Its like one of those journalistic English lesson exercises they give you at school: “Imagine your life is of global interest, now write about it that way, blast a headline, consider the lead in and then wrap it up in a hard hitting conclusion, a nugget, a nifty punchline. Make it sound like front page news”. That’s what blogging is and its an epidemic; zillions of us writing about our little lives like they are the centre of it all, like we are the mover and the shaker that everyone wants to hear about over their breakfast.
Maybe its because we are the generations born into a culture that presents the minutiae of many an unworthy “star” or “celebrity” like its of pressing importance but we have nearly all come to see our own lives like that lately, making announcements of personal importance to ever widening audiences, and why not? Perhaps making the celebrity of ourselves is how we redress the subliminal imbalance created when these few other people are made to seem so disproportionately, laughably “big”. For some social-media-ites it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy as their “acting as though” they are of such newsworthiness helps them to garner hoards of eager followers who hang off their every most-domestic announcement like its scintillating news. However, the vast majority of compulsive bloggers are reconciled to knowing we are largely talking to ourselves (in a very public way) so why do we still do it, why expend all that effort like its a full-time writing job, what’s the appeal and what are we hoping for? Five years in and I’m still no nearer an answer but its a question I’ve been asking myself even more lately as I seek to discover where my true priorities and my true bliss lie and to concentrate on fulfilling my most innate sense of purpose (as opposed to continuing to trudge down any long and pointless alleyways that serve no one and lead precisely nowhere).
Where, exactly, do all the hours I spend blogging, for no particular audience or purpose, fit into this?
If I just wanted to “get it all down” (life, that is), why not write a diary of sorts, or a personal bog with private access? Why the need to add “audience” to the day-to-day epiphanies of my world? Is that the exhibitionist in me? The underwear-flasher that is shy on the surface but secretly thrives upon being noticed for having a colourful underlayer? Or, is there an assumption that no one else is figuring this stuff out; that they need my help? Maybe so…especially where it comes to health-breakthroughs that “might help”…but its more than an urge to save the planet driving this. I’d like to say its an urge to connect but I do very little connecting through my blog, based on an almost total lack of responses or comments; I have no real idea who is reading it or whether they get anything out of the experience (fourteen thousand visitors might seem a lot on the stats but only a handful of close friends ever bother commenting about what I share).
On this one, I’m far from alone – even those bloggers “doing well” might only expect a couple of dozen “likes” or “nice blog” comments in return for several hours work which tells me there must be something more to the psychology of this. If it doesn’t put bread on your table, or advertise a business, why do we do it? Of course, for some people it does put bread on their table as they affiliate to advertising schemes and monetise their blog in a variety of other ways but if that’s not for you (and it doesnt feel like its for me…) what’s the point, what’s the underlying human urge driving this mass-compulsion to write about our personal lives and air our knickers in public? Most of us are doing it for love, not money.
Blogging (along with social media in general) feels like a version of that childhood thing when you hold up a picture and wait for the positive feedback; we are the generation that demands the loving attention, that pat on the head that we, maybe, lacked when we were younger…and so we should, we all deserve that. So if my blog is the voice of my inner child speaking out, demanding to be heard and acknowledged, is there some other (more direct) way I can provide it with the feedback it so craves; can I provide the love, acknowledgement and attention from myself that it has spent a lifetime seeking “out there”? Perhaps…and I’ve been working on that one, a lot, lately…which is possibly why my writing urges have gone down just a little. These days, I allow the mud to settle a little longer before posting and many-a-blog has remained in the private domain, though I always get something out of writing them. More and more, I am letting the urge sail right on by, even before the words have been fully formed or written down…and yet I can never quite suppress the habit with logical reasoning like “what is the point?”
Sometimes its irresistible…that most pressing of urges to leap out of bed and start tapping away, getting down those fully formed titles that arrive trailing embryonic subject-matter in their wake, then the deliciously compulsive scrabble in my mind to hone this ethereal thing into a sense of “structure”, of “completion”, of “conclusion reached”, of “sense” and “meaning” made out of a previously abstract flow of thoughts. Its an addictive, almost obsessive-compulsive sense of creating order out of the otherwise arbitrary “chaos” of consciousness, of grasping handfuls of tenuously related threads and pulling them all together into a definitive cross-over point and finishing with the pretty bow that writing gives to a series of random epiphanies. Once done, it is like all these most ethereal vapours of experience are captured and catalogued, at least in essence, neatly filed away in a newly decorated shoebox complete with a smart hand-written label; thus made more accessible, more real, more or a springboard to future epiphanies through the creative act of packaging, prettifying and personalising them. The funny thing is, I almost never re-read my posts after they are published; in fact I prefer not to after that time has passed; they are in their holding space and require no revisits from me. If what I write happens to be a well-packaged gift that I give out to others who chance upon my posts months, maybe years, later then its one I offer without expecting anything back.
Its no accident that the word “inspire” is related to the word “spiral”(like the Golden Ratio is a mathematical expression of the spiral-breath of life that underlies everything we know about this universe); it derives from the Latin root that refers to taking breath in and, therefore necessarily, sending breath out. To me it is any act that is as instinctive to us as breathing – which also suggest that it depends upon being a two-directional flow in order to be healthy and sustaining. As a necessary byproduct of acting upon our own inspiration we must, therefore, send “what we live and breathe” – now hallmarked with our own unique imprint – out into the world so that others may, in turn, “receive” this as their own sustenance or inspiration (in a very literal sense, we all breathe the same air and – likewise – cross-inspire each other along the way).
Writing, like painting, is like the act of breathing to me – it seems I must do it, regularly, while I am alive, to be fully alive. When we “do” and act and create from whatever we feel inexplicably compelled to do (that is, from the heart) – and we all have that thing – we can never fail to expand outwards from ourselves and that “small” personal act; spiralling out into the world on the back of our own enthusiasm, just as the breath that leaves our own lungs expands into the ether around us, spreading out in all directions and ending up who knows where. I guess, in essence, that’s what blogging is (for those who love writing) and the age of technology has enabled two-directional flow to occur in a way that is feeding an almighty urge to draw in huge, hearty gulps of whatever feeds our passion and then, well, breathe it out for others to arbitrarily chance upon (without depending on that). This inwards-outwards flow is like the very bellows of life, it feeds our own fire. So, does blogging serve a purpose…does art or anything done for the love of it? Well, you may equally ask, does breathing? If I was less sure of my conclusion when I started this post, I seem to have got somewhere with it now.
So, if I’m honest, I realise, its all done for me…
…but then if what I write ever has any positive spin for anyone else that’s a bonus, a worthy byproduct. Lately, I’ve learned, we can wish for no better outcome than that from anything that we happen to do, create or focus on. The most fulfilling path of all is to start from our own heart, doing whatever gives us most joy and then spiralling it outward – that is (not white-knuckle gripping it close to our own chest or locking it away but) sending it out just a little further and wider than ourselves in case inspirational connections are waiting to be made.
Interesting questions Helen – I do enjoy the sense of community I get from blogging, but ultimately, like you, I do it for me. I do write a journal and I do write fiction, so why I feel the need to also do this, I’m not entirely sure – it’s a different type of writing for me and I can’t exactly explain why I enjoy it so much.