What’s The Point of Blogging?

An ironic title for a blog post from someone who has TWO different blogs, right? But not really. Let me explain.

I’ve written about Fernando Pessoa before (here) and I want to quote him again:

“What is there to confess that’s worthwhile or useful? What has happened to us has happened to everyone or only to us; if to everyone, then it’s no novelty, and if only to us, then it won’t be understood.”

Given the proliferation of blogs – and that fact that most bloggers write about their own lives – Pessoa’s point here is a very interesting one. If you’re blogging about something that’s been done or said before, then it’s nothing new, so why would anyone want to read it? But if you’re blogging about something that is specific only to you, then no-one will be able to relate to it, and again, why would anyone want to read it? So, what’s the point of blogging?

Pessoa was one of the first of what could be termed ‘confessional’ writers, writers who wrote in an autobiographical style (Henry Miller of Tropic of Cancer fame was another). So, when he wrote that line, he wasn’t talking about fiction; he was talking about a very personal style of writing. And that’s the clincher for me – and the reason I don’t agree with Pessoa’s quote. Because when you read something that Pessoa or Miller wrote, they might be writing about familiar subjects, but they’re writing about them in a way that no other person has written before.

Take Henry Miller, for example. He wasn’t going through anything that others hadn’t gone through before – a starving artist on the streets of Paris – but he wrote about it in a way that no-one had before. And this is the crux of the matter: the writing is brand new and fresh, but you can completely relate to the experiences and emotions.

Nowadays, autobiographies and memoirs are written by everyone from Big Brother celebrities to footballer’s wives. And many of the so-called “literary” memoirs are just about titillation. Messed-up childhoods, or worse, fake messed-up lives in the case of James Frey. It’s literary voyeurism; all sheen and gloss. It doesn’t connect with the reader. And I don’t mean to sound to overly earnest about a silly ole thing like a blog, but that’s what we as readers want – that moment of clarity, where we connect with the writer and think, “This person gets where I’m coming from.”

And, I think, that’s what bloggers do. They write about their personal experiences in a way that registers with people. And it doesn’t have to be sad or tragic; it can be funny as hell and still be true. But that’s what we as readers of blogs are drawn to – the writer’s ability to tell the truth. And how much of that truth is specific to me and not true from somebody else’s perspective? That will always be the case. There are things that are specific to me in what some people have written; there will be things in other writings that are relevant to other people but not to me.

I posted a blog a while back linking to my favourite blogs, so I’m not going to mention them all here again (click here if you’re interested). But the blogs that I read all give me something different: memories of a different time and place, insights into writing, funny stories or anecdotes. And all of them I can relate to in one way or another. That, I think, is why we blog and why we read blogs.

I’ll leave the last word on this to Aaron Sorkin, as delivered by the great Toby Ziegler in The West Wing:

“An artist’s job is to captivate you for however long as we’ve asked for your attention. If we stumble into truth, we got lucky, and I don’t get to decide what truth is.”

(Henry Miller pic by Brassai)

34 thoughts on “What’s The Point of Blogging?

  1. So So SO very true! I thoroughly enjoyed reading this- but yeah, that is the point of blogging, really. And it’s so sad because there are so many bloggers whose stories are better than Snookie’s (oh wait that was “Fiction” yah huh) that will never see the mainstream. At least their readers are lucky in a different way.

    1. Johanna: Thanks so much. I guess if I captivated you for a moment, that proves the point of the post.

      Michelle: Thanks Michelle. And you know that your blog is one of the ones I’m referring to 😉

      AG: I’m with you on Snookie and the rest of these “celebrity” autobiographies. Such a shame that they get the attention when there are real stories out there being told. But hopefully, with Twitter, etc. we can help shine a little spotlight on the neglected stories.

  2. This was wonderful! I had found myself wondering why I blog, or why for that matter anyone really liked what I had to say. I think that’s why it took my sooo long to actually write. I’ve been on blogger since like…2008..but didn’t start blogging until 2011. And when I did begin blogging, I found all these wonderful people, and people like you to help me with my questions! 😀

    Great post!

  3. Great post Derek, and probably just in time as from my sick bed, I was wondering why I blog and should I quit sometime soon – I guess the answer to the second question is mine alone, but your post at least helped with the first. Happy blogging:)

    1. Kellianne & Krystal: Thank you so much and you KNOW you’re on my blog list!

      Ashley: I can understand that feeling that no-one would be interested in what you have to say. That was my point in the post. But people are! (And I certainly am!)

