Saturday, October 25, 2003

"This above all - to thine own self be true" 

There's a few loose strands I want to try and pull together. Muddled thoughts bouncing around in my head; various blog posts – mine and others' - now beginning to converge on something; a theme, a structure dimly visible through the mists.

When I started blogging, it was all so easy. I hadn’t really got any idea what I was getting into, so I hadn’t got any yardstick. There was some interesting stuff floating around out there in the blogosphere and it seemed kinda cool to be part of it. Not just cool though; I did have a feeling that maybe there were some things I wanted to say and maybe this would be a good medium in which to say them.

To begin with my blog had no site meter; no commenting capability – I had no idea who was reading my words, or what they thought of them. A one-sided conversation is a little, well, one-sided but it does allow total freedom to say just what you want without worrying about how its going to be received – or more accurately, you may hope it will be well received but as you’ll never know you don’t have to worry about having to deal with the feedback.

But it would be nice to know, wouldn't it, what others think, if indeed there's anyone out there thinking about it at all? So along comes sitemeter, and commenting capability, and before you know it blogging has become a competition. How many visits today? How many comments? What, none? I’d better up the quality of what I’m writing. Then with a couple of positive responses, spontaneity goes out the window – now I have standards to maintain. I have to judge what I write. Is it good enough?

But good enough for what? Without some kind of purpose I'm a leaf blown this way and that, moving from one hot issue to the next, picking up the latest fad, unknowingly conforming to the thought-patterns of cyberspace. Very like a whale…

A few things lately brought this to a head.

First John Ettorre was quite complementary about some of the things I've written. But I’m sure he didn’t intend the effect his remarks had, which was to make me more judgemental about my own writing – as though I had a standard to live up to.

Then, as a result of meeting Stuart Hughes and having him point to olderandgrowing from his blog, I suddenly started receiving many more visits than usual. At the time, I had a lengthy, poorly structured and rather self-indulgent post up and I felt embarrassed that this was what all these extra visitors were going to see – surely I could write them something better and attract them to come back to my blog? I was too hasty. The idea I posted wasn't a bad one – it was something I'd been thinking about for a while – but I wasn't happy with the words; they were too clumsy. Or so I felt. But why? Why judge myself in this way? Why feel the need to attract people to the site at all? Why worry about the size of my audience? Surely quality of readership is better than quantity? (And in all humility I am honoured by the quality – I'm sorry, that’s not really the right word but I hope you know what I mean – of all of the people who have blogrolled me).

It was probably this situation that made me think about deleting this blog – the feeling that I wasn’t being honest and was writing for effect, or for self-aggrandisement.

Now in the last few days there has been some thought-provoking dialogue on gassho's Wiki Wednesday about what it means to be wholly yourself. John Ettorre has posted a summary that is, frankly, a little scary, as I realise that after 25 years of trying various things I’ve accidentally stumbled on something I enjoy and, with some practice and hard work, might even get to be vaguely good at.

So why's that scary? I've been here before. Twice I've got close enough to the edge of the precipice that forms the boundary of my comfortable world to peer over the edge and glimpse the new landscapes beyond; twice I’ve drawn back from negotiating the rocky slopes that separate my comfortable grassy uplands from the uncharted terrain beyond. Now I seem to be drawing close to that precipice again. Blogging has awoken thoughts, feelings, possibilities that have lain dormant for quite a while. Maybe that’s the real reason I nearly deleted this blog. Doing that would have kept me safe.

I just have this very strange feeling that I've stepped onto a conveyor belt that's actually going to take me somewhere I want to be.

[Although I haven't quoted Jeneane here I'd like to acknowledge her post, quoted on The Obvious, which provided the seed from which this post grew].

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