Monday, May 11, 2009

Why do you blog?

This subject has been brought up many times in the past, and you have probably already read a post or two about it, or maybe even written about it yourself. Usually, the question elicits lists of possible reasons why people blog. Such a list might look something like this:

To keep a diary or journal
To make money
To make friends
To express yourself
To generate interest in a project
To talk to yourself
To publicize (or analyze) some subject you care about
To interact; to discuss things; to debate things

There are more, of course. These just come to my mind. I don't know why YOU blog, so this post is an analysis of why I blog. I hope, though, in the comments, you will talk about why YOU blog as well as make observations about why I blog.

In addition to liking to write, I also like to take photos and collect music (mostly old music.)

One time I was on a photography forum and the question was posed to photographers, "Why do you like to take pictures?" The first answer that popped into my head was the same as it would be if the question had been about writing or collecting music. All three things bring me joy.

If I dig deeper though, and ask WHY those things bring me joy, then I get a better idea of why I do them. I'm not sure I can tell you why I enjoy collecting music. One the one hand, it has the same attraction as collecting coins or stamps or butterflies or anything else: to own examples of each variety and variation.

On the other hand, music satisfies a larger need in me that collecting coins probably couldn't satisfy: listing to it stimulates memories and invites dreaming. I have read that if you expose your young child to Mozart, he will do better in mathematics. I don't know: I really like Mozart, but I am not good at (or even particularly interested in) the higher mathematics. I do know that when I am alone and listening to music (in the background, so to speak) I am aware that I seem to get greater clarity and more original ideas. I must admit I am not talking about rap or hip hop music here.

This is not necessarily true with writing or with photography. Of course photography can be used to document examples of varieties and variations. Before photography, Audubon painted beautiful pictures of all the varieties of birds he could find. He documented them. His paintings often show even more idealized detail than a photograph would have.

You can buy reference books on many subjects. A reference book on trees, for example, would have photos of many varieties of trees, with close ups of their leaves and their seeds and their fruit.

So, one reason people take photographs, or write, is to document things; to tell what a thing consists of, either by describing it in writing or by taking a photograph of it.

Another reason, I think, is to represent a larger meaning than may be immediately evident; to try and convey some larger purpose by taking a photograph or creating a painting. Often paintings are created from the inside out in that respect. When you look at something like Vincent Van Gogh's "Starry Night", you just KNOW you are looking at more than a rather primitive, even hurried,  picture of a dark night with stars in the sky. It might take you a few moments to contemplate what that "something" is, but you FEEL something inside when you look at it. Suddenly it becomes very personal indeed. Even if you are never able to explain it to others with words, you somehow KNOW what it means to you. You, in some weird way, are able to connect your own life experiences with Vincent's, and identify with him for a brief moment.

This can be accomplished with skilled photography as well, although I don't think you see that many great photographs like you used to see with the so-called masters of early photography. This, I think, is because in its infancy photography was STILL almost like painting. Painting with light. It is still that today, but most people now use it to simply capture a scene which they want to later share with others. There is not nearly as much artistic effort made to create photo essays or photo collages or photo series which together carry a larger meaning. Using a series of photos to expose a social injustice (such as child labor, or the plight of immigrants) is almost becoming a lost art.

So I return to my original premise of why I blog and why I take photographs and restate that the reasons, for me, are the same: I want to explain things clearly. I want to present the larger makeup of things through the unique filter of my own eyes and my own life experiences.

Some of us have an uncontrollable urge to find out the inner meaning, or, at least, the TRUE meaning of things, if we can. Some of us spend our entire life as investigators, as lifelong learners. Like the child who takes things apart to see what makes them tick, we have never grown up in that respect. We are not always so interested in putting them back together again once we learn their secrets.

We soon learn, however, that there is not much money to be made with learning more and more information to the point of being walking encyclopedias. No, the only way such people as we can earn a living is by SHARING what we have learned. So, long ago, I have learned to be an interpreter by trade, not just a gatherer of facts for my own delight. I share by writing stories and analyses; I share by documenting the facets of things - exposing their essential makeup; describing with words and describing with photographs.

The urge inside me that I cannot shake is the will to translate life as I pass through it, and so I write and I think and I document the makeup of things with photographs and even more writing, and sometimes with musical backgrounds to those things.

And I blog.

24 comments:

Lidian said...

Those are excellent reasons for blogging, Max. And I enjoyed reading this, not least of all because it made me think. Which I do like, even this early in the morning.

I blog for several reasons. I want the discipline of writing every day (or nearly every day), and as an introvert, I like having an audience and people to interact with in a virtual sense.

