Last night I got two hours of sleep. We’re dealing with a bout of colds and teething in our house, which means that most of our time is being spent trying to comfort the comfortless, and lying on the floor with some very sad, very tiny humans while they work out their own issues. We are a case study in growing pains. Lots of crawling away, and then coming back, and then crawling away, and then some howling and head-throw-backery.
It’s amazing how situations like these take the wind out of my motivational sails. While my ambitions and resulting project list stretch as far as the eye can see, all it takes is one night like that to sink into a state of despair that can only be remedied by a few gallons of coffee, an evening or two of terrible television, and a 9:30 bedtime. The collision of these regular occurrences with the fact that I feel like now is a time in my life when I should be producing my best work so far is something that takes up way too much of my daily mental energy, and is to blame for the fog of guilt that I constantly feel like I’m fighting my way through.
So, why do I love blogs then?
(That was the segue of a chronically sleep-deprived man.)
When Chris Shiflett tweeted his call to arms this morning in which he challenged us all to dedicate ourselves to blogging more, my first thought was, “Okay, perfect. An assigment.” Just like every other creative person on the web, my perennial new years resolution is always to “write more,” a conviction that falls by the wayside at about the same time I connect the dots that “writing more” means “people might read what you write.” I’m a man of abstract and self-deprecating thoughts, and have spent most of my life living under the assumption that people will like you more if they don’t have to listen to you talk very much. I probably would have excelled at The Milton Academy, where students were taught to be neither seen, nor heard.
However, though it’s completely unnatural to me, I love the blog as a platform for writing. I love it because I can write some boring nonsense about staying up all night with a teething toddler, and then shift immediately into why I am an enthusiast for online journals. The freeform potential of the medium is almost unparalleled, and the fact that we can explore ideas in a stream-of-consciousness way is such a simple idea that we can often forget how majestic it is. We might not all be James Joyce, but we can have our own tiny little Ulysses if we so wish.
Why not just keep an actual, physical journal then? A few friends and myself recently had a micro-dialogue (ANOTHER crazy concept) on Twitter about whether the term “blog” should be retired altogether. After all, wasn’t a blog something that existed in the early 00′s when we were all typing about biology class or whatever in our very own Xanga? These days, the conventional blog has been replaced in a lot instances by social aggregates and Tumblr, platforms that allow for things like sharing or commentary, but are less focused on content creation. Tumblr blogs don’t even come with a built-in commenting system (a “feature” that can actually be pretty refreshing. Another talk for another day.) So, as it becomes easier to share pre-existing content and cultivate a following around your taste instead of your ability to say anything specific, fewer and fewer people seem to be using their own public forum to tell their own story in their own voice.
Is that why we write in public? To tell our own story in our own voice?
As a designer, I’m used to creating with a purpose in mind. I have a target audience, a client, and a message. On some level, the reason that I blog instead of journal privately (though I do a little bit of that too, mostly in scraps and pictures) is so that I have the accountability of readership. A blog becomes a platform, and the words become a message instead of just musings, which can in turn start a conversation. This isn’t always necessary; sometimes, we all just need a little bit of a soapbox, a soapbox built in HTML5 with a responsive grid-based layout. But there is at least the potential of a dialogue when you write in public, whereas a private journal lacks that capacity. A journal is for you, and maybe your kids, and maybe everyone else later if you’re Mark Twain or Leonardo DaVinci. A blog is for everyone with an internet connection.
For me, Serious is Easy operates as a place of reflection. It’s a place to ponder memories and ideas, in a strange little world that I’ve created for myself. A lot of people use their personal blogs or websites to teach you something new, or to posture their opinions on the state of technology, politics or the world. That’s not what this place is for. Because of that, my readership tends to be very patient with very narrow interests (and they probably know me in person), but that’s okay. That’s why I love blogs: because they can be whatever you want, and it’s okay.
Shall we write more in public, then?