I am starting into my third year of retirement and the second year of this blog. I have been thinking about both things this week, and there are commonalities. I feel like a beginner, still, at both retirement and blogging. Perhaps the most amazing thing about retirement so far is how quickly the first two years have gone. I suppose that sensation–the quickness with which time passes in retrospect–is not characteristic of retirement alone but of my whole life. Someone asked me yesterday how it was going. Pretty well, I think I said, or something like that. The days get filled, and for the most part, they are enjoyable. Though I could list various projects completed during the first two years of my retirement, I have not accomplished Great Things. I guess that I have been assuming all along that accomplishing Great Things is not the point of retirement. Putting that thought aside for the moment, what do I want to say about blogging today?
The monumental insight of the week is that blogging is a new medium of expression–new in the sense that it did not exist before the Internet came into being. I suppose one could google the birth of blogging and come up with a date. In any case, it is a medium of expression that did not exist in my childhood or in my father’s lifetime. It is a medium different from essay-writing or journalism. It is a medium that I have not used very effectively so far, but I feel a potential there. It is something that I might yet get better at. My own critique of my blog-writing during the past year is that my posts have been too long–too many words, too many paragraphs. A measure of blog-writing success, I think, is the number of readers and the number of comments from readers. By that measure, this blog has failed miserably. Maybe half a dozen people find their way to my blog in any given month, and comments have been nearly non-existent. One reason, I believe, is the long-form posts that this blog has published so far. My series on the immigration issue is an example of reasonably-good and reasonably-concise writing–for a magazine article–that falls flat in the blog medium–flat and unread. Part 1 of the series reached 68 paragraphs, which may be the peak for this blog. Parts 2, 3 and 4 were shorter but still well beyond the medium’s sweet spot.
The other criticisms that have floated in my mind this week are that my blog-writing lacks spontaneity and personality. I have labored long over each of my posts this past year. They have been written out and edited and revisited many times before reaching the posting page. Such well-digested thought does not seem to work well in the blogging medium. The lack of “personality” is the missing personal voice in many, but not all, of my posts. I have chosen to be relatively anonymous in this blog. Readers who know me already know perfectly well who I am, but I have had no interest in disclosing certain details about my personal life to the world at large. Anyone who feels offended by my shyness in this regard may, if they choose, reach out to inquire about me via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or by leaving a comment (see the “Leave a comment” link at the bottom of each post). Personal details about who I am, however, are not what I really mean by a shortness of personality in my blog-writing to date. I want my blog to have a personal voice even in my anonymity.
Personality is closely related to point of view, but different. The final self-critique of the week is that I need to work on expressing my point of view in my blog-writing, in addition to expressing it with personality, spontaneity, and brevity. Astute readers–and I assume all six of you are such–will have gleaned something of my point of view from my posts on immigration, health care in the U.S., and, of course, retirement. My blog has barely begun to scratch the surface of my point of view on so many things that are going on around me. This is a difficult task for me–to express my point of view in a readable fashion. Part of the difficulty is in deciding where to begin. If I write first about the tortuous system of health care, does that give the impression (wrongly) that health care is all that I care about, or the most important issue of the day in my point of view? I set out to say something about health care and something about immigration in my posts during 2014 because those issues are important, in my view, and there are things that I want to say about them, but, no, they are not the only issues that I think about or care about or have a point of view about. Take, for example, this morning’s paper, which reports that the Republicans who are running the House have voted to permanently forbid the use of federal funds (my tax dollars, in part) for most abortion coverage. The perceived evil here is federal funding, not abortion, which remains acceptable as long as you can afford it. This vote was apparently a weighty compromise for many of the Congressmen, who had wanted a bill to flat-out ban late-term abortions. Speaker Boehner announced that we should “rejoice” the vote to ban taxpayer funding of abortion. I do not rejoice. I sigh deeply and wonder if the Congress does not have more important things to work on. Those who claim to believe in the sanctity of life and the rights of the “unborn” (and undead) would sanctify unplanned and unwanted pregnancy and would believe it “right” to deny a woman the right to make a sensible, rational and mature decision about childbearing–from my point of view.
Moving along, I will try to improve my blog-writing in the year ahead. To that end, my benchmark will be to limit the length of my posts to five paragraphs. I have already cheated a bit on that resolve in this post, which is indeed five paragraphs but which has some fat paragraphs that “better” writing would divide into shorter, more diet-conscious morsels. I will also practice writing directly to the posting page, instead of laboring over off-line drafts, and I will work to infuse my writing with more personality and point of view. I will embark upon this blog-writing experiment, knowing that it will inevitably produce posts that can only begin to express my thoughts and that sometimes cut short a new thought in the middle…