Primarily, though, my blogs are quarry for what I hope will be books in the future: I intend Virtual Dime Museum to generate a book based on the longer posts (true crime mostly) and also to serve as a research blog for the Victorian mystery novel I'm writing.

As far as Kitchen Retro I see it as either a book of short pieces or maybe, maybe something to turn into a newspaper column (or something akin to that). Maybe. I would like that but I am aware that this would take a lot of luck and a fair amount of pushiness on my part.

And hubris, my levels of which vary on any given day.

Oh, and also I just like writing about popular history. As an ex-grad student with no academic affiliation, it gives me what amounts to a second chance. But that, as they say, is another story.

And that is quite enough of that!

frostygirl said...

Hi Max always a good question to answer for oneself. I think one of the great things about blogging is that you can tackle any subject and give your personal opinion about it and then be big enough to receive comments from people who may disagree with you without taking offence. I enjoy blogging very much and have made good friends from it so it is VERY much worth it.

Take care.

Relax Max said...

A few days ago my friend Soubriquet was very eloquent about why he thought he blogged. Now, Soubriquet NEVER needs my help to put words in his mouth, but it bears reapeating here:
---------
soubriquet said...
Max, Reasons why people blog?
Of course, I can only answer for me, so... "Why does Soubriquet blog?"
There now follows a long silence, whilst I try to think of a convincing reply.

It came about in a strange way. In that I wanted to leave a comment on a blogger hosted blog, and being not very knowledgeable about the whole process, I think I misunderstood, and thought you had to have a blogger i.d. to do that, and as I already had a gmail address, it seemed not too big a step........

So, with no real idea what I was doing, or why, and no knowledge whatsoever of html, I launched the blog, with no charts to plot a course, no future plan, and only skimpy rations in the lifeboat.
Unlike any other publishing venture, there is almost no cost involved, writing a blog is a bit like leaving graffiti on a wall, people see it, but what does it mean to them? Is there any measure of success?
Only peer review, I suppose. A few people say nice things, `which is always gratifying.
I used to write a lot more, it was an attempt to see if I could, reviving dormant skills, but I'm not disciplined enough to persevere.
Here's my first post, showing my ongoing tendency to get sidetracked:

"An Inconspicuous Beginning.

Damn... What have I done? And why?

First of all who am I?
For most purposes, these days, I am Ersatz Soubriquet.

I have another name, several, in fact, but Ersatz has been taking over in leaps and bounds. He first came into existence... A long time ago, I won't disclose how long just now, but it was before the internet, when he worked with a quill pen.
Stop that!
What?
Ersatz, you never had a quill pen.
I did!
Liar! You remember, you had a pen, like a wood stick, with replaceable nibs, that you used for carving the desk until Mr Dennis smacked you with a ruler. And then you had to ask Mr Dennis for a new nib and he was very cross.
And you had to dip the pen in an inkwell on the desk, full of Parker's patent Quink, blue-black, washable, for schools, refiller from the big bottle in the cupboard. And then you left a big blob of ink on your book, and then you blotted it with blotting paper, which was pink until it got blotty all over, and you always had blue fingers and..
What the hell is all this? What are you doing? ink and nibs indeed, you're supposed to be introducing yourself to the as yet, mythical reader.
But there isn't a reader, The reader is a myth, it's just me!
Look, this is the innertent, or as the rest of the world outside our fuddled head knows it, The Internet ! (ooh good! if you hit the keys harder the letters are bigger and blacker)(or whiter, in this case) and the innertent is full of shoals of aimless people who might happen along here and read this.
But why would they?
Stop asking questions, just trust me, they might, and if they did, they wouldn't want to read about your early school years.
They might.
Trust me, I'm your more sensible self, they don't.
So. You're me?
I am, only more sensible.
Oh. Do you remember Mr Dennis then?
Yes. He was very big, we were about eight years old, and he smelled of pee. And he had an old greeny coloured jacket and he could throw a piece of chalk so it hit you right between the eyes.
I remember that. He was very big on not day-dreaming, or looking out of the window, or bending nibs.
Bit of a tough task, then. me, us, never been good at focusing on the task in hand, the present, and so on.
Right. Lets try focus, get together in the same brain and get on with it, shall we?

I've just signed up for this bloggery and I've no idea how it works or who the hell wants to know what I think about anything.
Will I persist? who knows. time will tell. I'd better learn how to do it now, so don't hold your breath, unknown first reader, because it might take months to figure out... Like what happened there? fonts changing size? and there's no teacher in the room. Maybe if I pull out the computer's plug it will fix itself... shall I buy a new keyboard?

