Day 31: What I Learned from Blogging 31 Days in a Row
I blogged every day in January. It was not easy. I’m glad I did it, though. It helped snap me out of certain inhibitions that I have had about blogging, which I have discussed here and here. If you have a blog and you struggle to blog regularly, or if you don’t even know whether you want to blog regularly, I recommend giving yourself the month-long challenge. Here’s some things I learned.
- Like I said in my mid-month reflection, blogging every day helped me pay more attention to the world around me–the podcasts I listen to, the news I hear, the things I teach, things I hear at conferences, small details in things I am researching–because I needed to find something worth saying everyday. This attentiveness would not have been as necessary, I think, if I had planned posts in advance, so I’m glad that even though I had some days that were tough, I didn’t plan ahead.
- Over this month, I blogged about some things I encountered in my research that otherwise I would have thought, oh that’s interesting, maybe mentioned offhand in a public lecture, but probably never shared with others, like this and this and this and this. This experience of blogging every day made me think a whole bunch of things that I run across in my reading on ancient medicine contextualized in my philosophical background would be interesting to a lot of different people. It also gave me the opportunity to write-up an idea to have a record of it that I might wish to reference in the future.
- Setting myself this challenge produced a demand that gave me the excuse to write up personal reflections that up until now seemed too self-indulgent or self-serving. But I had an excuse. I had to fill 31 days with posts. So I could blog about personal health issues, my political past, my experiences running, how the tenured life could be a model for thinking about how to live well in the world and so forth.
- I would think about whether something was worth blogging when it was an idea rather than a report on a conference or thoughts on pedagogy by considering whether I had a unique perspective on it. I didn’t spend a lot of time looking to see if something had been said about it before–sometimes on purpose, like when I blogged about Elizabeth Costello, because there I wanted to develop my own thinking on it as someone who has been resistant to some of the ideas developed in the novel. I was sometimes uncomfortable blogging about something I wasn’t an expert in because I think there is a lot going around on the internet that claims to say something with very little background or understanding. I tried to balance that with that recognition that imposter syndrome keeps people from thinking they have expertise in areas that they do in fact have expertise in.
- At the Public Philosophy Panel at the APA, Justin Weinberg said, in his plug to encourage more people to blog in a philosophy online world that often seems tough and mean, that you don’t actually have to respond to anyone just because they make a comment. This was such re-assuring advice that I wish I had considered earlier. On Facebook, on Twitter, on your blog, a comment is not a demand. You need not respond. You can set up your blog so that you can approve comments, or not. I generally approve, and even approved the one comment I thought was obnoxious. But in general, I got supportive and thoughtful comments, some from friends, some from people I don’t know. And in general, the comments encouraged me to keep it up.
- On occasion, I wrote drafts of posts that never got published. I wrote one on how the deaths of musicians in late December and early January made me sad that I did not have the personal sense of mourning that many of my friends had. But then I thought that was detracting from those who actually had things to say about David Bowie and Lemmy Kilmister, and that I’d rather just read their commemorations. On this point, I realized that there is something ethical about blogging, about sometimes leaving the space for those who were in a different, and from my perspective, better, position in relation to the topic to speak. That can become debilitating, so the key is finding the mean — as in other things in life, blogging requires good judgment.
- As I go further in blogging this year, I hope that I don’t get tentative again about posting. Because I had to put something out everyday, I couldn’t spend more than a day on any post. I think this might be, in general, a good rule of thumb. Some posts might need more consideration, but in general, I’d try to keep myself from developing too much anxiety about whether something was good enough or not.
- One thing that helped me was to realize that I was writing around certain themes and to sometimes write posts in several parts. Conversion was a theme. The APA conference provided another organizing principle. I ended up having so much to say about running that I wrote three posts about it. Teaching was another theme.
I want to say again thanks to Jill Stauffer for the idea, and for those of you who read and commented on the blog or on social media, who shared my posts and responded. I was glad to have these conversations and to hear your stories and ideas in response.
Photograph of notes posted onto a sheet on a wall in Nafplion, Greece from July 2014.