Why Write and Why Blog?

Why am I writing? And, if I’m writing, why post my writings on the web? These are questions I’ve pondered over the last year or so as I resisted the urge to try yet again to write a blog. I’ve realized in the last month that even if (especially if) I continue to write here, I’ll continue to struggle with them. So consider this the first (actually, it’s the second) of many more posts addressing this question.

My teacher, Schubert Ogden, begins the preface to his Notebooks with these words:

Just as thinking, in my case, has always meant trying to think with the minds of others as well as my own (and therefore reading), so has it also always meant writing, for myself as well as for others. Why? Well, because “writing it out so that I can read it” is the only means I’ve ever found by which I could be at all sure about what I wanted to think and whether I might possibly be right in thinking it (p. xi).

Ogden’s notebooks make it clear that he took this reading, writing, and thinking very seriously. (And anyone who spent more than five minutes in his company wouldn’t need to look at the Notebooks to get that clarity.) I don’t pretend that what I’m writing here comes even close to the rigor of the writing displayed in his Notebooks, much less his published writing. But I do take seriously his admonitions to write, both for myself and for those who might stumble on this blog.

I’ve long been envious of friends and others who’ve kept a regular journal over many years. I’ve tried to keep journals at several different times in my life with varying degrees of success. I have most of those journals on my computer and also in back–up storage. (It pains me to say that the one digital file I’ve lost and regret losing since I started working on a personal computer over 40 years ago is the journal I kept for the first several weeks of my son’s life.) I’m happy to say that my current effort has lasted far longer than the earlier attempts. In fact, I’ve finally gotten to the point that I feel that something is missing from my day if I go to bed without writing something in my journal. I think that one reason for my success this time around is that I gave myself permission early on to write about anything at all – even the most banal of topics – just to get in the habit of writing. There were days when I said little more than “this is what I did (or hope to do) today.” Other days I’d be out on a bicycle ride, think about something I could write about, and even compose a brief outline mentally, only to find after returning to the computer that I couldn’t reconstruct what I had put together on the ride. But that’s different now — I find journaling to be a way to sort through the things that I’m thinking about; or, as Ogden says, to figure out what I want to think about something and whether I have any reason to think that I’m right in thinking that.

But Ogden makes it clear that his thinking well required that he write not only for himself but also for others, just as he thought it crucial to read not only his own writing but also the writing of others. So in this blog I’m trying to step out into a community, even though (given the vastness of the web and my small space in it) the community will likely be a very small one. And even though I know it will take me some time to work into the practice of writing things that others might benefit from reading.

Though I worked in colleges and universities throughout my career, my focus for the most part was on teaching and learning about teaching. And whatever writing and speaking I did was public only within the confines of the school where I was teaching and working at the time. Now that I’ve retired, I miss those regular exchanges with academic colleagues. I’ve continued to read in retirement. Writing this blog is, for the moment, merely an attempt to write more for a larger public.

I’m still trying to find my voice here, and there’s some small comfort in knowing that hardly anyone is reading what I’m writing. It’s a start, but only a start. And I’m still writing from a very quiet corner of the room.