I stopped blogging just over two years ago because, to be honest, it had become too addictive. I’d finish one blog post and then immediately start thinking about what the next one should be. Eventually it dawned on me that writing a blog post about an experience had taken on more significance for me than the experience itself. Of course that wasn’t exactly true, but it was taking too much of my time at the expense of other things.
I started up again briefly after a year or so because I was trying to write about some (for me) serious ideas in French, and I wanted to share the ideas to see what others might think. In fact, that is one of things I value most about the blogosphere, the opportunity to exchange viewpoints and receive new ideas from a virtual community.
I started up again at the beginning of this year mostly because I was desperate for an outlet from the stress and frustration inherent in the workplace for which I’ve come out of retirement. I have come to realize that, for me, in addition to providing the opportunity to share and be part of a supportive and interesting online community, it also provides bloggers the opportunity to write, and to write is to allow oneself the opportunity to think – to think things through.
This past week, I had the opportunity to attend a presentation by a candidate for a position in our English department for a professor who will also become the director of our Creative Writing Program and a journal editor. The candidate is a poet, and as part of her presentation she read several of her poems. As a retired computer science professor and temporarily unretired busy academic administrator, this was an unusual interlude in a typically hectic, fraught day filled with meetings with people desperate for funding, recognition, or answers that are impossible to give. It happened that this candidate wrote beautiful, quiet, thoughtful poems, where each word had been carefully chosen to make a powerful contribution to the message being conveyed. And it helped that this candidate was an extremely effective reader of her poetry: calm, careful, considered. The corner of my mind that is always thinking about other things stopped churning and instead listened. I could have stayed there all day.
What struck me as I looked around the classroom where this was being held, with perhaps 30 faculty members and students, was that everyone else was paying attention as well. No one was looking at a device, no one was looking around aimlessly. Stop and think of the last time you experienced this situation. The pace of our world is relentless; everyone in a class or at a meeting is reading emails, reading the news (or playing games), texting, or working on other demands while keeping one ear on the professor or the agenda item of the moment. Rarely these days is the person at the front of a room or head of a table able to capture all of an audience’s attention. But this candidate did.
This candidate spoke of how writing is a form of exploring, of how she uses writing to seek meaning and insight. She quoted the author Joan Didion as having written, “I don’t know what I think until I write it down.” And for me that sums up what I have missed most about blogging and why I have come back to it. I have joked that I’m blogging again to keep my sanity, but I think that is true in the larger, non-comedic sense. Blogging provides a ‘place’ to “know what I think”; Joan Didion expressed it so well. And in using writing to explore the tangle of ideas, requests, complaints, conundrums, and conflicts fighting for position in my mind these days, quiet returns (even if only briefly) and solutions emerge. That is a good thing.
P.S. Running can have the same positive effect! 🙂