Originally, that was going to be my title for this blog post. That was way back in late July, when the event actually happened and when I intended to write this post. The weekend of July 19, I had the chance to meet with five amazing bloggers, only one of whom I had met in person before. They arrived in the little window of time in between when I returned from Crete and just before I left on my next amazing summer adventure (which I hope to write about soon -- because, you know, pretty soon it will be Fall).
But maybe the delay has turned out to be a good thing, because as the topic rolled around in my mind during my August travels, it shifted in focus a little. I started thinking about how we make friends, how we deepen friendships, and how blogging is one part of all that.
The Big Event
But first, the blogger meetup.
|From left: Donna, Ann, Erica, me (Jude aka Dr Sock), Janis, Kathy|
You might have already read about our gathering. Donna wrote about it here, Janis wrote about it here, Erica wrote about it here, and Ann wrote about it here. Kathy cleverly got us all to write lists which she compiled and discussed here.
Donna hosted the weekend (which stretched into several days). She put a huge amount of planning into it, researching activities and excursions for us to join in with, suggesting accommodations, providing meals, soliciting ideas for blogging discussion topics, and herding cats (that's us!). Thank-you Donna!
On Friday evening, we all went to see Deafaids - Beatlemania, a Beatles tribute band that put on a free concert in the community park.
|Music in the Park: From left, Donna, Janis, Ann|
|We Talked Blogs, For Hours|
|Look How Serious We Were|
On Sunday, the gang (spouses too) came over to my place for lunch, a tour of my art studio, Notch Hill Art, and a hike. Fun was had by all.
|After Our Hike|
|Tour of Notch Hill Art|
10 Things I Wish I had Known Before I Started Blogging
Kathy asked us to each put together a list of ten things we should have known or wish we had known before we started blogging. (You can read everyone's lists here.) I started blogging a long time ago, before blogging communities were "a thing." Things like differing purposes of blogs and blogging etiquette that seem quite obvious to us now were not so obvious more than a decade ago. I was very lucky to have entered the blogosphere just as the phenomenon of blogging was taking off, and it has been fascinating to see how the practices of blogging have changed. In particular, the development of blogging communities of people who share their ideas with each other has been wonderful to observe.
As a blogger, I've changed too over the years. Kathy published a short version of my list on her blog. Here's a longer version.
First a bit of context. I started a blog 11 years ago to get familiar with the process and technology of blogging, for a work-related purpose. I created a blog to use temporarily as a practice blog before building the actual work blog (which is now long gone). I had no expectation of keeping Dr Sock Writes Here going, yet here I am more than 11 years later, still blogging faithfully 1 to 3 times a month.
2. Once I committed to keeping the blog going, I wish I had given some thought to the purpose of my blog. It has shifted over the years. At various times, it has been a technical learning experience, a way to immerse myself in blogging culture, a writing blog, an art blog, a retirement blog, a chronicle of what I have been doing, and a soapbox for my opinions about things. Presently, it zigzags between all of those things.
3. I wish I had steeped myself in blogging culture a bit before starting my own blog. I had hardly ever read a blog before I started one. But then again, my approach allowed me to do my own thing rather than running with the herd.
4. I wish I had known that there are people out there who actually read blogs. At the beginning, I threw words into the ether with no expectation that anyone would ever read them.
5. I wish I had learned the principle of reciprocity a little faster. That is, if someone comments on your blog, it is polite to respond to their comment. And if a person who regularly comments has a blog, it is courteous to read some of their blog posts and comment if you feel inspired by what they wrote. (If you have time! There is so little time to read all the wonderful blogs in the world.)
6. I wish I had known that bloggers aren't just strangers on the other side of the world, but real people -- people with shared interests -- that you can actually meet in real life. But now I know that!
7. I wish I would have known how much enjoyment I get from regularly reading selected blogs. You can learn a lot about people, their interests and lifestyles, and other places through reading blogs.
8. I wish I had known how much time blogging would begin to take up in my life as I became more integrated into a blogging community. I presently limit how much blog writing, reading, and commenting I do so that I have time for all the other important things in my life, including my other writing, and my real-life friends and family.
9. This is not an "I wish" point, but an observation. I am endlessly fascinated with ordinary people's everyday use of writing, images, and videos on the Internet to represent themselves to the world, express their point of view, interact with other people, and form communities. Blogs are a great example of that.
10. Oops. No number 10.
Why I Blog
Why we blog and persist at it was one of the topics that we kept returning to in our conversation about blogging at our meetup. That is a big question with lots of answers. I think each of us has more than one reason that we blog. Here are a couple of my reasons.
Having a place to write down my thoughts and combine that writing with visual images was what drew me to blogging. The idea that *anyone* could have a platform for publishing that was not blocked by gatekeepers, high costs, and genre rules was appealing to me. Blogs have democratized publishing. I also like the interactive, evolving nature of blog writing.
Another big reason, and the last one I'll talk about here, is that blogging is a way of forming community. This reason brings us back to the theme of this blog post -- friendship and community.
Making Friends; Deepening Friendships
In these challenging times, we need to form communities. We need to make friends and hang onto our existing friends.
In our expanding social world, one's peer group is no longer just the people living on the few streets nearby, but potentially can include people all over the world who share work interests, hobbies, skill sets, or social concerns. It is wonderful that through online technology we can meet fascinating people whom we never would have known in earlier times. Yet, managing a whole world full of potential acquaintances can seem overwhelming. As we turn away from looking for friends among the acquaintances right around us to seeking human relationships through a much broader sphere, the process also can feel isolating.
Making friends means putting yourself out there: being in places where you'll have a chance to interact with people; taking the first step to start a conversation; engaging with someone by doing something jointly together; helping people and accepting help. Writing a blog is a way of putting yourself out there. Commenting on someone's blog is a way of socially engaging.
In the case of our blogging meetup, we took it one step further. We all knew each other to a certain extent because we had read each others' blogs. But because most of us hadn't met in person, there also were lots of things we didn't know about each other. One thing that all have in common is that we blog. The topic of blogging provided a touchstone, a shared focus that we could all weigh in on.
The topic of blogging provided an excuse to get together, just as doing yoga together, or being in a service club with others, or collaborating on a work project, or cooking together with others to prepare a holiday meal provides a way to get together with people and to come to know them better.
Ultimately, I believe that it is not blogging per se that builds a community or develops friendships. Blogging is just a technology that extends the reach of our relationships. Rather, it is the process of sharing something of ourselves with each other, being there for each other (e.g., reading, commenting, and keeping in touch), and doing things together (in person) and for others that builds friendships.