Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Pondering Why I Blog

A little more than two weeks ago my computer crashed and I lost an extensive library of images and music that I had been gathering for almost five years (always back up your files, kids!). I realized several things in the time before I was able to replace my old desktop and get the new one up and running.

1) How much I had come to rely on my computer for most of my entertaining for casual moments. I constantly turned reflexively to the computer desk when I was bored, rather than books or TV.

2) How much I had come to rely on my computer for news, research, and keeping in touch socially.

3) How little some people (and among them I count myself) understood the urges and purposes behind my blogging.

I came to this realization during my efforts to obtain the replacement computer. A lady whom I know (and whose opinions on the business of life I greatly respect) evinced the opinion that there was very little practical value (i. e., monetary benefit) in my activities, beyond perhaps practicing my composition and writing skills. In fact, to her thinking, what I was doing was basically boasting about my possessions, bragging about my supposed superior mental skills, and indulging in a sort of constant sort of one-ups-manship with a network of strangers and fanatics.

I was stunned. I was confounded. I was even...flabbergasted. Before I could splutter out any explanations or justifications she passed on to other, more pressing matters, and I was left to flounder emotionally in her wake.

Well, I finally got my new computer, and with no small thanks to her good efforts. After some further fooferaw getting my web connection re-established, I am finally able to start posting again. But before I do, I thought I would consider my aims and motives in blogging, to make it clear to myself and to have a ready answer should the subject ever arise again.

I really can't blame the practical lady for her misapprehensions. I don't know for sure that she has ever even looked at PowerOfBabel. The literary by-waters I habitually navigate are of little interest to her (she enjoys mystery thrillers) and the world of action figures even less. So the few times I talked about my activities with her was to mention in passing things like my 500TH post or my 40,000TH hit or the people from foreign countries who had looked at my blog.

I suppose to anyone who doesn't realize what modest accomplishments these are in the world of blogging (especially over a four year period or so) it might seem like bragging. I believe most of her impression of on-line life comes from accounts of flame-wars, trolling, and Facebook tragedies. I do not know if she realizes that blogging for applause or recognition is rather like (to adapt Robert Graves dictum on poetry) dropping a rose petal into the Grand Canyon and waiting for the echo.

So, why do I blog? Its minor function is as a sort of informal journal, scrapbook, and commonplace record. I have a few scattered friends and family; the blog is an excellent way to keep in touch with them about my enthusiasms and activities. I make notes about things and pin them down for my own satisfaction. If anyone else finds these of interest or it helps them, so much the better.

But the main thing I do, I like to think, is serve my subject. It's not ranking, or popularity, or any sort of gain. That kind of thing is rather hopeless in my situation. But if I can bring forward some sort of obscure work, dust it off a little, and show its merits, or if I can illuminate a minor aspect of a larger work, I think my efforts are worth it.

Any sort of personal matter that enters my posts is usually by way of explanation of how I found out about something or what my credentials are for some assertion. I hope boasting has very little to do with it. I don't think I would ever monetize my blog because of the constraints it might put on what I could publish.

So there it is. I'm ready to start up again. Despite crashed computers, knock-you-down heatwaves, emotional distress, and my own dilatory nature, it's time to get back up on the horse once more. My next post should be much more interesting than this one, because it will be about something other than me.


Brer said...

Perhaps I am guilty of more hubris than I thought. I just had the occasion to look up an old post, and found it brimming with opinions and personal observations! An increased awareness of this habit should, however, improve future posts.

AlanDP said...

Opinions and personal observations are an essential part of blogging. I don't think you're in any danger of going into full rant mode (that is, nothing but opinions), so don't let it bother you.

Babel said...

I value your role as a critic. It would be damn hard to be a good critic without having any opinions! I see blogs like yours and Alan's as autobiography in posts rather than chapters. The only thing that binds the myriad enthusiasms and interests that you report on is YOU, and your take on them. The success of your blog is not measured in money or fame but for how damn fun it is to read for those of us who read it! Man I am glad you are back!

AlanDP said...

I have undertaken, you see, to write not only my life, but my opinions also ; hoping and expecting that your knowledge of my character, and of what kind of a mortal I am, by the one, would give you a better relish for the other : As you proceed further with me, the slight acquaintance which is now beginning betwixt us, will grow into familiarity ; and that, unless one of us is in fault, will terminate in friendship. ---- O diem præclarum ! ---- then nothing which has touched me will be thought trifling in its nature, or tedious in its telling. Therefore, my dear friend and companion, if you should think me somewhat sparing of my narrative on my first setting out, -- bear with me, -- and let me go on, and tell my story my own way : ---- or if I should seem now and then to trifle upon the road, ---- or should sometimes put on a fool's cap with a bell to it, for a moment or two as we pass along, -- don't fly off, -- but rather courteously give me credit credit for a little more wisdom than appears upon my outside ; -- and as we jogg on, either laugh with me, or at me, or in short, do any thing, ---- only keep your temper.

(I started reading this again recently in order to gather pipe quotes. I thought this passage was very appropriate.)

Babel said...

Ha! Great...