Like a lot of people years ago when free blogging spots popped up I signed up, wrote a couple of brilliant posts and waited for the comments to roll in. Bzzzt, forget that, I was lost in a sea of obscurity. So I gave up. A couple of months ago I decided to try again but this time with a completely different expectation. I’d write what I felt like writing and do nothing to try to get found. I thought that writing for an imaginary public audience would force me to write better, avoid little mistakes, fact-check, try (still working on this) to condense my ramblings to something concise and coherent. And all my musings wouldn’t just bore my immediate circle since I now had a new, mostly imaginary, circle.
This actually worked better than I expected and I’ve found blogging to be a satisfying exercise. But what I didn’t expect is that I’d get way more interest in reading. For each of the first few viewers that trickled in I checked out their blogs and after ignoring the spam found some interesting material. So I explored feed readers and subscribed to a whole collection of blogs and studiously read all of those. Since the collection I chose was mostly an echo chamber for my existing views I was impressed by the tidbits other bloggers dug up and expanded but there is a limit to how interesting same-sounding posts are.
Then a surprising thing happened. One of my posts got selected for Freshly Pressed and a flood of readers showed up. Naturally I went and looked at their blogs and was pleasantly surprised by some interesting material. So I spent a couple of days going back through all the Freshly Pressed history and was overwhelmed by some really interesting material. But I was really impressed at how interesting and how good many of the posts are! My prior expectation was people would be writing on pop topics or doing true confessions but what I found was much more interesting than that. And so a whole new world has opened for me. I guess this demonstrates the old adage that the more you put into something the more you get from it.
Given the verbosity of my posts it should be apparent to you, Dear Reader, that I like to talk. But, surprise, surprise, I also like to listen. The trouble I have with that in real life is people around me rarely say much that interests me since they live in the same world as I do (although not the world I once had in the Bay Area). The people outside my little world, the people I’m finding at blogs, have a lot more to say and speak to things that interest me but that I don’t get to personally experience. So it’s a window in a big world out there. I think sometimes I talk too much because I can’t stand dead air and so I fill it up. But, really, I could sit at a table of interesting people and listen and never say a word. I mostly know what’s in my head, it’s what’s in the heads of others that is fresh and provides me something new to consider.
I still don’t get many comments, but I think one of the most powerful (on blogs or real life) is: “Have you considered …?” That’s what conversation is about and why it’s fun. Being forced to consider some other way of looking at things or even something entirely new is the spark to light up some of my synapses.
I don’t know what I expected to find in other blogs but what I did find was a lot more than I could have expected. I really like the stories of long bicycling trips, backpacking or other outdoors expeditions, of travel to interesting places. I used to do a lot of that myself, but now I don’t so getting to tag along via the stories others share takes me to places I’ll never go (but green with envy as wish I could). But what I didn’t expect so much was some of the great writing, sometimes even on the most trivial of topics, but with prose that makes the stories interesting. And I like the controversial stuff, but essays that are deeper and more thoughtful than the usual rants about politics and religion. These are interesting subjects but the partisan warfare (even from my side) is often sterile and just preaching to choir. Those that go beyond the daily trivia and tired old arguments and explore the ideas with more insight, esp. a connection to history (since it’s really all been said and done before) can provide that “Have you considered …?” that the daily news omits.
So I’ve found a huge group of amazingly talented and interesting people out there in the buzzing of the hundreds of millions of blogs. I always thought the Net could do this, provide connections to a much broader world. We all live in our mundane daily lives but yearn to get beyond what’s just in front of us and so even a couple of minutes of reading the ideas and experiences of others can lift us out of our confining world. So with my own world shrinking this technology and fantastic other people expands it.
So, Dear Reader, I hope some of my posts have interested you, but my real advice is get out there, find whatever technique works for you to find fresh material, and listen. You’ll find shared material that takes you to new places.