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Let’s Talk Like We Used To

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A few weeks ago someone commented on my new post, saying they had just stumbled across my blog, and that it was “very old school.”

I took that as a compliment, and got to reminiscing about what old school blogging really felt like, compared to today. Something’s definitely gone missing—some quality that made it vivid and exciting, and I want it back.

When I started in 2009, and for years afterward, I just wrote stuff, having absolutely no idea if anyone would relate. I wrote as well as I could, but there was a wonderful off-the-cuff feel to the process. If it was interesting to me, it might be to someone else. So I would write something about it. The incomparable joy of campfires. The rich history of a particular dent in my car.

I just let the ideas fly. People did relate, usually, although—importantly, I think—sometimes they didn’t. That was okay, and expected. I was just saying things.

Amidst all this vigorous saying of things, strangers appeared in the comments. You! You appeared, and you said things too, which made it a conversation. We talked about parking lots. Music. Meditation. Friendships. Kettlebells. The obscure details of being human.

The whole arrangement seemed so straightforward. We bloggers simply shared what we thought was interesting or helpful, and whoever agreed would congregate around, and we’d have a good talk about it, or maybe just think about it at work that day. The blog was just a microphone, and the internet only an aid to sharing our thoughts, like we had always done, in cars, in pubs, in school.

Somewhere along the line, at least for me, something got in the way of that straightforward sharing. If you’re a regular reader you’ve probably noticed I don’t post as often anymore.

Trepidation eventually sunk in around my writing and posting, especially when I started having mega-hits with hundreds of thousands of views. I felt pressure to follow up a hit with something just as good, so newcomers wouldn’t leave right away. It started feeling increasingly risky, even dangerous, to simply post my thoughts as I once had.

Writing time per post ballooned. For a few years I did little but try to write something profound every week. It had to be a life-changing bombshell or nothing. I stopped writing about niche topics that not everyone was into, even if they really mattered to me. I tried to please everyone, rather than just share what was in my heart that day.

Much of this complexity arose from my own neuroses and unchecked habits. But the internet itself has also changed. As one astute tweet put it, “1999: there are thousands of websites, all hyperlinked together. 2019: there are four websites, each filled with screenshots of the other three.”

I got caught up in the unimaginative tenets of the Age of Content. It’s got to land. It’s got to pull in eyeballs. It’s got to be shareable. Nothing too long, nothing too short. Nothing avant-garde. Facebook’s share count will tell you how well you did.

My process filled with doubt and overthinking, and that really suffocated any sense that I was free to share whatever moved me. Yet the site is still the same thing it ever was, mechanically at least. It’s still just a web log where I can broadcast my thoughts.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I love you, and I love how we used to just talk. I’m going to approach blogging in the free-form way I used to. That means I’m going to be saying things more often, with fewer words, and with much less hand-wringing over those words.

I’m going to try new things, and some old ones. There may be some awkwardness. Like in a real conversation.

You’ve always upheld your end of it though. I can’t believe that I can post something, on an old school WordPress blog, in 2019, and dozens of people will comment on it. Thank you for keeping it old school.

By the way, I love it when you comment. Even if you seldom or never do, I’d love it if you’d click through and just say hi to everyone today.

Long live the blog. Long live straightforwardly sharing what’s in our hearts.

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Cafe photo by Juri Gianfrancesco (cropped from original)

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