Apologia pro blogging-vita sua

Apologies for the coinage. I have generally tried to avoid navel gazing too much on this blog; the reader can judge how successfully. However, I have recently been taking stock in lots of ways, including the nature and purpose of blogging.

I started this blog, and my other blog A Medical Education in Summer 2015 very much as personal exploration projects. As I put it on the About page:

Originally I conceived of this blog as an archive of my various writings. In 2015 I met Erica van Horn and Simon Cutts of Coracle Press to discuss (on my part) publishing some kind of a collection of my writing. In the course of a very helpful chat they advised blogging some of my writings as a means of finding a thread between them. This was with a view to perhaps preparing a compilation of writings for publication eventually.

From a very early stage this is not quite what evolved. Both blogs became more focused on exploring new things, rather than simply reviewing past writings.

I had tried various attempts at blogging before – like here and here but none really managed to “take.” Whether it was a tribute to WordPress’s interface or simply just the right time of my life, it did ‘take.’

I also found that the blog helped me explore interests – such as nature, art, religion – that were perhaps a little neglected.

Of late I have noticed some perhaps less positive trends.

Firstly, like many I suspect, I have noted in myself a desire to achieve views and likes. There isn’t really any rational reason for this. I am not selling anything, and am not dependent on social media to boost my business. Indeed, I suspect I would be quite flummoxed by any hint of virality. My hit count is modest enough, to say the least – but it does sometimes lead to a frisson of pride. August, September and October were successively higher and higher in page views and visitors. And there is a certain pleasurable anticipation to this.

This is probably all pretty innocent, but it does carry the risk of posting things not because there is something meaningful to it, but to get more hits.

Secondly, I noticed that I began to post things as much as bookmarks for myself as anything else. This began to include short sections of writings I hadn’t fully read. And unfortunately I began to read with the search for blog-worthy bits in mind.

I left Facebook in 2012 for a variety of reasons (i do have an inactive account now used solely to log into Spotify

Thirdly, and related to the previous points, from an early stage I posted bits of writing by others under the tag “Commonplace Book”. In the early days, I would doggedly type these out myself, rather than cutting and pasting. The original commonplace book concept was a handwritten one, and in a way the manual labour of writing helped make the words more familiar. Typing is not quite as physical, but much more physical than cutting and pasting.

Of late, however, I began to cut and paste bits that seemed “blogworthy.” This feeds into the bad habits above, and is driven by them.

To go back to the positive, one thing I have tried to do in this blog is to highlight places, people, books, fauna and flora that is otherwise neglected. I am aware of the irony of being a piece of digital culture (however tiny) while being simultaneously highly suspicious of its totalitarian, homogenising tendencies.

One of the most rewarding experiences was the Extinct In Ireland posts I did each day in September (full disclosure: I did them in batches and scheduled them for release each day) which lead me to discover much I didn’t know about. I am hoping to do some similar projects over the next while.

I am also hoping to dampen down the tendency I have to enthusiastically repost bits from other blogs, or to turn the blog into a
series of quotes from whatever book I am reading. Either Thoreau or Emerson said “I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.” and while I don’t quite hate quotations, I have begun to see them as potentially pernicious.

Recently I posted a quote from Edwin Friedman, extracted from a blog post by DeForest London. It is a good quote, and one I would stand by posting – but having recently read Edwin Friedman, I find that his work is much more challenging than even that challenging quote indicates.

I intend to only post quotes from works I have either read or are reading actively. I intend not to read with one eye always on what might work on the blog, but post if I later find something going round and round in my mind (in fairness, this was the case with the Friedman quote)

The tl;dr version (cunningly reserved til the end) of the above: I am not going to do things here quite the way I have been, but I am not totally sure what that means. Comments and suggestions are welcome.

One thought

  1. Thanks for an insightful and honest post. Personally I blog primarily for myself and try not to look at likes or views as I agree that it will tend to skew what I might post or consider posting about. Instead I adopt the approach of being as esoteric as I wish, a small but meaningful audience (even if that is only yourself) is more rewarding than pandering for digital clicks. Hope you’re well and keep up the good work.


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