This week I reached another milestone: one hundred blog posts. Quite remarkable, especially when I look back at my first post in which I wondered out loud whether or not I was going to keep it up.
Before the first post in February, I started in September 2005 with content management software. The idea back then was to start some kind of online magazine. But I did not like the software and I switched to WordPress, and thus I switched to the Web log format.
In the more than hundred blog posts (this is 102), I never answered the simple question of why. Hence, in the spirit of George Orwell’s essay “Why I write,” here is “Why I blog.”
“From a very early age, perhaps the age of five or six, I knew that when I grew up I should be a writer,” writes Orwell. Now I always wanted to be many things, archaeologist and astronaut among many, but I remember one of the earlier instances in which I had to write down my desired future profession: I wrote down children’s book writer. Somehow the writing part always stuck with me.
When I was younger I wrote short stories filled with imagined adventures. Then for a long time I did not write; high school was filled with economics. I was heading toward a career in accounting or the likes when I realized I really rather wanted to write. I preferred, and still do, letters over numbers, but I knew I wasn’t going to be a children’s book writer, so sticking with business I picked a degree in marketing communication. Although I was playing around with the idea of copywriting for a while, I opted for even more writing and went for public relations.
Orwell names four great motives for writing:
“Sheer egoism. Desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death….”
I freely admit; I am motivated by all of the above. Maybe egoism is closely associated with ambition, but I want to be recorded in the annals of history. Even seeing my name in the program books of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra makes me feel proud; those books are archived and in a hundred years people will still look through them, just as I look through nineteenth century program books.
“Aesthetic enthusiasm. Perception of beauty in the external world, or, on the other hand, in words and their right arrangement. Pleasure in the impact of one sound on another, in the firmness of good prose or the rhythm of a good story. Desire to share an experience which one feels is valuable and ought not to be missed.”
What better way to share a valuable experience than to tell people about it. Tell it in your own words, or simply share other writers’ stories. That is why links, and sites such as del.icio.us, play such a crucial part in the blogosphere. That’s also why disce, vive et exhibe is my motto: learn, live and display.
And yes, I surely enjoy the aesthetics of language as well. English in particular, has always been my favorite—even if secondary—language, ever since I read The Lord of the Rings. I am especially enthralled by linguistics and semantics, and as explained in one of Orwell’s other essays in which he pleas “to let the meaning choose the word, and not the other way around.”
“Historical impulse. Desire to see things as they are, to find out true facts and store them up for the use of posterity.”
The earliest historians looked only at official documents by high-placed officials to decipher the course of history, but increasingly they are more interested in the sentiments of the lower and middle classes. Diaries and journals provide a real look into the past—think of Anne Frank’s diary—but there aren’t many three-or-more-century-old diaries. Historians in the future will have an abundance of writings from all spectrums of life. And I would love to see my addition in there.
“Political purpose. — Using the word ‘political’ in the widest possible sense. Desire to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other peoples’ idea of the kind of society that they should strive after. Once again, no book is genuinely free from political bias. The opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude.”
Beyond egoism, aesthetics, and shared experiences, even more than my persona, I desire my ideas to be remembered after death. Those who blog have a secret, or not so secret, desire to be discovered and to become widely read. I do too. But for me, this blog is a training ground to formulate my ideas, or as I state “a quest to articulate my abstract and concrete views.” It helps me define my own levensbeschouwing or world view. That is why I will never be fair and balanced; but rather fair and flexible. As I write, being forced to define my ideas, I am discovering, and sometimes changing, my opinions.
And in the end, just in case I want to be a writer and write a book—and “one would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand”—I will have shaped my ideas and have a written foundation. Now onwards!