What the Crystal Ball Never Reveals: A Few Words about Blogging

A writer [and photographer], I think, is someone who pays attention to the world. ~ Susan Sontag

Photo credit: C. Bertelsen

I missed my anniversary this year, for the first time.

Five years ago, I started blogging, and began writing regularly (or at least fairly regularly), for myself and not for deadlines, not because of external  “whip wielders” such as a demanding professor or an indifferent editor. With a click of the mouse on the WordPress site, my latent writer persona found a place to be.

On July 28, 2008, my very first post appeared, a short confession about the impact of Africa on my consciousness, a bit of blather to take up space and lessen my learning curve on WordPress.com. Now, 975 posts later, with over 725,000 views, I must confess I never thought I’d stick it out this long. This year the day came and went and so did I.

In these five years, I’ve seen some bloggers start blogs, pumped up with grandiose dreams, write a few posts, and then give up. Others also start out gung-ho, bubbling over with plans galore, but then the fire burns out. Quickly. Then they write a little bit more and poof, they’re gone again. And again.

It’s hard work to blog properly.

Properly? What’s properly got to do with it? Well, everything, actually.

Blogging properly, in my opinion, means being engaged with whatever I am writing about, digging deep, not just superficially bloviating about something happening in my life, striving for the catchy or the trend-setting or the weird-for-the-sake-of weirdness trope, using words incorrectly for shock effect.

It means being true to something in my core, where my essence lives. Getting at the place where no thick walls, or even white gauzy curtains, keep me from saying what I want to say, what I need to say, what I must say. In other words, I’ve come to realize that blogging expresses a sort of mindfulness for me, with the act of writing forcing me to really be in the moment. Photography as well. Especially that.

I do not post as often as I used to, that’s for sure. At times over these past five years, I’ve been guilty of improper blogging, occasionally straining to fit myself into some sort of ideal niche, the proverbial round peg and square hole sort of thing. I’ve tried various formats, themes, and platforms, giving in to the harping of a former fellow blogger who said I didn’t have a platform. Well, maybe I don’t and that is OK with me now. I find staying on one subject or approach too confining. The world is too complex and fascinating.

Blogging, for me, has turned out to be a way to learn about the world, mostly through the prism of food, and to share what I found out and thought about it all with whoever cared to read what I had to say. At first, the site stats bogged me down, I felt like a stranded hiker in the Sierra Nevada, yelling as loudly as I could, with no one hearing a word I said. After a while, I realized that in order to function properly, I needed to write about what struck my fancy, what fed my imagination, and what drew me into the kitchen and into the library. I learned that looking at site stats could kill my spirit, if I expected numbers like The Pioneer Woman’s.

Sometimes, no, a lot of times, blogging seemed like a chore. And it still does. Writing can be like that; I love this quote from Susan Sontag to that effect:

And though the rewriting — and the rereading — sound like effort, they are actually the most pleasurable parts of writing. Sometimes the only pleasurable parts. Setting out to write, if you have the idea of “literature” in your head, is formidable, intimidating. A plunge in an icy lake. 

But when I feel that dread of facing the keyboard, I know what is true: I have allowed too many other things – e-mail, Facebook, phone calls, lunch dates, films, books, and even my new love – photography – to claw away at my concentration, to distract me from being mindful of the present moment.

Blogging, or better to say the acts of writing and photographing, keeps me focused and paying attention.

Five years ago, if I’d had a crystal ball, I would never have predicted where I’d be today, all the changes and drama and soul-rending stuff that went along with stepping out into the online world. All I know is that in spite of it all, blogging showed me a way to experience once again that childlike sense of the world as a place of enchantment. Awesome, yes, in way that word is truly meant to be used.

© 2013 C. Bertelsen

2 thoughts on “What the Crystal Ball Never Reveals: A Few Words about Blogging

  1. I haven’t been blogging for very long, but somehow you expressed exactly the way I feel about it! Thanks for the insight. I suppose I don’t have “a platform” either. Nor will I ever have the stats. But that’s OK.
    BTW, I enjoy your blog very much!

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