That's it, I'm intimidated now by the empty space, I'll just go read someone else's blog and pretend I'm clever enough to do it.

Now what? Preview button..... post... Labels?

Anyway, mythical first reader, If you do happen by, please leave a comment. Try not to wound me too much."

Mythical first reader is the poet whose blog I sought to comment upon.
And I fell in love with her.
She's crossing the atlantic again in eight weeks time for us to be together for a month.

Relax Max said...

@Lidian - I think I know why you STARTED blogging (the books) but it sort of grows on you, doesn't it? Like a fungus. :) The things you find and post are so interesting. Plus, in between the tiny sarcasm, you are a very funny lady. I'm glad I found you.

@Frostygirl - And you do a very good job of expressing your opinion very clearly and eloquently. Absorbing contrary opinions is a little harder for all of us. :)

ettarose said...

Max, a good question, but one that I think I will not answer here. For it tells too much of my insecurities about myself. Want to be perfect but alas am no where near that.

A. said...

YOU AREN'T ALLOWED COPY MY POST TITLES AND THEN DO A BETTER POST, at least not without commenting on mine first. Don't think I'll comment on yours then, because i won't. Go read it for yourself.

Lady Sarcasm said...

The answer to that question, is unanswerable in a simple of a state as the question is in. Everyone does it for different reasons, and I think you did good explaining your reasoning. I can't think of any more reasons you blog, except that I'm glad you do. I'm glad a lot of people do in fact, I wouldn't know even 1/4 of the people I know if it weren't for blogs. I would also not understand people as much as I think I do, if it wasn't for blogs.

As for why I blog, there are a ton of different reasons, as I've had a ton of different blogs. Mostly just to write. I've always written whether it be in my journal, in a note to a friend, in a letter to a penpal, in my to-do lists, calendars. I like to write, adore trying to keep good penmanship, and love the fresh clean slate a new piece of paper is.

With this modern way of writing, (blogging) it's different. While writing is still the same, I'm open to a ton more information and interaction then I would be if I were to not have a computer, and was stuck writing in my notebook. I can share easily, experience more, and learn even more then that. I love blogging, I won't stop until I lose the passion in it. When that happens, I'll go back to drawing, another way of creating.

As for my photography, I have a passion also in art and photography. It's just another way of expressing for me. It's also the one thing that leaves the perception entirely up to the viewer. Words have a way of warping perception. An image is what it is, and nothing more.

Anyhoo, before I write a book, I'll stop. :)

A. said...

12 days ago precisely.

Relax Max said...

@Ettarose - I hung my feelings out to dry and YOU are afraid to answer the question????? I think you just don't know why you blog. Loser. Hoser. Coward. Nutcase. Homo.

@A. - Yes I remember. A good idea. That's why I did this post. :) I will go find yours and drag it over here and publish it in the comments, like I did Soubriquet. Now stop whining. :)

Relax Max said...

Here is what A. claims to be the reason she blogs:

I was prompted to start blogging in the first place by my attempts to help my mother record some of her memories. As she became more frail and unable to get about as much as she would have liked, I thought it would be a good way to keep her still very active mind occupied. She used to write her thoughts out longhand in an old exercise book, and I would type up her "stories" and print them out for her.

As time went on it became obvious there were all sorts of things she could tell us that weren't part of the collective family memory. I was recording some of these things but far from all. My blog was going to be a place for me to set down my own thoughts and memories - it seemed like a good idea at the time. I became diverted very rapidly when I started to translate Papillon's blog and became increasingly involved in the issues it raised. More and more people came to my blog to follow her story, and then I found what I liked best: meeting people, especially like-minded people, exchanging thoughts on subjects I found interesting, and hearing differing points of view.

And then I stumbled across a marvelous blog by an incredible writer who called himself Relax Max. Suddenly a whole new world seemed to open up for me, and I began to realize how effective and gratifying blogging could be, when done by a master. While I have never come across a better blogger than Relax Max (and really don't ever expect to) his fire and inspiration have made me determined to press on and try to be all that I can be.

I realise there are several other reasons people take up blogging:

To generate income though advertising.
To sell something - a book, art work, crafts.
To keep an online diary.
To keep in touch with friends and family.
To explain and interpret a subject whether an interest or a hobby.

The income generation/selling blogs will naturally want to attract the largest numbers of readers, but there are those at the other end of the scale who create the blog purely for their own entertainment but don't mind if anyone else reads it. In between are people who talk to a closed circle of friends.

