Why do I write? Or, more precisely, why do I careen my thoughts across cyberspace (albeit, irregularly)? I’ve been pondering that lately, although I should admit that mulling over meaningless quasi-philosophic questions is one of my most effective ways to procrastinate from grading. A while back, I decided my blogging and other forms of inflicting my ramblings on people was a sign that I needed some perspective…and maybe a life…and maybe a hobby that didn’t involve assuming people wanted to know my every thought.
Is blogging sheer narcissism? Am I vain enough to believe that I may say something profound, something so compelling that people should hang my words on their refrigerator? Do I think I’m as amusing as Jon Stewart, and every bon mot should be recorded in hopes that he stumbles upon me and whisks me away to be a staff writer ? (Well,….um….yeah) Or that I have the capacity and wit to create an image or phrase worthy of repeating? On the rare occasions that has happened, it’s a real ego stroke, I’ll admit. But still–that’s too rare to be a major motivation. I think. I hope. Wow….it would be as pathetic as Oliver Twist if that’s my major motivation.
Which is why I kept thinking about the topic. Then it hit me that those questions all presumed someone read my brain-droppings. When I wrote for the Lima News regularly, I knew that I had an audience. I was stopped at the grocery by people who liked my latest column–or by people who vehemently disagreed! I got the occasional note from someone who enjoyed a specific column, and I often had interesting discussions with people who wanted to share their ideas and reactions. I liked that. Ok, I’ll concede that at least a part of my reaction may have been from the ego lift of people seeking me out to respond, but I thrive on interesting conversation. That really was fun. I miss those conversations with strangers and near-strangers, in fact. But when I write here? I think I’m my main reader, too–this site is not exactly tearing up the bandwidth. Which makes me question why I do it, which leads back to the idea that, yep, it’s narcissistic.
Then a couple days ago, I read an article from a columnist for a news magazine (not sure if it was Time or Newsweek; I read both). He was talking about technology and social networking (another topic I’m thinking about frequently), and commented that although public writing is a narcissistic act in some ways, in another sense it is an attempt to build community in a society that has lost most traditional vestiges of community; that the modern equivalent to Solomon’s Portico and Emerson’s Lyceums is found online, and that participating by reading, writing and/or commenting was the same as discussing at the town meeting or other more traditional venue.
That logic works for me. Instead of being a sad, self-absorbed wanna-be writer, I’m participating in the intellectual life of the community, perhaps even creating a tribe of thinkers, swatting at the issues and dilemmas that pester modern people. So I’m deliberately planning to write at least once a week here, treating it as much like a commitment as I did my newspaper column. That’s my plan. Check back on my progress (note, I’m assuming audience again. Hi Mom!Hi Dad!)