I recently looked at fresh, piping hot year end blog posts by a friend and a(n acquaintance) friend of a friend. They used pictures, graphics, color contrasts and links to create a vibrant array of information and connections. Following a link back to my blog from the friend’s blog I realized “Man, my blog really is grim. It’s like ‘Dourblog! – by Douramillian McMiserableson’.”
This wasn’t my intent! I chose the Vostok theme because it is economical and spare, limpid and pure. I wanted visitors to have private moments with my words. I wanted to allow them visualize any images coming across in my writing without coercion or distraction. In a later, foolhardy decision, I added snow (until Jan 4th!), which has probably only provoked confusion and lost me credibility.
I also wanted a dark theme because I knew I would be writing a lot about Heavy Metal. But by compromising I may have missed both marks. My blog is neither terrifying enough to be KVLT, nor vibrant enough to be eye-catching. Right now it’s just spangled in shades of vaguely depressing grey.
This moment of naked self-consciousness made me take a quick mental stock of just why I keep this blog and what it means to me. People ask me what I’ve been doing on my sabbatical, and I reply – embarrassment apparent in my voice and body language – that I’ve been keeping a blog. Why should I be embarrassed? Is it because I have a miniscule… audience? Is it the idea of blogging itself? I used to think of blogging as a pastime of lame-o’s and terminal optimists, then I started one. If I’m going to blog, I should be proud about it, but I also need to know why I’m doing it – so here we go.
1) To practice my writing:
Once, at a party, my friend and I met a sad man who beat himself up in front of us. He wanted to be a writer, but gave the impression that he didn’t write enough, or didn’t know how, or didn’t have confidence in his ‘voice’. My friend offered sympathetic advice – “Writing is like a muscle, you have to exercise it every day.” That stuck with me, and I thought starting this blog would be a good way for me to exercise that muscle. I’m happy to report that it has been. I used to write the odd article and post it to facebook’s ‘Notes’ section. I might as well have moved it to my computer’s recycle bin.
Since quitting my job I’ve been able to write dozens of posts, and I have been happy with their quality – that is, I read them later and don’t feel embarrassed. I have also honed in on my ‘voices’ – different styles I can use for different goals. It’s useful to be able to describe events, describe music, describe emotions, describe imaginative visuals, be funny, self-effacing, philosophize, etc. I think the blog has been fairly successful in that regard.
2) To build up writing samples:
Inevitably, I will have to start applying for writing gigs or jobs. Most of these require writing samples. While I might not have any significant exposure, I will at least be able to show off what I can do in the technical sense. There are a number of posts I would feel comfortable attaching to an application to a writing gig. So in that sense, the blog is a tentative success (I’ll find out for sure when I actually have to pick my best ‘writing samples’).
3) To soak up sweet, nurturing social validation:
I want everyone to love meeeee! I quit facebook thinking I was tired of being fawned over for facetious and banal turns of wit, and ignored for the actual barings of my passions and influences. I thought I’d write in a vacuum and let like-minded strangers enjoy my work. Once this happened and (a few) likes and follows began to roll in, I realized I was just seeking validation in a new venue, but I decided it was OK. As Morrisey once sang – “I am human and I need to be lovvvved, just like everybody elllllse does”
Because I’ll tell you right now. It can get pretty lonely in my rented house in Rhode Island. Sometimes I worry that if I don’t communicate somehow, if I don’t release a little bit of my soul, I’ll implode into complete nothingness, complete self-deluded pathetictude. Expressing myself through writing – and feeling competent and confident while doing it – makes me feel better when the dreaded self-doubt doldrums begin to hover.
4) To document my leap of faith:
I want to have a journal of my ‘So Long, Stinkjob’ period, so that – whether I find myself stuck back at the engineering desk, or in a bookstore signing copies of my celebrated debut novel, or roadie-ing for some obscure crust punk band – I can look back at the time I took and see what I did right and what I did wrong. I can see where I grew as a person, and where I missed opportunities due to old fears and inhibitions. I’ve never kept a diary, and I’ll be damned if I comb my facebook timeline for clues to my level of maturity – waaay too embarrassing.
I would also hope others could benefit from the record of my actions. If things work out, I can say without caveat to a friend in an unhappy job – “Hey, I took a leap, and it worked for me. Here’s what I learned, and you can read about it here, in the FormerConformer archives.”
I originally wrote this post on New Year’s Eve / Day. I was prepping myself to change the theme, which I already did! I hope it’s an improvement. I’ll keep blogging, but perhaps with less fervor than at the outset, as I have other projects in the works.