Blogging, Teaching, Sharing, Learning

June 2, 2020

Is blogging a form of teaching, sharing, learning, or something else? Perhaps more importantly, is blogging helpful?

Writing can provide a useful outlet, especially when the mind appears full of smart-sounding ideas. It can feel like a playful, safe venue to challenge half-baked schemes and opinions, since words always appear different when we move them from the mind to the screen. In this form, writing fulfills a functional use. Of course, to have the space to use writing in this way is a privilege. Right now a lot of people in the world are sick, caring for the sick, out of work, teaching children at home, fearing for their lives, and facing countless other unfortunate circumstances. But if we have created a situation in which our family feels safe, donated money to worthy causes, and volunteered our time with organizations doing good, we may still want to do more. Writing might function as therapy or even a sensual pleasure.

In our world of "personal brands," there is a common misconception that published writing, in print or on the Web, should always appear polished. Such an idea probably grows from fear. Fear of saying something stupid, fear of wasting people's time, fear of revealing ideas we don't want others to see. Such ideas rely heavily on the concept of a "me doing something" — the same unhelpful ideas we seek to overcome in a meditation practice.

On the other hand, a blog can be a place to write with no expectation that anyone will read. A grand experiment. A not-so-grand experiment. A blog post doesn't need to make an argument like an academic paper. Bloggers can break as many grammar rules as they want. They need not follow a manual of style. Bloggers can use em dashes more liberally. A blog built with free software doesn't require agreeing to a terms of service. Blogger's choice.

One can extend this too far. Sharing a bunch of useless ideas doesn't seem like a good use of time. If blogging is an opportunity to hone one's skills at writing, what's the point of putting out ideas that lack substance? Writing books and teachers often suggest writers develop a daily writing practice. Presumably, they encourage a practice that develops good writing, not bad.

Some blogs improve the world. This seems like a worthy goal to bridge the gap from merely sharing ideas to teaching. The act of having to write words on the page still might provide an opportunity for the writer to learn about their subject matter and the craft of writing, but words that help another human being have reached a different level altogether. This might be the most difficult writing to create, especially since we can't know everywhere our words go and what they do.

Then again blogging might approximate something else altogether. Maybe words on a blog can exist as poetry about nothing, a la Seinfeld. Maybe we benefit most from the reading the words of people who have simply let go. The explorers. Blogging as non-action as doing. Nothing for you to believe. Maybe sometimes the point is to have no point at all. Just know the texture of how we exist in this unexceptional moment. Perhaps those people have nothing to hide.

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