Saturday, January 22, 2011

Why Do It

One of the people I’ve enjoyed reading over the past year or so has been this guy. His focus is finance and economics, which isn’t nearly as interesting of a topic to me as it once was - but still. You have to take the world as you find it, not as you wish it to be. (Or so I’m told.) And I find a world that is utterly at the mercy of what happens in business. I’d just as soon do away with commerce and money if I could conceive of a plausible alternative for human society. But realistically, holding out for an Enlightened Utopia is wishful thinking leaning heavily towards impossible fantasy. On an individual level Enlightened Utopia might just be doable and a fine thing to work towards, but on a large scale, fuggedaboutit.

Anyway – BR’s “Why Blog?” post was timely for me as I have recently decided to start doing this again, with the aim of doing it with some regularity. He lists ten reasons a person might start and maintain a blog. Of his ten, I identified with #3 (“You want to figure out what you think, and do so in public”) and #9 (“You want to create a permanent online record of what you are reading, looking at, or thinking about”).

A few thoughts on each of these…

You want to figure out what you think, and do so in public:
For me, the lesser emphasis is on the ‘in public’ part but knowing that other people will or might be reading your work can be an incentive to try harder. And depending on the subject matter, feedback can be helpful. The downside is that it also has the potential to result in either: self-censorship (so as not to offend or disappoint would-be readers), an overly self-conscious “it must be perfect!” attitude, or an inauthentic approach that’s more about portraying a certain image or impressing others. These are just a few of the hazards that come to mind. ‘Figuring out what you think’ wasn’t one of my original reasons for starting a blog but it has turned out to be a rewarding and pleasantly challenging side-effect. Don’t be fooled by how easy it sounds. Articulating your thoughts about (sometimes) complex issues in a coherent, concise, and intelligible way can be a formidable undertaking; even more so if there’s the chance that other intelligent, more-sophisticated minds might be there to challenge and critique your conclusions. We all have opinions. But taking the trouble to actually hash-out and justify those opinions is no trivial thing.

You want to create a permanent online record of what you are reading, looking at, or thinking about:
One of the main reasons I do this now. I honestly can’t remember why I started blogging in the first place but this may be the reason I decided to keep it going. I’ve found it to be fascinating and enlightening to read back over stuff I posted say a year or two years ago. My reactions to older entries range from embarrassment to pride. As time goes by our views and the way we express them change. It’s neat to have that history out there. And thanks to Google, even if my house burns down or my hard drive gets dropped into a vat of battery acid, my narcissistic drivel humble musings will still be plastered all over the internet. (You’re welcome.)

Outside of BR’s ten reasons, one of my motivations for doing this is the challenge of it. As he mentions – it’s hard. I’ve seen blog posts that span less than 2000 words where the author has claimed to have spent eight hours or more writing it. And that was a ‘professional’ blogger. I can’t foresee any scenario where I’d put in that kind of time and effort but trying to come up with something to say, in your own voice, sprinkled with some of your own insights, is difficult. But it’s also remarkably fun.

With that said, I’ll close with one of my own insights which is: Doing something without the aim of making any money or accomplishing any particular goal, doing it just for the sheer enjoyment and challenge of it, without any expectations, rules, or conditions, is an underrated and highly worthwhile endeavor.

UPDATE: As an example of looking back and being ridiculously amused, would you believe I wrote a post titled Outdoor Urination For Dummies?

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