      Louise: Never stop blogging! We’d all be the worst for it.

  4. I think of blogging as a way to teach others how to enrich their lives and stay connected in a world that’s increasingly isolating itself.

    Say I don’t know how to cook and nobody in my family knows how to either. I might struggle with a dusty old book but I would definitely learn quickly if I could follow a baking blog. The straight-forward words, images, shared memories, and even others comments on the article would help me greatly.

    Blogs come in all different styles and subjects but for me it’s the ones that let me peek into someone’s world, learning their triumphs and tragedies, that make me feel the most connected to the online AND offline world.


  5. I agree with your post. When I first began blogging about 5 months ago, I didn’t know exactly what the typical “mommy blogger was.” I visited over 50 blogs featuring the the same thing–bright eyed cooing babies and conversations about breastfeeding. I thought, “I’m a mom and I blog, but THIS isn’t interesting. Is this what I should do?” And it made me feel miserable to even contemplate being one of many cookie-cutter, two-dimensional people. I thought it over, and I chose not to sell out. I’m doing me and being the best “me” I know how to be, and it totally works for me. I encourage everyone who blogs to just be themselves, for better or worse.

    I love your insights, and as usual, a fan of this post and the new music. Take care! ox

  6. This is a great post. I think sometimes people forget that there are times when you should just do something because you love to. Generally, it’ll appeal to someone else if you’re not trying to force it.

    Now I have to go check out those blogs

  7. Yes! I agree with you, Sir. The whole point is to connect, if it is an experienced you share. Perhaps, if you dont share it, the blog can help you have empathy to understand how others feel. My friend Wayne Whicher wrote an excellent fictional blog about a day in the life of a little boy. It had such great emotion & descriptions, for a while I think I knew how it felt to BE a little boy! If not for that blog, this very feminine female would never have said that before! : ) Keep blogging please! : )

    1. Amberr: Thanks for the comment and – as always – being so supportive of me and my blog!

      K. T.: Enjoy those blogs! There’s some great people blogging out there.

      Evangelina: Thanks, and you’re so right. That’s what I was hoping to get across in the post. The fact that, when we read these blogs, we connect with the writers.

  8. I really enjoyed this blog, Derek–and it’s why I enjoy reading your blog in general. Your writing HAS connected you to all these people (as evidenced by all these lovely comments) and it derives meaning from those connections. Well done!

  9. I agree with you, Derek. When I first started blogging (more regularly than when I had the rare inkling to) I had no clue what to write about. It took me six months to get one follower. One! I love to write, so having one follower prompted me to go celebrate with coffee and a muffin. Now I have more than that…

    Better still, I have connections. I am connected to great blogs (like yours) and some of the few you mentioned.

    I just took a “blogging survey” and was asked the question: “Where do you get your information from (news, techie stuff, etc). One answer: blogs.

    Thanks for a great post.


  10. Derek: thanks for the words… I’ve been blog challenged of late. spending mental images on writing my new book. no extra brain power left for blog… but Evangelina Jo’s comment is heartening as are yours. As to WHY we all spend the time. Blogs that I have read are MORE entertaining than anything on tv… time better spent, enhancing life and feeling alive… Thanks Derek!!

  11. Great post, Derek! I think a lot of bloggers worry about being too self-centered in their topics, but really, it is about sharing our individual experiences and the way we do it that connects us to like-spirited readers. In some small way, our favorite bloggers become characters in our favorite reality show…we grieve when they lose pets, we cheer when good things come their way, and so on. Glad I saw this link on Twitter. 🙂

  12. surely its partly a cathartic exercise, like an open diary, its good to write your thoughts down and get them in order even if no one else reads them, but even better if they do read and empathise / agree / like them.

  13. “The man who writes about himself and his own time is the only man who writes about all people and all time.”
    ― George Bernard Shaw

    Ironically, I may have come across this quote in one of henry Miller’s many works, which I devoured like a kingly feast years ago! Great post!

  14. Thank you! This post was so refreshing. Just stumbled across your blog while searching “what is the point of blogging?” Can you tell I’ve been suffering from bloggers block? (Do they call it that?) You have reminded me that my perspective is worth sharing and that blogging is about people connecting with each other. Thanks!

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