Saturday, August 31, 2013

So what's this blog really about?

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about why I write this blog. When I started, I had the vague notion that I wanted to explore what life was about. Over time, it's become largely a running blog - a place to write about my running adventures and what I learn from them. When I was going through a particularly dark period of my life, it was also the place I tried to sort out why people did the things they did and who I wanted to be. Last fall, it was the place I shared my struggle to draft a novel. Recently, I've begun sharing my motorcycling and photography adventures. At other times, there have been posts about travel, food, pets, family, friendship, favourite gadgets and a range of other topics. In short, it's a confused mess, thematically speaking.

And the irony is that, even though it seems as if I've written about pretty much everything, there are lots of topics I've avoided, though they hold great interest for me - work, politics, sex, books, and aging, for example. 

The other thing I've been noodling about is whether blogging is helping me to become the person I want to be or simply encouraging me to be more narcissistic. Put another way, do my musings contribute anything of real value to my life or anyone else's? 

All of which has me lead me to thinking about how I approach this blogging business and whether, in future, I should try to be more focused. Have I strayed too far from my original goal of figuring out what life's about? Should I create sub-blogs for posts that have nothing to do with running?  Should I give up blogging altogether and focus instead on doing the things I write about? 

Now, there's an interesting questions: Should I give up blogging altogether and focus instead on doing the things I write about? Well, yes. And no. 

Yes, I should spend more of my limited time and energy engaged in activities I think are useful, enjoyable, or meaningful in some way, rather than just writing about them. And no, because writing often helps me understand what I find useful, enjoyable or meaningful and is itself one of the things I enjoy most. In addition, I'm told my blogging has occasionally helped other people by, for example, encouraging them to run, see something in a new way or appreciate the world around them.

Perhaps, I'll start by trying to by trying to be more thoughtful about what I write and why. Ideally, I'd like all my posts to contain something useful, beautiful, and/or thought-provoking - to be less about expressing myself and more about sharing what I learn as travel through life.  

So, here are the questions for today:  What do you think makes blogging worthwhile? What do you like most about the blogs you follow?  If you blog yourself, have you ever considered giving it up? 


  1. You have supplied a nice firm foundation for a great big soapbox. Pardon me while I make sure this ladder isn't going to slip on all the BS that surrounds the blogging world. I hope the blogger comment doesn't gag on the number of words.

    Blogs are a reflection of the people writing them. Most people are interested in lots of things. I like reading blogs that present people in all their complexity, struggling with various aspects of their life. For most of us, a spouse, a child or children, a day job, hobbies, a social life and trying to get enough sleep presents enough of a challenge to keep us focussed.

    A one topic blog is likely to be dull, unless the writer is extraordinary, and it doesn't matter the topic. A stamp collector can be passionate about it, and might be able to make it interesting in a discussion at a party, but it's likely to be interesting over the long term only to another stamp collector. Lest you think I'm picking on them, the same is true for Ironman training, Cross Fit, or any of the many other things a person could be interested in.

    For writers, blogs have become one of the platforms to promote themselves. Rightly or wrongly the old publishing model as the only way of getting published is gone. New technologies come and one must keep up.

    Here's where I lose it. Just like there are people who tell you how to write a novel, there are people who tell you how to promote yourself. If you follow the advice of those people you will end up with a cookie cutter paint by numbers novel. I admit there's a market for that, and it's the easiest thing to sell. (Dan Brown being a prime example.) There's a model for promoting yourself, but what it does is lump you in there with all the other promotors doing exactly the same thing.

    My theory, and I'm in the process of putting it to the test, is to write the damn book you feel like writing. Promote yourself in the way that seems authentic to you. The difference, if you'll pardon the coarseness of the wording, is between the person who says $100 a trick and the person who wants a long term relationship.

    1. Thanks, Keith. Like you, I prefer a blogger to share something about who they are in real life. And I'm all in favour of writing the book or blog you feel called to write rather than the one people say you "should" write. Speaking of which, I look forward to reading more snippets from your novel one day soon. :-)

  2. There is a novel called The Time of the Dark by Barbara Hambly. It’s about two people who find themselves transported to another world where there is magic, but where people are fighting for their lives against an invasion of frightful alien beings who can tear all the flesh from your bones in seconds.

    One of the two protagonists, a chap called Rudy, discovers that he can do magic when he saves the lives of some people in a seemingly hopeless situation by calling up fire. He decides he wants to develop this new skill, so he asks a wizard called Ingold to take him on as an apprentice.

    Now this Ingold is a rather forbidding character. He is enigmatic too: his favourite saying is “The question is the answer.” He makes it clear to Rudy that the study of magic will dominate his life to the exclusion of pretty much everything else. Rudy is not sure he is ready to make such a commitment, but Ingold presses him for an immediate decision.

    Rudy, in a dilemma, thinks: “How come stuff like this always happens to me?”

    A reply, as Ingold might say it, immediately pops into his head: “The question is the answer. Because you want it.”

    The novel goes on to say: “He swallowed hard and found his throat aching with strain. ‘Okay,’ he said weakly. ‘I’ll do it. I’ll do the best I can, I mean.’”

    I took up reading this book in the summer of 1996 when I was facing a dilemma of my own. I had applied for a lecturing post at the University of Manchester, out of curiosity more than any serious expectation that I would get the job. To my surprise, they offered me the job. We had returned from Canada to Malta only two years previously, with every expectation of staying in Malta for a long time. How could I uproot my family again so soon? But how could I pass up an opportunity like this?

    Like Rudy I was thinking: why did this have to happen to me? When I read his answer, it was like a blindfold had been pulled from my eyes. Suddenly there was clarity where there had been confusion. It was like Barbara Hambly herself had reached out across an ocean and half a sea, grabbed me by the neck, and said: “You clot, of course you’re going to Manchester.” So we went, and I spent three very rewarding years there.

    This novel, as you’ve gathered, is not exactly great literature. The clichés come trotting out like show horses in a circus ring. Throat aching with strain? Please. (Sorry Barbara.) And yet, quite apart from the fact that I still read the book to the end – I read the sequel too – it literally changed my life.

    The point of this little story is that it’s fine to write stuff that is profound and thought-provoking ... and it’s just as fine to write stuff that isn’t. Even seemingly ordinary writing can move people in ways one could never anticipate.

    You wrote: “I should spend more of my limited time and energy engaged in activities I think are useful, enjoyable, or meaningful in some way”. (Yes, I am deliberately quoting selectively.) I can hear Ingold saying that here you have answered your own questions. By all means develop your blog and take it in new directions, but the bottom line is: if blogging is something you find useful, enjoyable or meaningful, then by definition it’s worth your time.

    Not a bad insight for a fictional wizard in a cheap novel. It doesn't have to be great literature.

    1. Thanks for this, Charles. You're right, of course. A book or blog doesn't have to be great literature in order to be useful. I'll remember that the next time I'm struggling to say what I mean. XO

  3. Wow - you have some amazing responses here, Janice. Mine will be short and sweet - I love reading your blog and always find that your posts are thoughtful. Whether you're on Patti, running or sharing your pictures, you ARE 'figuring it out'!

    And I am always one click away from giving up blogging (for a lot of the reasons you mention). but I always ask myself: Would I miss it? Until the answer becomes 'no', then I will continue to blog!

    1. Thanks for that, Janet. I try to make them meaningful to me if no one else. Appreciate your encouragement.

      And I'm so glad you don't plan to give up blogging any time soon. I love reading your posts though I don't always have time to respond. You always give me something to think about.

      Great seeing you yesterday, btw. Thanks again for the delicious wine!