I recently hit “send” to submit my book proposal. I wish it were the full book, but having a couple of sample chapters and a clear roadmap for the rest feels like very good work for the previous seven months of sabbatical.
Writing the proposal involved making a case for why readers of my book should be interested in the blogs I study. Several of my previous posts gave bits of the argument for why scholarly attention to blogs is justified. Here is the personal rationale. How did I become fascinated by journal-style blogs and why would I read them even if I weren’t writing a book about it?
- I rediscover that I’m not alone. Studies have shown that blogs can be a source of support, so this isn’t news for the scholars but it has been compelling for me. Sometimes when I read a post, I am startled to recognize my own experience or feelings in someone else’s story. The reaction is varied, depending on the story–validation that I’m not the only one who struggles or questions or muddles, anger that things happen that shouldn’t have to happen, happiness as another writer reminds me of what is good about life. I don’t have quite this same experience with books or films or other forms of stories, though I sometimes feel this way in conversation with someone. I can see from the comments or when a blog post links to another post that this happens for others, too. Maybe the newsworthy aspect of my own experience is that it happens, and it feels powerful, even if you are a lurker.
- I learn how to see the world differently. This is the flip side of #1. The blogs I read sometimes challenge me to rethink my assumptions. They point out ways that my language or my reactions or my views are problematic, and they point me in another possible direction. I’ve seen a lot of concern about how getting our news from the web can produce an echo chamber but it can also make available vantage points different from our own. Truth be told, I don’t spend time reading blogs that advocate for ideas I despise or that propagate information I am pretty confident is false. I read bloggers who share enough of my experience and my values to speak to the issues that concern me and who see things differently or strive to learn new information and share it.
- I enjoy a good turn of phrase, pun, story, or image. Blogs may be self-published and written in an informal style, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t also thoughtful, well-written, beautiful. I am encouraged in my own efforts at writing and creativity when I see others committed to regular writing and creativity. I appreciate the risk of putting something out there and admire those who are able to do that much more regularly than I do. I have always loved to read and write and create and it feels less daunting to admit that as I see so many others owning up to that as well.
- I am reminded to value the ordinary. The journal-style blogs I read are all about daily life. When I tell people I read and study journal-style blogs, I sometimes get the reaction that this is a waste of time. Why would you want to read about that? I do read a lot, all the time, some of it scholarly, some of it literary, some of it news. It’s easy to live in my head or to get caught up in head-shaking fist-shaking outrage at what is transpiring on the political stage. Reading about everyday life grounds me, particularly when others describe it with care, eloquence, and affection.
- I am inspired to act. I treat myself a bit more gently as a result of finding I’m not alone. I change how I do something or see someone else. I decide to sit down and write after not having made time to do that in awhile. I shut off the computer and tend to my family, my friends, my garden, my daily life. In small ways that are tough to measure, reading blogs has affected me for the better.