An Argument for Blogging

How the world comes at another person, the irritations, jubilations, aches and pains, humorous flashes—these are the classic building materials of the personal essay.

Phillip Lopate, The Art of the Personal Essay

 I hate reading blogs. All that personal business—yuck.

My anonymous friend (let’s call her ‘Daisy’)


It kind of hurt when my friend Daisy said she hates reading blogs. “All those people spilling their guts!” she said. “Like anyone’s life is all that interesting.”

I had to think she was sending me a thinly veiled message about my own blog, which is, of course, pretty much all personal essays. I ended the conversation as gracefully and as quickly as I could, but it left me a little grumpy. And it nudged me to ponder the value of blogging and personal essays. It made me think about why I do it.

I started my blog three years ago…started it as a discipline. I was a couple years away from retirement, and I wanted, when I finished working, to approach writing in a more organized and professional way. I thought that committing to a weekly blog would be a very good exercise.

I wasn’t quite sure what I would write about. Maybe just the funny, quirky things that happen. Maybe a little bit about parenting an adult child with autism, and how the stigma attached to developmental disabilities and/or mental illness still lingers. Maybe I’d explore ending a long career and beginning what I fervently hope will be a long and rich retirement; I’d document the changes and discoveries I encounter.

Maybe, I’d write about cookies. Or coffee. Or chocolate.

I set myself a date and time—every Saturday morning at 6 AM—and I plunged in.

I DID develop a discipline (in three years, I’ve only missed posting once), but I also found something totally unexpected. The value of blogging, I think, is in the sharing of things that have some kind of universal meaning. And it’s in the feedback and response—in the community—that centers around the rich writing in the blogosphere.

“Every man has within himself the entire human condition,” Michel Montaigne said hundreds of years ago. His language was a little gender exclusionary, but his point was right on: the details and the setting may be vastly different, but under the surface, the things we experience are very, very much the same.

The stories we share have common themes—human fallibility, human relationships, human triumphs. It picks me up to read a fellow blogger’s account of the birth of a child, the birth of a book, or the start of an exciting new adventure. I remember—or I can imagine—the feelings of exhilaration.

I can relate to frustration too, when I read a post about feeling stuck, being unable to move forward, and not knowing why. Deep chords chime when I encounter someone’s account of the excitement of their first professional job; they also chime when people write of loss.

And sometimes I have to laugh out loud when I read about the string of disasters, told in a funny, self-deprecating style, that one person’s bad day can bring. “I know!” I think. “I know exactly what you mean!” Suddenly, my own disastrous day doesn’t seem that bad at all.

So reading other people’s personal essays reinforces what I feel and what I know. It makes me realize my reactions are shared. In the dark times, the reading reminds me I am not alone in inhabiting the darkness.

Reading personal blogs stretches me, too. I doubt I’ll ever see a jaguar in the wild, but I can read Josh’s blog and imagine what that’s like. I can understand, too, the value those magnificent cats add to our world, and why it would be disastrous to watch that species disappear. I can gain empathy with a young woman struggling with mental illness and the challenges and joys of parenting a toddler. I can learn what it’s like to be a student in India, a young wife in Paris, a single woman of a certain age in the United Kingdom.

People who struggle with serious illness. People on the autism spectrum. Scientists and mathematicians, expert knitters, clergypeople. People with lives as different from mine as…hmmm: as vinegar is from snowballs. And yet.

And yet their words sing off the pages, teach me, stretch my boundaries, make me realize the vastness and the beauty and the infinite richness of the human spirit.

One of the absolute requisites of a compelling personal essay, Phillip Lopate tells us in the introduction to The Art of the Personal Essay, is this: honesty. When we read about another’s life, and when they tell their story with transparency and without defenses, we are moved and we connect.

Most certainly, there is always a little bit of self-belief involved. We are pretty sure we have something interesting to say, or that what we’ve just encountered is something others may be interested in. We think we can tell the story in a way that engages. And what’s wrong with that? That is not vanity; it’s confidence and recognition. The writer is telling her own story, sure, but she’s thinking of the reader and reaching out to connect. He’s writing to share, not to boast or to pontificate.

Of course, there’s always the danger we might stumble on a blogger whose motive is just to let us know how supremely wonderful she is, or why he is a gift to the world. I confess to not having found those blogs, but if I did, there’s nothing that would compel me to keep reading them.

Instead, I will continue to read the wonderful blogs I’ve encountered—to watch the snow outside my window and then read about a blogging friend slogging through a tropical rainstorm, to contemplate the church I think I will probably attend while reading about the richness of another religion, the purity of a blogging friend’s belief. I’ll learn about birds and baking and loneliness and the rigors of raising a family of eight. My cultural knowledge will expand. I’ll remember what it was like to be terrified and 18, and I’ll read the book blog of an octogenarian buddy and know I have great things to look forward to. I’ll realize how things have changed, and I’ll appreciate what’s stayed the same, and I’ll contemplate the richness of our tapestried world..

