Blogging has continued to play a central role in my life since I started this blog in May of 2005. It is something that I think about a lot every week. First, I need to plan what to write about, as well as how to best organize whatever subject I settle on. Then there are the many hours of writing and editing. When things go smoothly I can probably get it done in three to four hours. But when a subject is tough and I need to work though how to best structure what I want to say, it can take quite a bit longer.
There are also the times when I am struggling with an entry - usually because while I think that I know what I want to say, I find out otherwise when I actually try to write things down. I then have to set aside the subject, hoping that things will go better when I later get back to it. Typically, this is what happens, although every now and then I do have to give up on a subject altogether.
If this all sounds like work - it most definitely is. It is something I have been doing every week for the last three and a half years without missing one so far. Given its role in both my work and my life, every so often I like to focus an entry on blogging itself. Let me then quickly review my personal evolution with bloogging leading up to its current state.
When I first started blogging, it was almost a giddy experience. "I anticipate an exciting journey for me. I hope it will have some value to those of you who read my blog", I wrote in my first entry. IBM was then launching an initiative aimed at encouraging employees to blog - both internal blogs to be shared only with other employees, and external ones aimed at participating the nascent blogosphere. It was, and may still be, the largest such corporate blogging initiative.
My IBM colleagues encouraged, and finally convinced me to start this blog. I was not sure what I was getting into, but what the hell. I liked the idea of being part of this fast growing blogosphere, which at the time felt like something very romantic. Three months into blogging I wrote: "So, we are back to the birds and the bees, not this time to learn how our species propagates, but to learn how birds, bees, wolves . . . and humans like to be part of communities and contribute to them. I find it truly fascinating that far from being, as I thought, a mere exercise in "narcissism", blogging ends up being a primal, noble - even altruistic - experience, showing humanity at its very best." Perhaps a bit naive, but heartfelt.
For the first six months, I posted entries twice a week on a variety of subjects, including some unrelated to work like films and baseball. These early entries were relatively short. Over time they got longer, as did the time it took to write them. Six months after I started, I cut back to posting once a week. My blogs have also gotten more serious. I now rarely post on subjects not related to my work or to societal issues I am particularly interested in like immigration and diversity.
Last year, given my upcoming retirement from IBM, I wondered what new directions my blog might take. "Are there subjects that, consciously or not, I refrained from writing about as an IBM executive that I now feel free to tackle?", I wrote in June of 2007. Not really, I would now answer. I post less on subjects like intellectual property and more on subjects like healthcare systems, but that is just a reflection of my shifting work interests.
In the end, this blog has essentially become my personal approach to writing and publishing. People write and publish using different styles and channels. They publish the results of their research in peer-reviewed journals, especially in academia. They write articles for magazines aimed at a more general audience. Some write books.
I write this blog. It somehow fits my style at this particular point in my life. A blog is not superior in any way to these other styles and channels - just different.
I like the freedom to be able to write about whatever topic interests me. I like the eclectic nature of the medium. I can write about cloud computing one week, and the Beijing Olympics opening ceremonies a few weeks later. I can write about subjects like supercomputing that I know a lot about, as well as subjects I find fascinating like evolutionary biology in which I am a total amateur. I like that while each weekly entry takes quite a bit of work, the pain is over once the entry is posted at the end of the week, and I can start thinking about next week's subject.
Most important for me, blogging has gotten me into writing. I rarely wrote before this blog, and I am now something of a prolific writer - a precious gift to have received at this late stage in my life and career.
There are those who might think that "You know that someone has run out of things to say when they start blogging about blogging," as someone posted in a comment to another self-referential blog about two years ago. They might even be half right. While these thoughts have been in my mind for a while, I decided to use them this particular week after I found myself unable to write about the topic I originally wanted to - my thoughts about the just concluded Republican and Democratic conventions. Much as I struggled with the subject, I just could not find the right angle around which to write down my feelings.
But, one of the most appealing aspects of blogging, is that if you are not properly inspired one week, you can just set it aside and see what happens next. You never know when some new approach or idea will finally come to you. Each week is a fresh start.