I Am, therefore I Blog

I had a thought about blogging while I was riding my bike home from the library today.

The thoughts I had on the way to the library had little to nothing to do with blogging. My thoughts while I was biking up an endless hill towing 80 pounds of child and 20 pounds of books in the bike trailer were more along the lines of, “Oh, my God. How much farther to the top of this hill? Wait, am I in the lowest gear? Maybe I can put it down one more—crap! Okay, think about the way back. On the way back I get to ride down the hill. If I ever get up this hill in the first place. Which I might not. I could die on the way up. I could hyperventilate and die. Can you die from hyperventilating? Okay, the melodrama isn’t helping. But people do die. And one day I will. Maybe today. To hell with this. I’m walking.”

The way home, however, was downhill, which was much more conducive to thoughts focused beyond mere survival. So, among other things, I thought about blogging. And why I do it.

The other day when I was blogging about why I blog, I reduced it to self-aggrandizement. And there’s likely something to that. But I was thinking about those years and years of notebooks I’ve written, all of the short stories and novel starts and essays that never saw the light of day (nor should many of them, not to mention the poems, which are largely just awful). I clearly didn’t write those out of a desire for feedback in the form of comments and blog stats. I wrote those because I had to.

Writing is how I mark both celebrations and tragedies. Writing is how I think things through and how I make sense of my life. It brings me comfort as I identify themes and order in the avalanche of experiences I’ve had in my nearly 35 years.

Natalie Goldberg writes about how writers experience things more than once because, as they’re recalling the details to write them down, they live the moment again. Even while they’re experiencing something, part of the joy is the anticipation of re-experiencing it later when they’re alone with their notebook or laptop. For some people, life events aren’t real until they’ve shared them with a best friend. For me, the events aren’t real until I’ve written about them, sometimes dozens of times.

Blogging gives me both of these things. I get to re-live and re-frame events while at the same time sharing them with other people, making them even more real. It gives me the chance to see my experiences mirrored back to me by others which brings a different dimension of meaning to my understanding of myself and my life.

I realize that when I feel like I need to pull back from blogging, it’s when I’ve let blogging become the only time I write. When I don’t write elsewhere, I bring all of the frantic, unfiltered thoughts that I usually get out long-hand in one of my forbidden notebooks to the screen where it’s only a mouse click away from being available to English speakers around the world. Rather than being cathartic and meditative, this type of writing brings me anxiety and self-doubt. It has me refreshing my blog stats dozens of times a day, ignoring my children, my housework, my writing, my personal hygiene to get that hit of approval.

Last November when I was doing NaNoWriMo, I was writing on my novel every day and blogging and journaling, not because I felt a responsibility to do so—in fact, I’d given myself permission to work only on my novel and not write anything else. I found that as I worked on my novel, it was easy to blog and journal. Writing begat writing, and I went with it gleefully.

So that was the realization I had while pedaling faster and faster downhill on the way home from the library, the wind roaring so loudly in my ears I couldn’t even hear if there was traffic behind me. As I turned my head and heard my children giggling as we sped back down the endless hill, it hit me that the reason I blog is the same reason I write anything: to open up my experience of the world and put it somewhere outside of myself, a gift back to the world. Blogging in itself isn’t the problem; it’s not writing enough that makes the blogging seem overly important, either in a positive or a negative way.

After more than a year of blogging, I may have finally figured out why it is I do it and maybe even how to make it fit better with my life.

Perhaps I should try to kill myself by towing my kids uphill more often. Who knows what other insights might come along?

4 comments

  1. Pingback: On Blogging and Writing « Decompress This!
  2. Pingback: On Blogging and Writing « Decompress This!
  3. Melanie Meadors · September 22, 2011

    I had to check your blog by actually going to your BLOG today, because Facebook obviously did not think you should have been on my newsfeed (OK… need to work on that non-harming precept some more. I’m feeling some angry thoughts…).

    You bring up a good point there. What I need to do is figure out why I am SO STUCK with my writing (the first time I typed that my fingers forgot the T. Freudian slip?). I think it is because after an accomplishment, I feel afraid that I won’t be able to ever do it as good again. I am very much looking forward to nano, I think it will really help loosen things up. And I really should do some little practice things.

    I really miss living in your town. I used to walk to the library. I used to walk everywhere! and here, well, there is no where to walk to. My son expressed an interest in walking to the library here. It’s doable for me, but something tells me he won’t make it…

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    • CJ · September 22, 2011

      How far is the walk to the library for you? Ours is about 2.5 miles (a little less than that, but I like rounding up when I’m not using the car so it sounds more impressive). That would be pushing it a bit for us to walk unless I reconciled myself to using the sit-and-stand stroller, which I find incredibly uncomfortable for long walks. I miss buses. In Salt Lake City, we could walk the1.5 miles to the downtown library and if the kids were too tired to walk all the way back, I’d just stand us at the bus stop until the 203 or the 205 came by. No such stop-gap measure here. I was surprised that I didn’t see any other bicyclists and only one other pedestrian on the way to and from the library yesterday (although if they’d come by while I was pedaling uphill, I likely wouldn’t have noticed them).

      NaNo is definitely my excuse to write with reckless abandon. No audience, no expectations, just writing all the crap I can write for 30 days. I can’t wait! And I don’t even have a success to blame for my writer’s block. I’ve not submitted anything since 2004. I got a very pleasant handwritten rejection letter, and although I did my best to convince myself that was almost as good as having the piece accepted, I’ve not been able to get myself to submit anything since. (No, I take that back…I applied for a Stegner Fellowship. I was clearly operating under a hugely overinflated sense of my own skill as a writer. Even now my face is hot with embarrassment when I say that I applied for that one.)

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