Friday, April 28, 2017

Death of My Blog?

                A bit over two years ago, I published the post “Death of the Blog?” In it I mused on the state of blogging, particularly what I felt was its gradual demise. One main point compared blogging to tweeting, the conclusion being that I believe there is both the room and the need for both as they operate in ways that serve our divergent modes of thought.  In it I also linked to a slightly earlier post, in which I lamented the death of an individual blog, whether because the author never really developed a groove, simply ran out of fresh ideas, or gave up. No matter the cause, a dying/dead blog reeks of unfulfilled promise.
                Now, I wonder, is my own blog is approaching its inevitable demise after seven years and 282 posts? Recently I noticed I had not posted since early March, and that was prompted by the annual National Association of independent Schools conference.  Before then, over the past I was posting less frequently, despite promises to resume regular writing. If I look longer term, the rate has steadily slowed since I started at a healthy post-a-week clip. Sometimes I’ve had to force myself to post, really out of self-imposed guilt. On some level I know I’m only maintaining it at all out of some sense of obligation. Exactly to whom, I’m not sure.
                When we are fully honest, blogging is a rather egocentric activity. Any form of publication is based on the foundational belief that one has something important to share. We all do, but actually putting it out there ups the ante. And while one hopes the work serves an audience, human nature dictates that we pray we’re even getting an audience. Lack of readers may be a primary reason—the feeling you are a tree falling in an endless forest. Many also may expect all sorts of reader feedback. In some ways, many of us have bought into the idea that the internet allows anyone to have a loud voice. That appeal slams into the wall of reality. I say that as someone whose views—while not staggering at an average of around 350 a day—are beyond anything I ever expected. I’m proud and honored…but I also no longer get that little dopamine rush from positive data.
The ego also demands that we are initially entertaining ourselves. Comic strip artist Stefan Pastis recently said he figures a joke works if he makes himself laugh. For whatever reason, lately blogging has not brought me the usual satisfaction. Friends have counseled not to worry about repeating myself or thinking every post has to be profound.  I understand that thinking, and I don’t worry about becoming self-derivative in a reader’s eyes (mainly because I doubt they would notice except in some sweeping, thematic fashion).  I need the process to be a bit more primal, perhaps even narcissistic. It has to feed me. Perhaps not surprisingly, my pieces I like most are process posts, when I’m figuring something out as I write and begin unsure of how I will end.
Ironically, given that last point, developments in our larger culture over the past few years have me feeling even more of a need to struggle to figure things out. I think many feel the same sort of discombobulation. Of course, I’m talking about national and geo-politics. Those are obvious. But I sense people feel angst and uncertainty in other parts of their lives. In education, while so many preach about what we need to do to prepare kids for their futures—and we speak with a certain assumed authority—it’s all speculation given the rate and breadth of change.  As an educational leader, in some ways I feel more certain about what needs to happen; and in others, even more confused. To extend the irony, in such situations, people often react in one of two ways. They may resort to quick bits of bombast, rushes to judgment, such as a spontaneous Tweet or snarky comment on social media. Or, on the other hand, like me, they may be leery of treading into certain areas for fear of detonating a landmine. It could reach a sense of futility.
Those last points may actually be the most crucial reasons to keep a blog going (or find other fora). We need deeply thoughtful discourse more than ever, and the root of that lies in ongoing reflection. Ideally, then, a blog serves the needs of both its author and its audience. As I decide whether to pull the plug, to maintain basic life support, or to resume regular care, I’ll have to think hard about that balance. Right now the focus is probably too much on me. Whatever I decide, I hope I’ve contributed something along the way.