I’ve been turning over Bonnie Power’s post “Why do bloggers blog?” in my head for the last two weeks. Every time my fingers have come close to touching the keyboard and writing something about it, my attention span would magically divert itself to something else like video games or social media stuff. In the past, I’ve taken that as a sign that I’m really not up for writing on a particular topic and just moved on. But, alas, her post planted a thought that simply wouldn’t die: why do I blog? In just letting it run its course, here is what I found.
Initially, it felt pretty self evident; I write because I have something to say and I want to be heard. The internet, the great digital soapbox of our time, has the capability of providing that platform for the second part of that sentiment. But “something to say” is just too neat, too tidy; I wanted to say something that would make people think. I wanted to offer something different, something new, something to push people into using their critical thinking skills. It is my desire to fill the role of a public intellectual for libraries, a position that I have not seen much in my travels around the web. It’s only been recently that I’ve found something that captured that sentiment:
An intellectual is not an expert, and a public intellectual is not an expert who condescends to speak to a wider audience about her area of expertise. An intellectual is a generalist, an autodidact, a thinker who wanders and speculates. As Jack Miles puts it in a stellar essay on the question, “It takes years of disciplined preparation to become an academic. It takes years of undisciplined preparation to become an intellectual.”
Setting aside the problems of such a label (and there are some) as well as whether my efforts are taking me there (perhaps, perhaps not), the underlying motivations have not exactly been what I expected. They seem to be rooted in a dissatisfaction with the status quo, the not-always-constructive need to argue, and a nearly unexplainable driving desire to offer differing and sometimes contrarian point of views. This is a writing arc that only seems to have me finish as a human form of Grumpy Cat, forever unhappy with anything. It’s a struggle not to end up in the gutter ball lane of internet humor, the short snarky retort written in Impact font over the picture of an animal. It’s the mantra of “try[ing] to add something worthwhile to the conversation” that keeps me on track most of the time. That ideal has killed more blogs posts than I care to imagine.
I would say that the keyword that has appeared within my own thoughts around why I blog is “challenge”. I want to challenge people to defend their beliefs so as to help make their arguments tighter or see an error in their thinking. I want to challenge people to step up to the plate, to have the courage of conviction to take on the pressing issues of the day, and to step outside their comfort zone to (as they say in the ALA Think Tank) make it happen. I want the challenge of saying something bold, something crazy, and perhaps something unexpected. I want the challenge of people telling me I’m right or wrong and assimilating what they say into either defending or evolving my own positions. I want the ultimate challenge that comes with failing; and failing grandly with an online world that never forgets, so as to take the lessons from it and move on.
I don’t want to squander my youth or my status as a still-new-to-the-field librarian in writing ‘safe’ blog posts, bland ramblings on mundane subjects that fade into the background of the online libraryland noise. I feel a duty to be reckless, impetuous, and antagonistic so as to reap the rewards of wisdom and experience that will shape my writing into my later years. This will ruffle a few tail feathers, but I consider that to be a statistical inevitability.
In the end, I’d like to imagine that I’d be writing this blog even if no one read it. But knowing that I have a following, that my blog posts are shared widely around the world, and that people are impassioned enough to take the time to offer a comment, that makes it so much more compelling to continue to write. I’d like to thank everyone who is reading these words, those who share them, and those who think they are worthy enough for discussion. I am humbled and honored by your attention in this world of distraction.