further thoughts on why i blog: a clarification

My recent post about no longer voting in US elections caused some dismay and upset among some of USian readers. At least one friend interpreted that post as encouraging others not to vote. I was surprised by this - but my friend was surprised that it meant otherwise! It seemed like a clarification was in order.

First of all, I would never try to convince anyone not to vote. For most of my life, the idea of not voting was anathema to me. I would have never considered it. And, in the first few presidential elections in which I was eligible to vote, I voted Democrat, and I didn't agree with people I knew who voted third-party. So I understand all the arguments about voting and about voting Democrat. I know where my USian friends are on these issues, because I've been there.

What's more, the inaction of not voting is not enough. Boycotting the duopoly without working on building a new system, or educating people about alternatives, would be fairly useless. And I am certainly not telling people what to do with their time or how to be politically engaged.

My statement about why I no longer vote in the US is a description, not a prescription. I'm explaining how I feel.

Anywhere from 200 to 700 people a day read this blog. Do most of those readers share my assumptions and my worldview? Or do most of them find my blog a restatement of what they already know? Do some people read wmtc to challenge their own views? I don't know the answer to any of these questions, and I never guess at the answers as I write.

I write about what's on my mind, because the writing process is how I discover clarity. If people like the blog, maybe they'll keep reading. If they don't, they'll (usually) go away. (In some cases, I can only wish they would.) I can't control those things and don't concern myself with them.

In 2008, I wrote this. (Scroll down, there's more.)
Why I Blog

  • I find it an extremely valuable writing discipline. Blogging helps me write every day. Writing every day primes the pump for my life as a writer.

  • It is very useful to write for an audience. Instead of writing in a notebook and ending up with a bunch of half-formed ideas, knowing that someone is reading helps me write more clearly, which means it helps me think more clearly.

  • On the other hand, it is very difficult and time-consuming to get columns or essays published. My work was published before I started blogging, and continues to be. But writing without the need to attract an editor frees me from having to construct a complete, publishable essay tailored to a specific audience.

    Thus, somewhere between the personal notebook of vague ideas and the slaved-over, multi-drafted essay for possible publication, lives my blog post.

  • For self-expression. I have a need to write. I have had this need all my life.

  • To share information I find interesting, noteworthy or valuable.

  • For community. We've met most of our friends in Canada through this blog. Other people have met each other (independent of me) through wmtc.

  • To help people interested in emigrating to Canada. People email me for information all the time. I can't always answer their questions, but I can try to point them in the right direction, and I can at least offer support. Many Canadians were incredibly helpful and supportive to me and Allan in our journey. I try to do the same for others.

  • To learn. I ask questions, I put forth ideas, people of similar viewpoints offer more information and direct me to other sources.

  • To have a record of my experience, first as an emigrant, then as an immigrant, and one day as a Canadian citizen.

    Not Why I Blog

  • To gather a spectrum of viewpoints on a particular topic. Because I don't tolerate all viewpoints and opinions on wmtc, I am frequently criticized for being close-minded. The truth is I see a lot of different viewpoints. I just don't want them on my own blog. It would ruin the experience for me. A new friend of wmtc recently described my blog as a "safe space"; for me that affirmed I was doing the right thing.

  • To debate. I dislike debate for its own sake. I find it tiresome and tiring, a misuse of my limited time and energy. My preferred method of learning is to read and consider. I will read and consider anyone's opinion, but I won't be baited into an argument. When I forget that, I am always sorry.

  • There are hundreds of thousands of blogs and message boards on which people can debate any topic under the sun. Readers seeking that type of experience would do well to avoid wmtc.

  • To bait others into an argument. See above.

  • So that other people can use my blog as a soapbox. And lest any friend of wmtc be paranoid, I welcome long comments from wmtc readers and discussions among readers. I'm referring to people who don't read my blog but think it might be a good place to direct other people to their own blogs, or to spout their opinions on any unrelated topic.

  • For money. I love being paid for my writing, and if blogging helps me land a paying assignment, that's beautiful. But the blog itself has to stay noncommercial in order for it to remain completely independent, and to retain its value to me.

  • Because I have nothing better to do.

  • Now, four years later, I would slightly amend that statement.

  • I'm no longer writing professionally, so I need this blog more than ever. It's my only writing outlet and I can't imagine being without it.

  • I no longer blog about emigrating to Canada. That is over and done with, and my experience isn't very relevant to someone considering or trying to emigrate now. I do still get emails from grateful readers, thanking me for helping them sort through the confusion of immigration information, and showing them it can be done. I treasure those emails. But emigration is no longer a principal motivating factor in my blogging.

    But everything else holds true. You'll note that "to persuade" is not on the "why" list. Here's what I told my skeptical friend.
    I write about what matters to me most, what I'm passionate about, and social justice is a huge part of that. But my writing about social justice doesn't serve a different purpose than my writing about books or travel or my experiences at school. It's just me, what I need to express.

    I do hope my writing is informative and educational (in a broad sense), and if it influences how a reader thinks, that's fine, but my goal is not to influence. I'm never trying to change minds or votes, and my intention is not to challenge people to question their assumptions - not at all.

    . . . . My only writing challenge is my own, to express my thoughts in ways that are both clear and lively - the writer's constant losing battle.
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