Wednesday, May 28, 2008

this strange thing called blogging

random photo that has nothing to do with my topic :)

I've been thinking lately about this odd thing called blogging. I read an article this weekend, in New York Times Magazine, of all places, and it was so unbelievably childish, vacuous and pointless that I thought to myself several times "Isn't New York Times magazine a serious publication?" Seriously, I felt like the kids I went to middle school with were having a war of words, slam-book style and somehow the intelligent people of New York city had published it. Really, is this news (and cover) worthy? Sure, she's an intelligent person, with an awesomely sarcastic, snappy voice that's pitch-perfect for blogging. But she's writing about nothing in the most immature way possible... and that's interesting?

What's ironic, of course, is that I also keep a blog and write about nothing... and I am blogging about a blogger who blogs about nothing... :) However, it started me thinking about possible distinctions between T.M.I., "all about me" blogs and craft blogs. I like to blog about a little of everything - what I'm thinking, what I did, what I was listening to, what I read, but mostly I love to blog about what I make. And it's that distinction that keeps me coming back to craft and art blogs - this emphasis on creating rather than simply dissecting life. And what really fascinates me is that I've met so many people like myself through blogging- which is no small feat because I am an unusual person. And yet every odd quirk I thought unique to me (and that I felt a little guilty for) I've seen reflected in the art, photos, crafts, music, and words of people I've "met" online. Granted, we have never met in person, me and all these people I've made serendipitous connections with, through a stray comment, photo or craft. But thanks to technology I can now connect with people in exactly the way I want to (and often can't in "real" life) through words and images.

Another distinction I make about craft blogs is that they're overall pretty positive. There are a few rant moments, but mostly they're more about creating and less about dishing on the bitter trivialities of our lives. I don't see this blog as my diary - it may be a diary, but of a different sort. For me, it's a chronicle of what is in my mind, what is moving me, inspiring me, and pushing me forward. But I still experience these moments in blogging, typically in the middle of the night, hours and hours after I hit "publish" in which I wonder if I should have revealed that. And that always changes, and even though I'm cautious I still feel I teeter on the brink of having revealed too much, all the time. My formula has always been to never blog about something I wouldn't chat with my grandmother or boss about. It sounds stupid, but no matter how well you conceal your identity with screen names, the internet is never private.

I recently skimmed through a copy of Hunger of Memory by Richard Rodriguez and something in the close of this book resonated so much with blogging and my reservations about blogging:

"I have come to think of myself as engaged in writing graffiti. Encouraged by physical isolation to reveal what is most personal; determined at the same time to have my words seen by strangers. I have come to understand better why works of literature - while never intimate, never individually addressed to the reader - are so often among the most personal statements we hear in our lives."

I struggled to get through the book because I disagreed with a lot of what he was saying (hence the skimming rather than the actual reading). I found it sad that he justifies writing about his parents when they specifically asked him not to and that he believes his education created a huge gulf between them. I think the gulf is one of personality and ego, not of language or education, and that it would have existed whether he was educated in Spanish, Greek, or French. And his refusal to respect their wishes mirrors perfectly, to me, the way people can justify unrepentantly blogging every detail of their personal life.

Blogging connections aside, there are moments in this book that I love, which communicate exactly how I felt as a "star Hispanic student", growing up:

He is the great mimic; a collector of thoughts, not a thinker; the very last person in class who ever feels obliged to have an opinion of his own.
Also, the dogged way he worked through lists of great books before college (I had a similar list tacked up on my bedroom wall all through middle and high school). :) Also his thoughts on the jarring transition between life in Spanish (private, or "intimate" life) and life in English (public life). My first language was Spanish and although I'll never be as educated in that language as I am in English, it still remains the most intimate language to me. And finally, my favorite part, was his description of his grandmother:
The last time I saw my grandmother I was nine years old. I can tell you some of the things she said to me as I stood by her bed. I cannot, however, quote the message of intimacy she conveyed with her voice. She laughed, holding my hand. Her voice illumined disjointed memories as it passed them again. She remembered her husband, his green eyes, the magic name of Narciso. His early death. She remembered the farm in Mexico. The eucalyptus nearby. (Its scent, she remembered, like incense.)

