When I first started this blog, I wrote a post called “What is This Journal For?”” I tossed around a few ideas – mainly the “outboard brain” idea from Cory Doctorow, which remains the operative metaphor for this blog. But I never really found a satisfactory answer, and concluded: I’m still not sure what this journal is for.”
Since that time I’ve added at least one major function: making money. Actually, when I started my longest running blog Technoccult, money was a motivator. That was just around the time of the dot com crash, and the idea that a hobby site could make money from advertising still seemed valid. The idea quickly fizzled, and for years I ran Technoccult, and later this blog, without ads or any intention of ever making money off of them. Even if I never made another cent off my blogs, I’d keep doing them.
So, if the blog doesn’t have a particular function, then why blog Perhaps it has something in common with the reasons I write in general.
I also write novels, and if I tell a stranger this– on an airplane, for example– it almost always gets the same response. The person will say, “Oh, you know, I’ve always wanted to write a novel,” or “I know someone who’s working on one and is looking for a publisher.” Impressed? Very rarely.
Tell people you’re an artist, they’ll want you to do them a sketch of Spider-Man. Tell them you’re a writer, and they’ll say, “That’s nice.” What are they supposed to say? “Ooooh, ooooh, write me a paragraph! Bang me out a word balloon!”
I hear this over and over again. “I have an idea I’ve been wanting to do.” “I have a book I’ve always wanted to write.” But they’re too busy. Too busy earning a real living in a real world. “Something always comes up and I never have the time.”
So a writer, by implication, is someone who has nothing better to do. Being a writer is something frivolous, something that the ordinary person could do in his or her spare time while making a genuine living. Try to explain to these people that writing is something you do because it’s impossible not to, and you get blank stares.
This has always resonated with me. I’m not a disciplined writer. I don’t write every day. I’ve had some articles published here and there, but I’m far from being a professional writer. Sometimes I think about quitting writing forever. Sometimes I’ll go months without writing. But somehow it always creeps back in, something will creep into my head and I’ll have to write it down. It may be a few paragraphs or a few pages, but every so often it happens and I can’t really help it.
I suppose, ultimately, the same is true of blogging. There are a number of reasons to blog, but probably an equal number of reasons not to. Sometimes I think about shutting ’em all down, selling my domain names, and finding a more productive hobby. I did sell one of my blogs, but I don’t have any intention of giving up any of the others, and even if I did, I’d probably just keep blogging somewhere else. The truth is, I blog because I just can’t help it.