I think I can understand all those motivations, and of course several can exist together at times. I am aware that there are some bloggers who neither reply to comments nor visit others' blogs, but I believe the majority welcome the interaction between people. For me the magic is that I can communicate as easily with people half way across the world as I can talk to my next door neighbour. I can learn about other countries, customs and cultures in a way that I never could as a tourist.

How did you start? And what keeps you going? I would guess that most of us blog to connect with other people in some way, or wouldn't you agree?

And, of course, for the outside chance one might encounter a blogger of the calibre of Relax Max.

God bless him.

A. said...

Yes, indeed. Forget the calibre, one might even come across a blogger of integrity.

Relax Max said...

@A. - God. Now what?

Relax Max said...

@Lady Sarcasm - So... you blog to meet people and pick up guys? That's pretty pathetic, even for YOU, LS. So, I'll just put you down on the "emotionally needy" list, K? Right under Ettarose.

All kidding aside (not that I was kidding) what do you think the real attraction for writing and taking pictures is? Mostly to express yourself, right? Me too. And it is hard to do. Well, hard for ME because I'm not popular like you are. I hope none of this seems like I am jealous of you. Because I am NOT. Not at all. Ha! The thought!

Arrrrrrrggggghhhhhhhh!!!!!

PS- Dear world: Let me introduce to you the latest non-smoker: Chica Kellzo!!! One of the strongest women I know! Let's hear it for her! Give it up! Yeah!!!!! Keep kicking its ass.

Relax Max said...

@A. - Okay, so I added a few unimportant things to your post. Just to spice it up a bit. Jeez,.. people were going to sleep on my blog, A.!

A. said...

What? In spite of the heavy editing, my dear Max, I almost agree with what you say I said.

A. said...

They go to sleep on my blog, so I thought I could spread the joy.

ettarose said...

Of course you would call names. The same names you are known as. I blog because I damn well want to. Because I want to be funny and fun and liked. Are you happy you ass? I said it, yes part of it is to belong.Part of it is because I have been stifled where I work and by God I do have a sense of humor. But then what would you know. Now BITE ME!

Lady Sarcasm said...

You little sassy pants! lol However I do blog to express myself. I truly cannot express myself clearly and as detailed as I could unless I sit and organize the words on paper or screen. In conversation, I'm a mess. But I'm workin' on that. I picked up photography because I exhausted all other means of art that I could think of. I'm not a good necklace maker, only ok at drawing tattoo like stuff, can't draw much else to save my life. Can't paint because watercolors hate me, chalk doesn't work well with me either. Haven't tried abstract oil painting, but could pick that up if photography phases out on me, like it's threatening to.

The real thing is here, is sharing. It's not about what your putting out there, but the fact that your sharing it. Then again why would someone blog/photograph and not want to share. What kind of satisfaction could come from that. Self only goes so far.

Too deep of thinking for my big nogger today.. :)

Relax Max said...

@A. - Nobody goes to sleep on your blog. :)

@Ettarose - I had hoped we could keep this on a higher intellectual plane. Your vicious ranting is noted and I have removed you from the "desperately needy" list of reasons people blog over to the "Pathological Liar" section. Thank you.

@Lady Orgasm - ::struggling unsuccessfully to hold back tears:: Thank you for that, Chica. You make me feel like such a toad for persecuting you. ::backs away from the ex-biker carefully until he gets to the door::

Angelika said...

Lately I'm blogging because I want to know that I'm not alone in raising a fucking hormonal defiant attitudinal teenager.

Relax Max said...

@Angelika - You are not alone. It may come as some consolation to know that girls are much worse. :)

Stephanie B said...

Sorry I'm so late to the party. Illness, technical difficulties. All of minimal excuse.

I blog because, hmm. I started because I enjoyed posting things at Gather, despite the general disinterest (and I joined Gather for reasons that also fell by the wayside almost immediately). When Gather degenerated into mindless games, contests with endless photographs and social gossip-mongering, I pretty much left.

So, at my friend and my sister's suggestion, I started a blog. And I liked it. I like talking about subjects that interest me. I like having people tell me things, challenge me and point me in new directions. I like finding other places where I find thought-provoking material.

I'm a homebody and am frighteningly antisocial in person. Something about me makes people feel intimidated. For some reason, on the internet, people seem more comfortable. And it works with my schedule.

Angelika said...

Thank God I didn't have a girl.

One of us would be dead by now.

Sue said...

I blog so I don't have to do laundry.

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