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?