So, in this very lengthy post turned book review, I wonder... what do you think about blogging? What draws you to it (and what repels you)? Do you think craft blogs are any different from "gossip" blogs? Are there things that are too private for you to blog about, or do you think everything is blog-worthy?


mkjn said...

I just started my blog in February and the main reason I did it was because I was so inspired by all the wonderful craft blogs out there. I love crafting and I felt like there was this great conversation and sharing going on that I wanted to be a part of with my own blog. I had never read a blog before I started reading craft blogs. I still only read craft blogs. And although I like some personal details, I don't want to know too much and I try not to write anything too personal myself. And I certainly don't write anything that I wouldn't say to grandma or mom or anyone else. I like to see all the amazing and fun things that people make and do. It's inspiring!

Average Jane Crafter said...

Oh Flor! I love this post! I agree with so much of what you are saying (actually ... with everything you are saying!) I used to have a personal family-type blog that was mostly used to keep in touch with friends. I wasn't very inspired, though, and eventually shut it down. But stumbling on art and craft blogs has been life-changing (sounds geeky, but really - it has!)

The majority of my blog-reading is focused on craft blogs for exactly the reasons you mentioned - inspiration, positive, generous. I love how crafters tend to be so kind and love to connect with each other.

I also, though, don't share too many personal details on my blog. I actually like to think of my blog as a publication - it has its purpose, and I try to stick to that. Certainly, the causal format allows for some leeway there, but mostly I stick to it. I think that's kind of the journalist in me (that's my background). Once I've connected with someone on a personal level - through emails, not just comments and such - I'm likely to get more personal with them on an individual level.

But I love love love the connections I've made through blogging. I have friends on each coast, for goodness sake! And we're connected through a subject that is near and dear to our hearts. We support and encourage and help each other. It's fantastic! And that's all from blogging! :)

Oh goodness - now I've gone and written a whole blog post in the comment! Eeeps! :)


jan said...

I enjoyed your post! I have only just discovered blogs through my sister. I have been exploring all types, because one leads to another, as you know.

I have lately been thinking about starting a blog, more to participate in the community than a pressing need to get my thoughts out to the world. I have been ttying to decide if I have enough to say.

I do love the craft blogs, although there is so much talent out there that I feel like a school child with coloring books next to real artists. (I am better with embroidery thread and transfers, than I ever was at coloring books, though!)

I also like blogs that let you get to know the person. Not in an "every last detail, more than you want to know" way, but some insight is nice.

I think I need to mull it over a little while longer!

IamSusie said...

I read that same article in the NYTMag, but I could only get through a few pages. That writer is too talented to waste so much of her energy on vacuous navel gazing.

I'm with you and the other commenters that craft blogging is a different thing. I love the encouraging community and I don't want to include things in my blog that I wouldn't want my mother-in-law, or older aunts to see.

Sometimes I think that people in real life who hear I have a blog associate me with the oversharing, political, or snarky blogs that are so common . I assure them that my blog is all about the intricate details of crafting and of little interest to people who aren't interested in how many strands of DMC floss I used to get french knots to look that way..

For me the blog is like a project journal with other interesting links and tidbits tossed in because it is fun to get a feel for the personality of writers. I love to read other people's project journals and the details of their creative process, so that is what I try to do in my blog. And big pretty pictures! I like those too!

IamSusie said...

It drives me nuts when I hit publish before I've really gotten all my poor word choices edited. I do that all the time in comments and on my blog...

Geek+Nerd said...

Oh my gosh. I read that whole article that you linked to, and the whole time I read it I was just horrified! I was horrified because that is not at all what blogging is for me. Sure it's nice to get comments, but my blog doesn't get a ton of traffic, and I've still blogged for years (since 2001, whoa!).

I think the crafting/art bloggers are different, because our community is positive. We've found like-minded people, and through our writing, we're extending hands of friendship (sometimes in the form of care packages) to each other. The "he said she says" stuff is such a waste of time - such bullshit. The blogs I read are a constant source of inspiration. That's why I always return to them. I do consider participating in this community as part of my "real" life, because it inspires how I live my real life.

