Perhaps the hardest question for anyone with a personal Web site is "Why am I doing this in the first place?" It seems to me that there's no one right answer; everyone's situation is somewhat different. I'm reasonably certain that when I started tossing my stuff up on the Web in 1996, I was at least partially motivated by "Because I can." That works as justification for starting; continuing, though, is a different sort of process altogether.

In 2000, I expanded the site into a full-fledged Weblog with the following announcement:

I thought it over for less time than I probably should have, and decided that what was lacking (apart from personality, tastefulness, and utility, but that's another story) was a sense of immediacy. Pages got updated when I got around to them; some things got lost in the shuffle. And while I have no problem blaming some of this on the vagaries of the workplace at best, long hours make for short tempers at least one of the tailbones needing a suitable kick was my own.

Lest you think this sort of forced introspection is something specific to the likes of me, here's a look at a recent blog entry from Becky Scott's Paradigm Shifts, with interstitial commentary from yours truly.

Why do I write? I'm wondering if anything I'm posting here, save very few things, is even worthwhile or interesting.

Now this is a problem I never had; I knew nothing I was posting was interesting.

I'm just thinking about what I really want to accomplish here. I started out wanting to write stories and practice my writing. I'm not sure that's what I do here as I would classify much of it as drivel. Maybe I need to spend more time on the things I do actually post.

I'm not so sure about this. You can polish up your prose in the extra time, but the inspiration comes at the very beginning, when you first hit the keyboard; you can't assume that there's going to be more of it before you push the Publish button.

But I have to ask myself. Am I doing this for [my readers] or for me? Am I truly practicing to get better or just looking for instant gratification by way of comments? I enjoy hearing what people have to say (okay, okay or reading the comments they've left). That's fun & I always want more.

I think the comments box is generally good for a blog, if you're looking for feedback from the readers; most of them are far more likely to open a comments box than to hit the email link. (On the other hand, I have a handful of visitors who prefer the email route.) I don't think I've put up more than a handful of items specifically aimed at drawing comments, but the fact that I put them up at all surely says something.

I'm not sure yet what I'm even trying to convey here. Something's bugging me & I think it's the quality of my writing. Or maybe I'm letting the censor take over instead of just getting words on paper for practice. Something that really means a lot to me could then be worked on & polished up a bit. Perfectionism is the enemy of good enough. But I've been sloppy, too, even with my papers for lit class. It's time to figure out where I want this to go. And it's harder (for me) than it looks.

It's going to go, I think, pretty much where it wants to go. I hate to say things like "the blog has a life of its own," but in a way, it does; the damn thing must be fed on a regular basis, and when it's not, you feel a need to apologize for it, sometimes even in advance. (How many "Sorry, no free ice cream today" posts have you read? Dozens? Hundreds?)

As for the difficulty of it all, well, it's no different from that of the dead-tree writer, except that we stare at a blank screen until the veins in our foreheads begin to pop out. It's harder for all of us than it looks. Yet we persist. If, after that very first Vent in the spring of 1996, you'd asked me how I planned to sustain interest in the series for three hundred-odd follow-ups, I'd have said something like "I doubt anyone will be interested in reading more than a handful of these things; I certainly can't imagine writing that many."

Tricky business, imagination.

The Vent

16 March 2003

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 Copyright © 2003 by Charles G. Hill