Why blogging matters to me

Sydney fireworks

Starting the new year thinking about blogging, photo of 2003/2004 Sydney fireworks via morgueFile

On December 30 Michael Dahl posed two questions in the title of his blog post on Speak for We: “Does blogging matter? Does it create change?” He was responding to the question David Henderson posed to himself that same day: “Does Blogging Matter in the Social Sector?”

I promised to comment on Michael’s post but have needed a couple days to think about it. I keep circling back to the same spot. Yes, blogging matters – to me. I am no longer in the community development field. When I was, I always wondered what seems at the heart of both Michael’s and David’s questions and thoughtful writing: Does my work matter? Am I merely being self-indulgent? Am I just a middle-class “poverty-geek” (David’s term)?

The question of the worth of our work never goes away completely. I can only respond, blogging matters to me. When web logs/blogs first started popping up like mosquitoes on a steamy day, I thought they were narcissistic outpourings of interest only to voyeurs or those with too much time on their hands. I would never blog and would certainly never put something so personal onto a public space.

Now I have four blogs. Several things happened between my initial skepticism and my current blogging. The first was that I began reading a handful of blogs. Some were so compelling I returned every time I new post appeared. The second was that I began blogging myself, as a means of sharing an eight-month journey with friends back home. I liked the ease of connecting with all of them at the same time. I also liked not clogging every email account with my photographs and writing. Friends could read it or ignore it without feeling guilty.

The third thing that happened was that a planned book project on which I had spent considerable time fell through. Blogging turned what felt like an enormous loss into an open door. Returning by ship from Australia, I attended a workshop on digital publishing with Madisen Harper. She asked us what our real intentions were—to write a best seller (2% chance of success) or to share a message that was important to us (100% chance of success). If it was the latter, we could publish tomorrow.

The stars aligned. A few months after returning home, I met Tom Masters. I was still clinging to The Book, and he had just published Blog to Book and Beyond. I was inspired by what he wrote and by a book I happened across, Life Is a Verb: 37 Days to Wake Up, Be Mindful, and Live Intentionally. The design of Patti Digh’s book was exactly what I had in mind for the one I had been planning. I picked it up because of the design and then found myself saying, “Yes!” to every page I read. When I came to the end, I discovered the book had started as a blog. More stars lined up.

After dozens of posts, I have enough material for more than one book or ebook or app… But I have even more material for non-stop writing until I breathe my last. I do believe our writing can make a difference to others, but for me that difference rests on writing from a place that is deep and personal and honest.

I don’t always do that, but when I do I know that what I have written matters, even if it matters only to me. In Owning It All, William Kittredge writes “about storytelling as the art of constructing road maps, ways home to that ultimate shelter which is the coherent self.” The sentence captures part of what I am trying to do with my blogs, to construct a road map of my life – more spiral than linear.

My other intent in blogging is to share my own hard-earned sense of hope about life and about our world, something Ursula LeGuin described in Dancing At the Edge Of the World: Thoughts on Words, Women, Places as the task “to live as a responsible being among other beings in this sacred world here and now, which is all we have, and all we need, to found our hope upon.”

For me, blogging is sacred space, and into that space I do my best to bring hope. So my answer to both Michael’s and David’s questions is a simple, “Yes.”

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10 comments for “Why blogging matters to me

  1. January 1, 2012 at 1:32 pm

    Great post, Cathryn.

    You answered the question of “Does blogging matter?” with a “Yes, for my soul” if I can paraphrase.

    I agree … at least it’s ONE of the great things a blog can do. In fact, I one of my journals’ entries has a simple phrase written down: “A centered, healthy, and secure soul is the basis for all growth. Without it, nothing else is possible.”

    We can’t be good community developers, organizers, advocates, and change-makers (at least for the long-haul) if we don’t keep our souls refreshed. And, blogging is a great way to do that.

    Thanks for your contributions.

    Onward.
    Michael

  2. January 1, 2012 at 3:07 pm

    The quote from your journal really resonates for me. And I think you’re right about refreshing our souls. We gather as changemakers of all stripes, around all issues and beat ourselves up because we’re “preaching to the choir”, but the choir makes beautiful harmony because it comes together, joins voices, rehearses…sings.

    Cathryn

  3. January 1, 2012 at 6:45 pm

    Thank you for this post Cathryn. I’m embarking on my own ardent attempt to blog regularly in 2012, simply because it matters to me.

  4. Sterling Haynes
    January 1, 2012 at 7:38 pm

    Your blog has helped me greatly. Thank you Cathryn and happy New Year.

  5. January 1, 2012 at 10:28 pm

    Your determination makes me want to cheer, Leanna. I hope you’ll share your URL so we can follow your journey.

  6. January 1, 2012 at 10:29 pm

    I’m thrilled, Sterling, because your writing never fails to inspire me.

  7. January 2, 2012 at 6:21 am

    Oh the many times I have questioned (and still question), “Why do I make public my thoughts?”

    Part of the answers are the same as yours.

    My blog is my turf, so to speak. Others can visit or not. It hasn’t been an easy place though. At times I have trembled at my keyboard….questioning…”Do I? Don’t I? Click the publish button?”

    I still don’t know the full answer(s) as to why I click that publish button. And that’s o.k.

    Rilke comes to mind: “I would like to beg you dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”

    Thank you Cathryn!

    2012 has arrived!

    To life,
    ~Carol (@Artomatcarol)

  8. January 2, 2012 at 9:47 am

    You show considerable courage on your blog, writing with a frank honesty that makes me understand why you pause before hitting “publish”. In sharing your journey you hold out a hand to others.

    The Rilke quote has long been one of my favorites. Thanks for sharing it here.

  9. January 3, 2012 at 11:31 am

    Hi Cathryn. Your blogs are not just preaching to the choir. You have built an audience of followers who look to you to help make them aware of important social issues. You make it very easy to add our voices to just causes that we believe in. Words have the power to uplift the spirit, and bolster one into action. All your blogs are sending constructive, positive energy out into the world, and that is important work. Thank you for all you do!

  10. January 3, 2012 at 4:51 pm

    You are very high on the list of people I admire, Naomi, so your words warm my soul.

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