way, Kat and Hammer, thanks for the kind words about my blog.

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  14. OMG. I casually clicked on your blog tonight and lo and behold. You have posted. Yesssssssss. Nice work my friend. You have too much to say to not be saying it on a regular basis. I imagine if you put your mind to it, you could out-prolific the most prolifice blogger 4 times over.

    Get to it brother!!

    Lovin' it.

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