Why blog?

So here’s a question – why blog? With my first blog, Being Gluten-free in New Zealand, I had a specific aim – to provide information in one place about recipes, places to buy gluten-free food and challenges I was facing. That blog ticks along nicely, has had nearly 10,000 views, and is regularly found on Google searches. I had the thrill the other day of seeing that someone searched for “gluten free by Lisa Rose”. Of course, that may have been someone I know, but still! That was a blog with a defined purpose, and as a result, a lot of my older posts are still being viewed.

Authors use blogs to publicise their stories and connect with the readers of their novels. Young Adult authors seem to do this especially well. Refer to Cassandra Clare’s Tumblr for a really great example of this. She talks about what she’s doing, talks about her books, and occasionally her personal life. So another blog with a purpose.  Although is a Tumblr a blog? Bit of a dinosaur here, will have to get the kids to explain!

Celebrities often blog – check out Tori Spelling’s ediTORIal page. Lots of promotional stuff, but lots of personal too. Or Brooke Burke on Modern Mom – I have to say her parenting blogs are always interesting and very warts and all. They are promoting their brand, but it does seem like they want to communicate. Tammy Lynn Michaels at Hollywood Farm Girl blogs in a lot of detail about her life, and from her, I get the idea that it’s because she has a need to write and doesn’t really care who reads it. For those who don’t know her, she’s an actress who played Nicole Julian on Popular (Ryan Murphy’s other high school show) and is Melissa Etheridge’s most recent ex-wife. Her blog isn’t promotional at all, and please note that Google have an advisory notice on it because of the language she sometimes uses. Politicians blog,  radio hosts do it too, and they’re generally wanting to be heard, to get their viewpoint across. And of course ordinary people blog about all sorts of topics – from cooking, to travel, to parenting and politics, to art, and cake. For some, blogging becomes a business, with advertising, product reviews and competitions. Check out Larger Family Life which began as a family blog and has turned into something far bigger. Generally, it’s because we all want to communicate.

This maritime signal flag means “I want to communicate with you”. Perhaps all blogs should have it!

But why do I blog? I found the more I wrote on my gluten-free blog, the more I wanted to write. And the more widely I wanted to write about topics other than being gluten-free. I remember as a small child writing stories all the time. And enjoying creative writing at school more than anything else. I didn’t write much in my 20s and as a new parent in my early 30s, but then a friend and I decided to write a romance novel together. 75,000 words later, we had a book. A few more years later and we had a second book with ideas for a third and fourth. Of course no-one wanted to publish them! But writing books no-one reads is a huge time commitment, and as anyone who has run across this blog before knows, I don’t always have a lot of time.

So a blog is a great thing – you can write short posts and people actually READ them. Sometimes they even comment. Isn’t that what all writers want? Readers and feedback? But by its very nature, a blog is about personal perceptions and personal opinions, no matter how widely circulated or read. It’s not necessarily factual, it’s putting our own reflections on to a topic. It’s trying to get our point across, often using examples from our lives. Above all, it is deeply personal.

One thing we need to consider with anything we write in a potentially worldwide forum – be it Facebook, a web page, a blog, a article which is published in a journal, Google Circles, Linked In – is that we don’t know who is going to read it. We don’t know what filter of their own personal experiences the reader will view the post through. Sometimes, when we write, we miss the point of our post and the post says something to a reader that we didn’t mean it to. Sometimes, it can seem as though we’re self-aggrandizing at the expense of others. And just how much personal information should we reveal? Should we use a pen-name on our blog so that we can’t be identified? But if we do that, we can’t publish the posts on our Facebook or Linked In pages.  And then how do we get readers? Should we talk about our family members by name? Should we ask their permission before talking about them at all and should we get them to review any post we write that discusses them to make sure they’re OK with it?

So do I write about family matters because I want to brag about my kids (or complain about them!) or to boast about what a good parent I am (which is to say not very good, although I do mostly learn from my mistakes!)? Not so much. I’m following the old adage to write what I know, which in my case is my family.  Sometimes it’s because I have an opinion about the topic or because something that happens triggers a thought or idea for a post. Sometimes I’m overly sentimental, sometimes I’m preachy, and sometimes I am probably just plain wrong – from someone else’s viewpoint. But in this social media, self-referential world, at the end of the day, a blog is about the person writing it. It’s all about me dahlings! So although I try and be careful about what I write, and normally ‘sleep’ on posts overnight, then re-read with the thought that my children might read it, I don’t run it past anyone else before I post it.

At the end of the day, and with all of this set to one side, when I come back to my first question, it turns out there there is one very simple answer. Why blog? I blog because I need to write. It’s as simple as that. Even if no-one ever reads it, I am still writing. Still honing my craft.  And I am slowly coming to the realisation that I am a writer, published or not, and it’s time to start acting like it. So that’s me and why I  blog. What about other bloggers out there? Why do you blog? And what are your thoughts on the privacy issue?

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