So let Daisy avoid the blogosphere. I’ll keep my Saturday morning dates, and I’ll look forward to exploring the posts our blogging friends share. Maybe I’ll find a new recipe, learn something fascinating, or be moved to tears or shaken into laughter. Maybe I’ll connect with someone who becomes a lifelong blogging friend. Maybe all of those will happen in one reading, and it will be because someone had the courage to write a personal essay and put it out there in the blogosphere.

So let’s keep sharing our essays. Happy blogging, my friends!



#bookreview I have no idea…

#bookreview I have no idea why I am unable to see clearly what the Friday posting each week might be! Today it seemed very easy to find out the answer to my just wondering… moment. There’s always plenty to read again or to find I somehow missed at the time. (The sidebar links are accessible and easy to use!) Many of earlier readings. Refreshing. I’m going now, a Bank Holiday Weekend here in the UK for us monotheists and polytheists, heathens and April Fools so now I’ve completed a short stint of my own tag/cat tidying & to-do time, read a little I’m outa here to enjoy… whatever next. (Coffee! My insomnia phases seemed linked to no or little coffee. i’m not an addict, i just can’t live without … coffee! – although dandelions substitute nicely but I ran out long, long, ago.

And of course it is now a time of special significance for so many if not all. Sincerely Wishing a very Happy Easter Time to you and yours.
#reading #community #commenting

External challenge news

Just thought I’d give quick mention of news from the external blogging circuit whilst it’s Thursday and traditionally (or previously) a photo-posting themed day.

Mundane Monday photo challenge previously hosted by trablogger (at was brought to a natural end point by the host at challenge no:150. Quite a feat to host a challenge running for that long. He’d suggested a volunteer might like to take over hosting at their own blog and agreed when a participant candidate offered. This challenge has a new home with KO. My response post at my blog this week is here. MMPC is now based on the original challenge format but reverting to the original concept. So that’s less concern for technical aspects of photography and a mundane everyday type of photo in response to the prompt is welcomed. This week’s prompt is open for entries, as previously, any day before the next Monday.

Continue reading

#challenge, #photo-challenge, #photopost-link

Authorstory – a quick discussion post

I’d been hoping to maybe make an #authorstory post sometime this month and realised it’s the very last Wednesday of the month. I’ve not had the concentration or focus while busy with other things along the way of getting myself back to a blogging habit.

I’d wondered about writing about Enid Blyton (and then on how no-one’s ever raised J.K. Rowling but I prefer not to pry into knowledge of her bio and try and read her first two books instead seeing as I find I still have my eldest sons’s copies. I admire her in lots of ways but having made history with such a huge personal carbon footprint isn’t something i admire and seem unable to avoid mentioning and that’s not fair is it. I’m not really in a reading fiction phase quite often so that post would take me ?years?)

I’d be interested in writing about Stephen Hawking as an author who made history. I’m too natural sciences to understand physics but his ‘Brief History of Time’ felt very accessible while reading it. I can’t explain his theories from memory of course. i just know I could curl up with that book again almost any time.

Robert Olen Butler is a writer I encountered via youtube and the suggested stream floating it to my attention while trying writing course moocs with the University of Iowa’s distance learning programme. I believe he was the first writer to utilise you tube for public access to his writing instruction in 2001. I played all 20 videos (approx), approx 2 hours each and learnt so much. He wrote a quite amazing short story inspired by a photo postcard during those sessions and I just know I might enjoy reading his writing. Can’t remember how else he might make his claim to having made history. I absolutely disagree with his repeated assertion that ‘literary art is NEVER a collaborative process’ – he seemed to mean in general, rather than for him personally. So Shakespeare’s collected / collective works are not literary art then, is what i would have liked to ask him had I been a viewer in the time-frame of the process.

Digressing. See what I mean.

or, I’d be open to: I’d like you to try and cover writing on … (timeframe might be four to six weeks though). I’m quite interested in accessing more writers of other parts of the world who haven’t made their fame and worthiness as writers by migrating to America or Britain to do so. Because they seem to lose something of their authentic culture when adopting other cultural influences. But that’s only from my personal opinion while reading such work.

I’m not good at copy writing, so can’t do the standard conventional way of writing such posts.

And maybe no-one’s that bothered anymore anyway.

Ok, that’s all for me, while it’s only just Wednesday. Apologies, of course. I’ll fail better next time in my attempt hopefully. Unless consensus is, no interest. Stop.

#feedback not sure if this…

not sure if this is quite right, but wanted to try to give a shoutout of kindness re Collette at Wishing Well(?) (will come back and edit after making sure) for all her help re one of her posts

#Feedback. Genealogy is it worth…

#Feedback. Genealogy is it worth it. Wannatalkavenscent.wordpress.
Hi! everybody, My post today is about a genealogy course that I took some of you might find interesting. Have a good day,
Love Jane

trying to find blogcasts

trying to find blogcasts