Why I blog

Last night I was reflecting on this blog and what it’s about. I had written a really long post and I as I re-read it, I thought, “What’s this about?” “Why do I even care?” “Why do I think anyone else will?” “Does it matter?”

Perhaps a blogging existential crisis?

Next Monday Sunday, Dave Winer will be celebrating the tenth anniversary of his weblog*, Scripting News. Since I can trace the lineage of this blog directly to Dave (I set it up when I noticed that Dave had helped Doc Searls set up one — and was allowing others to do the same.), I thought I would take the occasion to share some thoughts about my blog — and why I “do” it. (Next Monday Sunday, April 1, I will eschew any “April fool’s posts” (which I disdain) and will share some personal thoughts on Dave, who I got to know first through his blog and then through my blog and then as a real-world friend — even when we disagree.)

(Caveat: Before reading the following, however, I must warn you: These are not, I repeat, ARE NOT, recommendations for how others should view their blogs, especially if you are a client or potential client of my company. If I knew this “whole blogging thing” was going to turn out to be the agent of media disruption it has become, I would have been way more “strategic” in how my blog evolved. Today, I help clients think through blogging and other conversational media strategies and, to be honest, I wish the rexblog wasn’t the one all Google searches related to me led to. I spend a lot of time saying, in effect, “Blog like I say, not like I blog.” What this blog is and why and how I blog is right only for me, and this blog. I can confidently say to most people I know in corporate settings, it’s probably not right for you. I wish it were, but it’s probably not.)

This is my personal blog. I don’t “cover” a “topic” here.

I blog a lot about business things, and so this blog often gets described as “a business blog,” or “a magazine industry blog,” or a “tech blog,” or, sometimes, a “CEO blog.” All those things are fine. I’m flattered when they are included in lists of such blogs. But I have never thought of it as any of those.

I also blog about things in my hometown of Nashville, so it is sometimes described as “a Nashville blog.” I didn’t know I was a Nashville blogger until someone else described me that way. As it turns out, I’m extremely happy that I discovered I was a Nashville blogger because it has introduced me to a lot of wonderful people in Nashville I would have never met otherwise.

Funny, I occasionally blog about sports, but this blog has never been described as a “sports blog.” (Sometimes, however, Staci Kramer of PaidContent.org IMs me for private rantings on a sporting event she knows we may share a common interest in.)

Every blog can have a separate reason for being and follow a different set of principles. But for this specific blog, the rexblog, it’s personal. It’s about whatever I want it to be about. Sometimes, that’s a really bad thing as with no topical constraints, I can drift into periods of viewing this blog as a hammer with everything I see in my RSS newsreader looking like nails.

What I do on the rexblog is not Writing.

I believe there are many bloggers who are great journalists, essayists and writers. I think Dave is all of the above. But for me, personally, I don’t think of what I do on this specific blog, the rexblog, as Writing with a capital “W”. I guess that’s because I Write so much for other reasons and in other venues. Obviously, this blog contains “writing” — these words I place one after another in an attempt to express myself. But I think of what I do here, rather, as more of an improvisational, unedited, first-draft style of personal expression than what I do when I’m Writing. I’ve called it jazz-like. I’ve also called it conversational. I don’t know really what it is, but what I do here is not, for me, the same as what I do when I’m Writing. When I’m Writing, I spend time re-crafting and re-thinking and re-starting what I’m working on — and then, and this is key, I hand it over to someone who makes me sound less moronic. Here, I serve as my own moronic filter — and I often fail. I later fix the obvious mistakes readers comment or email about, but for the most part, I let the moronic stuff stay. If one of our editors maintained a website or magazine with the approach I take on this personal blog of mine, they wouldn’t last — not even a week. Hammock editors are meticulous and award winning writers and, heck, even win corporate spelling bees. We have an internal grammar wiki and have long discussions about grammar and headlines and word selection. We have “a proofing and fact checking” process that is called, “The Hammock Way.” This weblog is me circumventing that wonderfully crafted and cared-for process. This blog is me stickin’ it to da man. Except, wait, that doesn’t work.

I will admit, however. On this blog, the more paragraphs I write, the harder it is for me to push the “publish” button. When a post becomes an essay, I care more what I say and how I say it. It’s more like Writing. It becomes more important to me to make it clear and on the record. Sometimes, when media companies tell their editors and writers to take up blogging, they want to retrofit the whole media-industrial complex way (their fashion of “The Hammock Way”) of doing things onto a blog. Whenever, I try to blog that way, I get writer’s block. I’ve never had blogger’s block, but whenever I’ve tried to “Write” on this blog, I’ve had writer’s block. Maybe that’s why I don’t like to think of what I do here as “Writing.”

One of the reasons that I started thinking of all this is that I have three “essays” on my computer’s desktop that began as quick posts. But somewhere along the way, they crossed the line into something I want to edit with much more deliberation than I provide myself on an improvisational “personal” blog. None are going to change the world, but they will help me get some thoughts “placed into the public record.” Some of these essays have led me back to some old posts of mine, some several years old. In reading those posts, I realize how important it is to me to get what I think onto this blog. Not for an audience. But for me.

I don’t blog for an audience.

Ironically, I am in the business of creating and managing media. I am obsessed with the notion that what we do on behalf of clients is for the reader and user and viewer. I get in trouble in seminars and client meetings when I respond to an executive or an editor or someone who says, “I believe that we should do this…” because my typical knee-jerk (and just plain-jerk) response is to say something like, “It really doesn’t matter what you believe — it only matters what the person on the receiving end believes.”

I guess this blog is my relief valve from that. It’s the one place where I can (with discretion and common sense — but not a safety net) write what I want to write for myself.

Don’t get me wrong: I care that others have access to what I say here and am extremely flattered when people link to it or quote it. I set up ego-searches to track my name. And I know every hack there is to get what I say here “pushed out” and indexed and tagged. My wife (who doesn’t read this blog) kids me sometimes by saying, “Oh, so are you famous today?” when I say someone has linked to my blog or commented on a post. But the fact is, I would write the exact same thing on this blog if there were seven readers or 700 or 7,000. And I think the seven people who used to be the only seven reading it (for several years) would agree that very little has changed.

Again, let me note that I am not recommending this strategy for those (especially my clients) who are setting up blogs for business or advocacy or any number of reasons I recommend you set up one. This “write a blog for an audience of one — yourself” approach is a guarantee you’ll never come close to any “A-List.” I sure haven’t come close (although I’m extremely happy with my gentleman’s B+ status.) However, if it’s a personal blog, knowing that you are writing for yourself is really the only sustainable blogging model.

Bottomline: I don’t expect others to think what I say on this blog is profound, however I’m flattered when they do. But I do care that I look back one day and say, despite it’s lunacy, I at least understand why I felt that way.

As you might expect, I have more thoughts on this topic, but if I go much longer, I’ll never post it.

*For some reason, the tenth anniversary of Scripting News has led some to re-start a “who started blogging” meme. I don’t have any dogs in that hunt. As JFK said after the Bay of Pigs (and others before him), “Success has a thousand fathers. Failure is an orphan.” I think it’s important to record the historic threads that led to what we now call blogging, however, my thoughts here have nothing to do with the debate of blogging’s origins. (However, I’m on record as agreeing that Dave is the Johnny Appleseed of blogging).

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