We’re nearing the end of the summer, that time of the year when email with all its demands on our attention slows down just a little bit, and when teaching, faculty meetings, admissions, exams, grading and the myriad other things that absorb our time and energy during the academic year are also (mostly) on hold. Our family and friends think we’ve been on vacation, but in fact we’ve been madly trying to clear our desktops of tasks that have piled up and gotten pushed aside during the year, write year-end reports, prep for the next year, and, maybe, have a little time to think. Space for reflection. And perhaps, even, to do some writing: to push out some publications, that coin of the realm in this “publish or perish” business.
This summer has been different for me: I’ve been busy on a Fulbright-sponsored project in Padova, Italy, and haven’t had much time to write.
But now, as I look at what remains of this summer (with UCLA’s late fall start), I want to take time to reflect and share from this summer’s experiences – to distill these experiences for myself and for anyone who is interested. Blogging seems to offer that kind of space and possibility.
Warming up to this task propels me to reflect on the business of writing, in general, and on blogging in particular.
These days, I’ve been asking myself a lot about what I should do at this time in my life and in the world with whatever time, energy, and skills I have.
Given the potential of impending ecological and social collapse (yes, that’s how I see it), why write?
Why write, when it’s not clear what good those words can do in the world?
Why write, when so many words already fill the airway?
We are bombarded by pontifications these days: on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, blogs, podcasts, newspapers, audiobooks, actual books, journal articles, billboards, walls, sidewalks, stores….These words clamor for our attention, their authors begging, “Listen to me!” “Buy what I am selling!” Multi-modal soapbox platforms are a keystroke away. You can find opinions and advice on virtually any topic, presented authoritatively in 280 character sound bytes on Twitter, 60 second TikTok videos, pithy slogans, graphic images and other forms using the many social media platforms at our disposal.
I don’t want to add to the cacophony.
But I’ve paid for this blogspot, and I haven’t written here in a long time.
Looking for motivation, I searched the clogged arteries of cyberspace, googling “why blog?”
This post drew my attention, because I thought it might convince me not to bother.
The reasons it offered for blogging did not resonate with me.
I’m not trying to make money (the Number 1 reason they offer).
I’m not trying to promote my business, unless “my business” means the sets of ideas I have cultivated over my career, my philosophy of education and of life.
And I’m not doing it just for fun,” though I do, somewhat perversely, enjoy perseverating over words on a page.
Writing is hard work. In some ways blog-writing feels even harder than the academic writing that I usually do. At least, it’s harder to write a good blog than it is to write a bad academic paper. In academic writing , you can hide behind a lot of words. Blogs strip all the excess away. You can’t get away with jargony imprecision in a blog. We’re forced to see the logic (or lack thereof) of our own thoughts. We have to have a point we want to make.
So what’s my point in this one?
After sifting through other people’s opinions on the matter, vetting my thoughts with a few friends, procrastinating on getting to the actual writing, and then sitting with drafts of this blog for several weeks, I finally came up with my own “why blog” response. I wrote it up as a numbered list, in a tongue-in-cheek approach to blogs that draw readers’ attention by offering easy answers to complex issues.
(1) I write because it’s the tool of my trade. It’s my main art form. I have learned to trust in its power to distill the human experience.
(2) I blog because I don’t want to write only for academics, in obscure research journals that really nobody reads (except perhaps graduate students).
(3) I write because I believe in the power of words to help change the world: by inspiring, uplifting, making visible new ideas, and kindling the imagination. Even if the only imaginations they kindle are my own.
(4) I write because sometimes I don’t know what else I can do to give back to a world that has given me so much.
(5) And I write in the hope of conjoining my voice with others, to sing in harmony, to build a bigger, bolder, stronger chorus of people who are calling for much-needed transformation in the world.
So this is my blog about blogging: five reasons o convince myself to take time to reflect on and share what I’ve been doing, learning, and pondering for the last few months. Stay tuned.