Some notes on blogging

From time to time all of us who upload content to the web get to wondering what we’re doing and whether it’s worth it.  This happens, even if you don’t have someone spitting insults at you — it’s a normal part of human nature. 

This was brought on by a question asked at eChurch blog, Does anybody else ever go through a blogging crisis of confidence?

For me it always starts with ‘blogging block’; I just don’t seem to be able to find anything worth blogging about, and I’m never sure if this is because there is nothing interesting to blog about; or whether it’s more reflective of my state of mind.

Then comes a crisis in confidence. Everybody else seems so damn smart and knowledgeable on any given subject; that I feel like a know-nothing fraud.

I thought that I’d offer some thoughts on this (rather inward-looking) subject. 

I myself have found blogging a bit difficult lately, but I also know why.  My current job takes a lot out of me, and I’m also very busy with some other necessary but boring business which leaves me very little time to think about anything else.

Each of us, when we blog, or write articles online, draws upon what we are currently thinking about.  But most people can only do this for a while before they need to replenish the “reservoir”.  Otherwise, we grow “cruel dry”, as Addison did when writing the Spectator.  It’s natural, and of no other significance.  When we can’t write, it means only that we need to read, that we need to browse, to refill ourselves.  Your cup can only overflow if it is full!  This applies, even to those uploading material by others.  If we just haven’t the time to do this, it will be difficult to blog.

But sometimes we all just don’t feel that original.  In such circumstances, I think it is important to have a few volumes of miscellaneous literature that we can plunder for quotations or witty material.  Regular readers will have observed that I often post from Paley’s collection of Greek Wit.  When I was reading Aulus Gellius — itself a work of precisely this kind — I posted extracts from that.  Martial’s epigrams are short and there’s usually something to say.  I think that a supply of such works, which are easy to read as well as to quote from, is a useful help.  Of course the works must not be works which are in everyone’s hands.

The other question raised is about how valuable what we do is.  How useful, in a way, is this very post, except perhaps to other bloggers and website maintainers?  Am I writing something that anyone will wish to read, even six months hence?

I confess that I don’t really care.

That may seem harsh, but really, just imagine what would happen if I worried about what I write everytime I uploaded something, every time I blogged?  I’d soon cease to do anything at all.  Human nature is what it is, and it is a mistake to over-analyse these things.  From time to time I look at the blog stats, which continue to rise, and that’s as much as I need.  Indeed I don’t even care about that.

Commenters can be a danger, in this respect.  On this blog everyone is nice, and the nature of the subject is that the online thug is a rare visitor.  But current affairs blogs, by their very nature, attract aggressive disagreement.  This can wear down the blogger.  Indeed I have seen “comments” elsewhere which were plainly intended for no other purpose, a form of soft-intimidation. 

My own response to any comment that annoys me is brutal — I delete it.  This blog isn’t a public forum, but rather my diary online, in which people of goodwill are welcome to share, and add notes in the margin.  This disposes of such people.  It’s really important to retain control of one’s own blog, and not be intimidated by specious cries of “censorship” — often made by people who themselves won’t allow any disagreement.  As my experience in Wikipedia early this year showed me, there is no lack of criminals online who write solely to silence others, and wreck their work, and care nothing for the public weal. 

Doubtless one day I shall cease to blog.  This journal of what I am doing and thinking about will fall silent.  So do we all. One day I shall die.  One day the moon will fall and the sun grow cold.  We all know this: but we do not act upon this knowledge, for to do so is to become less than human, and to worry ourselves silly.  We must write as if we will live forever, and as if we will live forever, and as if surrounded by friends.

But in the mean time I have a few objectives: firstly, to enjoy what I do, and secondly to share that with the like-minded. 

8 thoughts on “Some notes on blogging

  1. “Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly.” 🙂

    I’m one of those people who’s absolutely paralyzed by perfectionism if I take myself too seriously, so I identify with your advice!

  2. in my three years of blogging, I have run the gamut of all you describe in this post. Those dry periods especially are difficult. My sister checks in almost daily, so that gives incentive. Good advice about “replenishing the reservoir.”

  3. Interesting post. The few objectives which you mentioned, “firstly, to enjoy what I do, and secondly to share that with the like-minded”, are great incentives to blog, but I think there is an even greater incentive, which many bloggers have, particularly people like you who have blogged for a long time – a mission that fires one to persist.

  4. @Steve, I think these must be normal for everyone who contributes content online. I have an advantage over most people, in that I have been doing the sorts of things I talk about for years and years anyway, so all I have to do is say what I am doing. Most bloggers are not so fortunate.

    @Dioscorus: I suppose it does help to have an ongoing activity of some kind. In my case for the last 13 years it has been the objective of getting ancient texts online in English; initially of Tertullian, then of the other Fathers, and then more generally. It is still my objective now, in fact. But I don’t know — I don’t feel driven by any mission. Rather, I just do what interests me, and, since I started blogging a couple of years ago, I write about it online.

  5. A very thoughtful, helpful and well-presented post! I maintain two blogs and will be launching a third in two weeks or so. The two current blogs present rather long articles on technical issues with lots of footnotes and such — very little room for personal expression.

    The new blog will be more freeform, much like yours. Frankly, I’ve held back its launch because of uncertainty whether I can write something interesting with reasonable regularity. I’ve read a lot of blogging advice, but this post makes more sense than most. Besides giving me a lot to think about, it has helped to put on a brave face, dive into the murky waters and see what happens.

    Incidentally, while I’m doling out the thanks, I just discovered your tertullian.org site today and I’m overwhelmed by the wealth of material provided. It’s obvious that a great deal of work has gone into the site, and I for one genuinely appreciate your dedication and generosity.

  6. I quite understand how you ended up with more than one blog. It is with great reluctance that I have introduced posts on free speech online into what is otherwise a blog on antiquity. But since the alternative was a second blog, and since I think the issue is one that will affect us all, I sort of went with it. But I limit what I write on the subject, and make sure that every day I write such a post, there is a “mainstream” post as well.

    Not sure I could write for 3 blogs myself — one is enough! But give it a go.

    Thank you for all your kind words. I do what I can do, what professional scholars cannot (for career reasons), and what others cannot (for lack of the relevant knowledge). It’s my little contribution to the world of knowledge, if you like.

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