A few years ago I started my first blog in response to a request from an audience member at a speaking event. I didn’t think anyone would want to read my contributions to an already blog-ridden topic (Microsoft SharePoint), but the audience seemed to disagree. A few weeks later, I found myself quoting my boss in my blog, and I asked him if that bothered him in any way. He approved, and he made a curious observation “I imagine writing this is somewhat therapeutic for you.” I didn’t think too much about that at the time; I was still convinced I was giving something back to the community. Today I realize that he was right; today I treated myself to a bit of blog therapy.
Blog therapy comes in variety of forms, the most common being The Rant. Ranting feels good, and it feels even better to rant in a public forum and it feels absolutely awesome to have people join your rant. It is close to the feeling I had at West Virginia University when we built random bonfires after beating Pitt in football in 1975; the spirit of the crowd was uplifting (and apparently, we set more fires that night than after any other game before or after). Rants are fun, but I limit myself in how often I use this form. I don’t want to be the angry man, and other than providing a feel-good moment, rants aren’t usually productive. My Physical Chemistry professor is famous in my mind for putting the value of the crowd in perspective. While commiserating over low test scores, I commented that “they say there’s safety in numbers.” He quipped “they also say misery loves company!”
Truly therapeutic blogging is more subtle and it is productive. The best bit of blog therapy is when I am able to offer useful suggestions to a large audience when a much smaller and more personal audience has ignored the same suggestions. If I am unable to convince the members or leaders of a group I am involved with that an idea is worth considering, I might take the idea to a broader court. With more people involved, it’s more likely that someone will agree. Someone might even be a true champion of the same idea and offer me a new and better argument. Validation is empowering, even when it comes from relative strangers. The blog I crafted earlier today was this kind of therapy. I recently had to deal with a setback in terms of an objective I have been supporting and I needed a bit of encouragement.
The funny thing about blogging is that the encouragement doesn’t actually need to be direct. I love it when people comment on my blogs (which is rarely). I feel good when people tweet, re-tweet or share links to my thoughts on Facebook or Google+. Ironically though, I start to feel good after pressing the Publish button. More than anything, blogging is a self-established series of goals and accomplishments, a cycle of “do this” and “well done” moments. Well done, because any writer’s toughest critic is him or herself. When I get done assembling and editing this stream of consciousness, I feel good. If I think, or if I am lucky enough to find out that you enjoyed it, I feel better, but I still feel good even if it’s never read.
In addition to the creative blog therapy, I read a lot of blogs too. I read some wonderfully helpful blogs, like that of my friend Marc Anderson. Marc’s blog is my trusted reference library for all things SharePoint. I just began reading WordsFallFromMyEyes a few weeks ago and I am in awe of this woman’s ability to write. In fact, I want to go back a few sentences and substitute a different word for “writer” because I have trouble comparing myself to her. Blogs don’t have to be text-based; I follow my daughter’s Flickr photostream because, in addition to wonderful photography, she tells stories about the people and events she photographs. She recently photographed a wedding at Mystic Aquarium in southeastern Connecticut and it appears to have been a simply magical event. In addition, despite the fact that Technorati says there are over 112 million blogs, there are people I am encouraging to write or write more often. I’d like to see my brother write more. He posted on Training Debate last year, and he has a lot to say and the experience to back it up. I’d also like to see @FaithAntion write more, but I happen to know that she’s pretty busy. I enjoy Consultant Chronicles by Mark Thompson and Bill Kelly; I like the blog, and I love their podcasts. I would also like to see more from @RealTalkBLewis I’ve read his books and I’d like to read his work more often. Locally, I would like to see more from Julie Beman, and internationally, I’m still waiting on the food blog Cheryl McKinnon hinted at a while back (because she tweets about awesome sounding meals and well paired wines), but her technical stuff is pretty good too.