Confession time. I slipped in post number 300 without saying anything. Double-digit posts, like end-of-decade birthdays, make me a little nervous. Such events seem to require wisdom, but I don’t do wise-on-demand especially well. So here are some blogging thoughts, commemorating post 301, which I think we can all agree is a more humble and friendly number than 300.
Blogging as a means of discovery. I’ve experienced this in other modes of writing, notably fiction. At times I’ve also kept a journal, not to record my thoughts, but to discover what they are. Because of its public nature, I wasn’t sure for some time that blogging had that capacity. I discovered once and for all that it does while working on some recent two-part posts. Every time I ended with, “I’ll share my conclusions next time,” I wondered what those conclusions were going to be. Typically all I had was a hunch – nothing as solid as a conclusion. I found in every case that the act of writing itself generated conclusions.
It’s immensely satisfying to know that blogging can help me discover where I am in the present moment. Everything changes, and it’s important not to be bound to outworn habits of thinking, feeling, and acting. If the public nature of blogging sometimes causes self-consciousness, it also demands a rigor that (hopefully) keeps me from entertaining or posting my silliest notions.
Just Blog. If you visit writing blogs, read writing magazines, or go to a writer’s conference, you’re likely to hear about using social media to “build your platform.” I don’t want to put this idea down, just look at it critically. I’ve met several successful ebook authors who work very hard to promote their fiction and think up inventive ways to do it. But the reason for their success is compelling fiction. Promotion works because they have something worth promoting.
I started this blog because I’d been told I should get a platform. That idea lasted only a week or two. Curiosity about blogging as a unique medium took over. There are lots of Zen stories advising us to do what we’re doing with single minded focus. Just run. Just cook. That kind of thing. My effort here is, “just blog.” If the day comes when I need a platform, I’ll do what I have to do. Like I said in a recent post, I’m skeptical of “whisperers.”
What to write about my social and political concerns? I don’t like blogs that harp, yet I find it hard not to write about these issues. I’ve never had so much concern about the future of our democracy, or feared that the very word, “democracy,” is an artifact of nostalgia, like a Norman Rockwell painting. Consider the following definition from Webster’s College Dictionary: oligarchy: a form of government in which the ruling power belongs to a few persons.
Back in the ’90’s, my employer, like many others, provided free training in Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Success. One of the concepts that stayed with me is “circle of influence vs. circle of concern.” Covey taught that outcomes I can affect lie within my circle of influence. My circle of concern, however, includes things I cannot change. If I spend my time worrying over these, I miss the chance to do what is in my power.
It’s like the serenity prayer: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the power to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Covey goes a step further. He says that changing the things I can will grow my circle of influence. For example, complaining about the government is a useless hobby, but it is within my power to write to elected representatives. All of them say direct communication carries weight because so few bother. If I do so, my circle of influence grows a little bit.
What about blogging? Does this activity alter outcomes? I believe it can, by carrying information if nothing else. Have you heard about the “99% Spring,” initiatives starting on April 9? Here’s a link: http://billmoyers.com. Elsewhere on the website, Bill Moyers offers these words of hope:
Many of you have asked what you can do to fight back. Here are some thoughts. First, take yourself seriously as an agent of change. The Office of Citizen remains the most important in the country.
Second, remember, there’s strength in numbers. Find others like you in your neighborhood, apartment building, community – and act together. The old African proverb is still true, “If you want to walk fast, walk alone; if you want to walk far, walk together.”
Amen to that! There is strength in numbers and strength in sharing hope. As bloggers, that lies within our circle of influence.
Writings. I appreciate all of your comments; they are one of the main things that keeps me going. I’ve been especially happy with the response to recent articles on mythology and folklore. This is like returning to something I lived and breathed 20 years ago. In one way, it seems like a new emphasis for thefirstgates, but in another, it clarifies what I’ve been reaching for all along. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, for it has really become my mission statement: To discover the reality in our fantasies, and the fantasy in our realities.
Thanks to you all and stay tuned! Here’s to the next 101 posts.