Rebecca said...

wow, that article was so long. i stopped reading after page five; it meandered along and i'm not certain the conclusion would be worthy. like your first commenter, mkjn, i started a craft blog because i was so inspired by the other craft bloggers out there. i fed off their creativity, and it in turn, stimulated my own. the craft blog community is rather unlike many others. its members are mostly supportive, incredibly generous, and NICE. besides my craft blog, i have a food blog (est. 2004) and a reading/literature blog (est. 2001) and neither have given me the same sense of satisfaction, of community, and of connecting with other like-minded people as the craft-blogging community has.

sure, there are some things that are too personal to blog about, and that sometimes leaves the impression on crafting blogs that we're all martha stewart leading perfect lives, and that can be galling to some readers. but i figure that people who read my blogs are there for the content, whether it be knitting, sewing, quilting, etc., and occasional personal information is okay. without it, the blogger seems like a cardboard caricature of herself. i can understand wanting to protect your & your family's privacy, but sometimes it gets out of hand.

it's silly, perhaps, but what repels me most about blogs is their aesthetic; if the photos are bad, if they cannot write; which is rare. redundancy of project: if they knit the same project over and over. and then sometimes the blogger's voice/style is grating or offensive, and i stop reading. gratuitous cursing seems a bit much for a crafty/knitting blog.

thanks for such an intriguing post and for asking our thoughts on it.

sewitsforyou said...


I agree with you about the craft blogs. I think I have to go remove a post I have written because it is too personal for a craft blog. I did start another blog, that no one know I have done to be like a diary. I needed a way to vent, maybe just to keep my sanity and not complain to the hubby or friends so much. The hubby encouraged it too thinking it would a positive thing for me.

In reading others blogs, I may be a bit of a voyeur and that is why I like the glimpse into others lives. I like to see their pictures and sometimes am jealous because they look so happy, or have such great projects I need to try or truly for just inspiration. I do like reading so a blog sometimes is like a mini-chapter book and I can get my reading fix in for the day.

I won’t lie, I do love the gossip blogs as much as the next gal. It’s kinda like how when when I was in college I was drawn to the Jerry Springer show when my roommates were watching it. When Jerry was on, I always felt like my life was good, I didn’t have the life any of the people that participated on that show had so I was grateful for small things. I do not like when things are so hurtful to/or about people but I don’t watch the ET or Access Hollywoods anymore so I get my fix from Perez instead ( and he can be very mean)

I think pretty much anything is blogworthy. My secret blog is just kind of like a diary for me. If people read it and can relate to me BONUS!

Great blog, I love both of yours..

Drewzel said...

I love this post Floresita, thanks so much. I hadn't seen the article and really enjoyed reading your thoughts on blogging. And I also want to go and read that book you're quoting from, I hadn't heard of it.

woof nanny said...

Interesting post. I haven't read the article yet (I'm too tired right now), but I will. I have a craft blog (more than one), but I mix up what I talk about, just like I mix up what I craft. I'll post something I make, or a vintage find, or something about where I live, or old family photos, or recipes, or my garden. But I actually prefer digging below the surface, and I prefer blogs that are willing to lay pieces of their soul on the table too. I've talked about this in my blog several times. The surface level talk and the "my life is so perfect" bloggers seem insincere to me, fake. I call them the Stepford bloggers. I appreciate the kindness and the positive aspects and the inspiration too, but I like a bit of introspection and struggle thrown in--a bit of real life.

floresita said...

Thank you everyone for your comments on this very long post, I've enjoyed reading them all...

Barb, I understand what you mean when you say "The Stepford Bloggers" (and it made me laugh, ha ha! ;) I think if you read the post I was pointing to you'll see what I mean. I don't think making emotional observations on one's blog is wrong - but I do think it's unfair to blog about one's personal life and the people in it without their consent.

Also, I like the distinction between merely confessional "look what happened to me today" blogs and craft blogs. Craft blogs have those moments, but to me they're not the focus... the focus is creativity and discovery.

I can understand why the Stepford-type bloggers blog as they do... I think they feel their blog is not a comprehensive life story, and rather than focus on the things in life that frustrate them, they want a place where they can go online to feel a sense of progress and inspiration.

But I still have no problem with people who blog about their emotions or personal life, I was just in shock that such a childish view of blogging made front page in the New York Times.