Bloggers often ask themselves and each other why they blog. Why they started blogging, why they continue to blog. What blogging is.
I started blogging because I thought I had something to say. For years I’ve been saying it to myself, inside my head or in notebooks or to this clever box I’m now writing on. Sometimes to editors, publishers, long-suffering friends, or random people in the pub. Then I saw that a lot of people were putting the better bits of the stuff they were saying to themselves on the Internet and getting reaction. Some had fans, cheerleaders, groupies even. Others seemed to like abuse, it appeared to inspire them. Some got no response at all, and yet still blogged. There is a chap on my blogroll, Cronaca, who I’ve been reading for years and never commented on, because I’ve never felt I had anything to add to the post. Neither, apparently, does anyone else. I can’t remember ever seeing a comment on a post of his, and yet he continues to write about interesting things. Some people should probably have kept their thoughts to themselves, and I might be one of them, but blogging is a form of freedom, and no one is forced to read it. Only a handful of people are even aware of the existence of this blog, but I still spend time crafting posts for those who do drop in.
But the question was why, and I haven’t answered it yet. I half-expected, in hindsight I realise this, to be welcomed onto the net by fawning admirers, smitten by the quality of my prose and dazzled by the brilliance of my insights. Well, it didn’t happen quite like that. When I got past the stage of effectively not existing, and a few people started leaving comments, I discovered that they were not all bowled over by the power of my rhetoric and the strength of my arguments. They did not stand on the sidelines clapping. They took issue, they expressed disagreement. They pointed out flaws and errors. My notebooks never did that.
So I had to think a bit more carefully about what I wrote, anticipating objections, clarifying obscurity, deepening the research (or at least doing some), which I discovered was what I should have been doing in the first place. Thus I learnt to think a bit more clearly, and to write a little better.
It means thinking more carefully about the audience, which is the secret of successful communication of any kind. One of my little sidelines is training people to speak in public (and usually in what is, for them, a foreign language), and the main problem they need me to solve is how to reach their audience. It seems obvious, but most people can’t easily appreciate that the audience dictates everything about a talk/presentation/lecture/viva voce, and everything, the content, style, structure, the delivery, the way you stand, the clothes you wear, the tone of voice, the way you use the attrezzo, including the subject matter of the talk itself, if you have a certain amount of freedom, must be designed to attract and hold the audience. You have to do their work for them.
The first and most important question is, who will you be talking to? Often they don’t know, or don’t think it matters. They are usually nervous about it, and so everything revolves around them as performer, and they forget that it’s the other side of the communication process that will decide if it went well or badly. Who am I talking to here? Myself, mostly, I think. Blogging is an exercise in talking to yourself as though you were someone else, with the occasional random observation from a passer-by, which may help or not. Blogging is not communication, at least not the way I do it. It has no goal which is directly related to the readers, or seeks anything from them. But I know that a few people, somewhere, will read what I write, and that someone, possibly, will think it worth adding a thought of their own to.
And that, I think, is why I do it.