Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Blogopolis Reflections, Directions and Decisions Part 2: Purpose

One of the things that I took away from Blogopolis was a rethinking of purpose in blogging for me, and the purpose of this blog in particular. Several of the speakers touched on this, but it was some of the comments made by Nikki from Styling You and Nicole from Planning with Kids that resonated the most with me. I've been mulling it over ever since, but to really show the evolution of my thoughts, you'll need to follow me Back in Time a bit.

The history

I've been blogging for quite a while now. I started my first blog, Zucchinis in Bikinis, in February 2004, when my eldest daughter (now 8) was a wee thing of 6 months. Before that, I'd been reading blogs for about 6 months, first alerted to their existence via a friend of a friend (now himself a friend ;-) who is, I venture to say, one of Melbourne's longest-running bloggers.

When I started blogging - via the at-the-time charmingly amateurish Blogger, long before it was absorbed by Google, and long before it could handle complimacated stuff like pictures and comments - I don't think I had much of a notion of purpose, or focus, or direction. I could be mistaken, but I think lots - most? - bloggers were like that back then. We're talking the days before the mighty Dooce had Leta; the days when she was just starting to feel out her readers about the possibility of maybe at some point running a teeny-weeny ad or two if anyone was interested. The blogosphere as a whole was much more of a new frontier as a popular pastime, and ideas about purposeful (let alone remunerative) blogging were very embryonic in most cases.

I drifted into blogging with a vague idea that it might be fun, that I wanted to be part of the conversation I saw happening on other blogs, and that I'd like somewhere to record things about my daughter's development in a way that could be quickly and easily shared with distant friends and relatives.

This wasn't a very specific or directional purpose, and, again like a lot of bloggers at the time, I spent quite a few months happily splashing my feet in the milieu du jour - memes in particular (oh, list memes! I'm quite nostalgic for them sometimes). It did not occur to me for quite some time that "me, on the Internet" was maybe not a sufficient purpose to carry my blog forward, in terms of sustaining my own interest as much as anything else.

The schism: One blog to two

In 2009, a lot of things happened to me, some of them wonderful, a lot of them not at all wonderful. I continued to write my life in Zucchinis in Bikinis, but, just as my life was darkened at that time, so was my writing. This led to a number of uncomfortable crossovers between with IRL and online worlds, culminating, early in 2010 in a very upsetting conversation with a co-worker who read my blog. (The blog wasn't about him or about work - I rarely blogged about work, and when I did, it was in the most elliptical and inoffensive terms. No, his views were on my LIFE, and how I was screwing it up, based on a few dark-days posts).

At that point I decided I no longer wanted to blog my life, unexpurgated, in public. I made the decision to close Zucchinis in Bikinis down to subscribers only, and to carefully screen anyone I added to the reader list. (That blog, which continues apace in the blackout of the private blog world, has just short of 40 subscribers, and that suits me just fine). I still blog my life there, still uncut.

I set up this blog at the same time as I shut down public access to Zucchinis, mostly, truth be told, so I could still play along each week with Childhood 101's We Play link-up. I must have had a glimmer of intent / purpose when I did this, as I chose a blog name that sounded purposive - Play, Eat, Learn, Live. But that purpose was loosely defined, unclear, to me, and probably to my readers as well.

Rethinking purpose

Listening to the speakers at Blogopolis helped me to really crystallise in my mind that my blogging would be more satisfying for me, a more fleshed-out hobby, if I had a clear idea of what I was doing it for (and, following on from that, who I was doing it for). I mulled this over for a long while before realising that I could coalesce my blog's purpose into three main theme areas:

1. Blogging the journey of parenting my children, and what it means to "be a family" in a postmodern world
The blog as a family record, and as a record of my growth as a parent, and of our growth as a family, has always been important to why I do this, and has not become less so with passing years.

2. Blogging the life of the mind of our family
Increasingly, I'm drawn to book blogging - not just reviews, but blogging about literacy, about how books and meaning permeate all of our lives. I'm also interested in blogging the learning / educational process my children are going through, and the things we're learning together.

3. Blogging the sustenance of the body in a food-intolerance household
I'm a Coeliac and a cook, and I have two daughters who are fascinated with food. Blogging our culinary adventures is just pure fun for me, escapism and sweetness and light. I also love taking photos of food, even though I'm not super good at it.

Wrapping around all of these was a fourth purpose, which is growing in strength all the time, and that is to have a forum where I can practice and refine my writing. I'm intending to do NaNoWriMo again this year and will probably set up a separate "writerly" blog at that time, but for now, this is a space where I can experiment with different styles, voices and themes and get feedback on it, which I value immensely.

And, of course, the uber-purpose can never be lost - connection. Being part of a community, or rather communities - sharing, interacting, developing. If I didn't want connection, if I didn't hope people would read and engage with me, I'd write an offline journal. It's as simple as that. I don't do this for the readers, but I embrace the fact that people do read, and the conversations that inspires.


Going through this mental process has really helped me to refine the purpose of this blog, and surprise, surprise, the name I thought up in 2 minutes last year is still quite apt! My purpose in this blog is to write about a family's journey through three childhoods, from the mundane to the elevated, in body, mind and soul, from different viewpoints and in different voices. I'm really happy with this as an outcome and as a statement of what this blog is about - what it's for.

As to who it's for? It is, first and foremost, for me, my partner, and our children; in time, for my grandchildren (what a rich resource for any future family historians these blogs will be!). Secondarily, it is for my extended family and friends, who can read our story here and be part of it even though far away. Thirdly, and not less importantly, it is for those who read it and enjoy, or take something away that's of value, and form a connection with me because of it. That's who it's for.

(My next post on my Blogopolis thoughts will be about Ethics / Law in blogging, but that won't be up for a week or so, as I have a book review post on Ben Goldacre's book Bad Science that I'm itching to finish and post first).

No comments:

Post a Comment