Why We Read Blogs

At lunch with friends today, one woman said she was computer literate, but admitted she didn’t understand why anyone would read my blog, or any blog, actually. Another friend said she read my blog because it was interesting. I was glad she supplied a response because my mind had gone blank — why would anyone read my blog?

People unfamiliar with blogging often equate these web logs — these online journals — with the diaries many of us kept as children. “I had oatmeal for breakfast. I went to school. Bobby pulled my hair. I did my homework then Mom let me watch television.” Deadly dull lists of activities no one, including us, ever cared about. Admittedly, many bloggers do relate the minutiae of their day, but mostly people talk about what is important to them.

One online friend, a woman who lost her soul mate a month before I lost mine, started a blog to chronicle her new life. She’s about to become a nomad, living and traveling in a small motor home. Among other things, she will be searching for a new life, a new place, maybe even happiness. Her blog tells of her preparations, and once she’s on the road, that blog will tell of her adventures.

Many online author friends blog about their available books, their publishing experiences, the books they read and review, the stories they are writing.

People with expertise in various fields give advice. Literary agents tell authors how to get published, hikers tell about their experiences in the wilderness, mothers give advice or seek support with raising children, businesses blog about their products, crafty folk share patterns and photos of finished projects, techno-types discuss the newest technology.

And me . . . I write about myself — my ideas, my hopes, my experiences, what I’ve learned from those experiences — and anything that captures the attention of my magpie mind. I write this blog because . . . well, because I am a writer. Nothing seems real to me until I’ve put it into words, though I am learning to be in the moment, to be alive without needing to explain to myself what I am feeling.

Until the past few months, most people who read this blog have been online friends or strangers, which was — is — wonderful, but now people I know in real life are also reading this blog. There is a quiet joy in being told, “I read your blog last night.”

Of course, that’s more about why I write this blog than why people read it. I’d planned to talk about how important stories are, how stories connect us, how the life stories people choose to share with us show us our similarities. I’d planned to say we read blogs for the same reason we read fiction — to live and learn and grow vicariously. Not all of us might be able to live on the road, for example, yet we can all share in the struggles and triumphs of those who do. In the end, I decided not to focus on the storytelling aspect of blogging. The truth is much simpler than that. As my friend said, we read a particular blog because it’s interesting.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Is Blogging Dead? Do You Care?

RIPLately I’ve been seeing a lot of articles that talk about blogging being dead. These are blog articles, mind you, which seems to prove the point that blogging is not dead. I don’t even know what that means: “blogging is dead.” I have a hunch it refers to long form blogging, since Twittering and Facebook status updating are short form blogging, and posting photos or videos is visual blogging. Maintaining a web log is all about making a presence on the internet, keeping a record of one’s progress or ideas or everyday life. The form the log takes is constantly changing, but the need people have to tell the world “I am here and I matter” will always find a voice.

People do seem to be losing interest in reading long form blogs. Supposedly they don’t have the attention span it takes to read five hundred or so words. Supposedly they prefer snippets of information they can scan, photos they can glance at, videos they can watch, especially if those posts are funny. The sort of thing that goes viral is not a lengthy dissertation on why blogging is dead but a short video of cats trying to figure out the meaning of a treadmill, or a humorous caption on a photo of a singing dog.

Me? I have no interest in such things. I don’t like videos — it’s much easier for me to scan an article to pick out the salient points than to watch one or two people discussing something for five minutes only to find the relevant issue buried in bantering, small talk, or hype. I don’t particularly like photos, either, partly because I am verbally rather than visually oriented, and partly because . . . (dare I admit it?) . . . I have no interest in sappy pet photos or photos of people I don’t know doing things I don’t care about.

Perhaps the sky-is-falling attitude about blogging stems from the way mobile devices are changing how people connect with others and the internet. It’s easier on a phone to send in a tweet or a comment on a Facebook status than to write a blog or even to leave a comment on a blog. (Or so people say. The only web-related activity I do on my phone is checking my email, and I want to get out of the habit of doing that.)

I started blogging as a way of promoting my books, and even after I found out how little effect blogging has on my sales, I continued. For me, blogging is a discipline, a way of writing when I don’t have the focus to write a novel, a means of helping me think. It’s possible I’d get more views if I posted silly photos, but views are not all I want. I tend to be a thinker (or maybe “brooder” would be a better description) with a need to talk about the important issues of life and death and finding a place in the world, a need to connect with people on a deeper, truer, and more fundamental way than the simple exchanges that usually take place online. And often, I do find that here in my own corner of the blogosphere.

So, is blogging dead? I don’t know, and I don’t particularly care (as long as WordPress is around, that is. If WordPress becomes defunct, then blogging really would be dead). What’s important to me is that this blog is very much alive, that it continues to satisfy my need for expression, and that sometimes people respond to what I have to say.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+

Searching for a Blog Identity

The best blogs are those with a single focus, or so they say. At the beginning, I blogged about my efforts to get published. When my books were accepted for publishing and before they were released, I concentrated on having guest bloggers. After my books were published, I blogged about writing, promotion, and the progress of my current works (or rather the lack of progress). Then, about a year ago, my soul mate died, and this blog developed a dual personality — the almost dry articles about books and writing and the very wet and weepy articles about grief.

Now I need to decide where I want to go with this blog, to figure out what I want to say. Grief is still a part of my life and will be for some time to come, but I don’t want to be that woman — the one who hugs her sorrow and doesn’t seem to be able to move on. (To a great extent I have moved on. Only you and I know how much I still hurt.) Nor do I want to go back to focusing solely on writing and other literary matters. I’m not sure I have anything to say that hasn’t been said a thousand times before by people far more literate (and interesting) than I.

Even more than having a single focus, the best blogs are written by those who have a unique slant on a subject, who write what only they can write, who chronicle life’s journey in such a manner that the ordinary becomes extraordinary. But . . . it isn’t necessary to be a great blogger to get the benefits of keeping a web log.

In the past couple of years I’ve developed an interest in photography. I have a separate blog for photos — Wayword Wind — and I joined 365 Project, committing to taking a photo every day for a year. This project has helped to turn my focus outward. While walking, I tend to let my mind wander, and it generally wanders to what (or rather who) I have lost, so searching for that special image each day makes me more alert to my surroundings, to what is rather than what is not.

In the same way, blogging helps concentrate my thoughts, makes me more alert to my inner surroundings. Sometimes it seems as if I’m too full of myself, my posts a bit too pedantic, and yet it’s all part of my journey. Like this blog, I seem always to be in a state of flux, searching for some sort of identity . . .  or at least a focus.

If I ever find where I’m going, either with my life or with this blog, I’ll let you know.