I started blogging back in 2001 with an account on LiveJournal. Most of what I wrote back then was just personal reflections, accounts of events in my life, and the occasional rant about my employers. I didn’t have any coherent reason for keeping a blog; it was just kinda cool and gave me a forum for venting. Most of those posts are no longer up, though I’ve still got them archived and may someday pull them out again and re-post the few insightful ones.
In late 2002, I stopped posting things on LJ. I don’t recall there being any particular reason; I think I just wasn’t sitting in front of a computer as often as I had been, and so never got around to posting. But then, in 2005, I went on a trip to Germany and Austria, and, with five hours waiting at Changi Airport in Singapore, revived my LJ as a place to post photos and talk about my travels. From then, I continued to post occasionally, though still with no particular mission in mind.
During 2006, after having finished writing my Masters thesis, I started to care more about writing. I don’t think the substance of what I was posting was any different but I began to think about the process of writing and articulate my reasons for doing so more clearly. I began to think about my blog (still on LJ) as not just an online journal for the interest and amusement of my friends, but as a place for me to try and write seriously.
Then, in 2007, I spent three months travelling around Europe. I didn’t write much, but I did read a lot and listen to a lot of podcasts, lectures, and the like. Doing this, I think I learned a lot about expression and the different sorts of voices out there talking about the things I’m interested in. I found that the ones I really appreciated were from those whose primary contribution was not the originality of their ideas, but their ability to synthesize the ideas into a coherent message, to reflect on the implications of those ideas, and to analyze and understand their weaknesses. I started to value conversational voices much more than expository voices.
Just after New Years in 2008, I sat on a hilltop near Christchurch in my car with my notebook open, trying to decide what things were important to me and that I wanted to spend my then copious spare time on. I decided that one of my goals for the year was to ‘get into the conversation’, to define my own voice with more clarity, to refine it, and then to start learning and interacting with others. The first step was to begin the move from LJ to my WordPress blog at www.meme-hazard.org.
Now, as then, I have no particular message that I want to proselytize. I simply want to hold forth my opinion, presenting and synthesizing the ideas that I find interesting and compelling. I don’t want to be a preacher on a soapbox, trying to push a particular message; rather, I like the idea of a philosopher’s circle consisting of some number of learned yet respectful individuals sitting under a tree, or in a coffee shop, discussing, critiquing and pontificating on whatever seems interesting at the time.
Unfortunately, I haven’t managed to form such a circle, either virtually with my blog or in reality, with my friends. I made a few attempts with the ‘Brains and Coffee’ events I tried to organize in mid 2008, but with my departure, those ended. Certainly, what I learn from formulating my thoughts in order to put them down has helped me discuss things in social circumstances, but, as yet, I haven’t managed to create such a circle. I’m almost certainly just not doing the right things, though mostly because I’m just not sure what those things are.
Though probably the most flattering of my motivations and probably the most personally significant, there are several others:
- Writing is therapeutic. It gives me an outlet to rant and think through things that are plaguing me. It lets me get things off my chest. This post is an example of that.
- Writing forces me to clearly formulate my meaning. This helps me clarify my thoughts and arguments and gain more appreciation for things such that, hopefully, I understand them with more depth. This is mostly why I write reviews of games, for example.
- Similarly, writing about an idea can sometimes helping me understand it in the first place. By working out how to explain something, I understand it better myself.
- Sometimes, I still use my blog as a journal, posting about whatever is going on in my life, or showing off photos I’ve taken recently.
- I’m human, so of course I use my blog as a means of social signalling. By this, I mean our sometimes subconscious attempt to use communication to affect people’s impressions of us and increase our social status in some way. This is the ‘look at me, look at me’ side of blogging where, by posting on a topic, I’m trying to demonstrate my knowledge and currency in that topic. This is, of course, perfectly natural and probably unavoidable, but has always seemed just a bit shameless to me. I just wish that recognizing this didn’t make me feel so damned self-conscious.
- Finally, I write to get better at writing. I’m fairly certain that sometimes my writing is ponderous and boring, while at other times it’s really good. The problem is, I don’t know what I’m doing differently! So, I seek to improve my style through practice. I also want to be better at getting into the groove. Sometimes I can spend hours wandering around doing minor chores, planning to write, but it never comes out. I’ve slowly been discovering tricks that do make the process easier, but even today, I tried to write for several hours before eventually writing this, which wasn’t actually what I had intended to write in the first place.
I don’t know if they’re particularly novel or insightful, but the words in this blog are mine. I can’t remember who first said that ‘we stand on the shoulders of giants’. No ideas are wholly original, and there’s nothing actually wrong with that. Taking an idea, turning it around in your head and then re-presenting it to an audience in your own way and with your own perspective is a perfectly respectable activity. It’s nice to have original ideas, but if you only write things that you’re convinced are absolutely new, you’ll never write anything. This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t strive for originality, that we should dismiss creativity, or that we should be at all satisfied with plagiarism. Rather, it just tries to emphasize humility in the writing process.
So, this is my blog, and my voice. The things I say will be varied and maybe not all of interest. But I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy keeping it.
For those reading this somewhere other than meme-hazard, that’s the blog I’m referring to