20 April 2009

Rumination on Becoming a Blogger

I'm not sure what's needed to get more people to read this blog, and frankly I'm not sure I necessarily want the pressure of knowing that there's an audience—particularly an unknown audience—out there expecting something from me. For various reasons, I'm being coy about my identity at present, but I'm not so vain to think that if I had my name up here more people would necessarily come flocking to to site to see what I have to say.

The fact is, I'm not convinced I'm someone whose thoughts on anything in particular are going to attract all that much attention. More likely, some people are going to wind up here by accident and I'm not going to be able to sustain their attention. There are some subjects about which I probably have something to say that a handful of others might find interesting. Certainly, China and human rights issues are what I spend a lot of my time thinking about, as they're both part of my professional life. But if I have something really interesting or important to say on these subjects, I'll most likely have to say them in a professional capacity, rather than in this personal space.

If I think about the bloggers that I read regularly, the ones I appreciate the most are those who aren't so single-tracked that they feel any guilt about mixing it up every once in a while. But there aren't too many people who can get away with not having a steady theme and still get people to give a damn about what they have to say. James Fallows can combine the trivial and consequential and still get eyeballs—but that's because the man is simply a superb writer.

I'm not sure I can really pull that off. I'm technically not a bad writer—I know how to spell, punctuate, present an argument, and all that—but I suffer from crippling anxiety about putting words down on paper (or pixels on a screen). There was a time, half a lifetime ago, when I could sit down and write and write about subjects about which I'd actually thought very little because I believed I knew it all and that there were no consequences. But somewhere between then and now I realized that everything I think I know is contingent on volumes that I don't. That realization simply makes it nearly impossible for me to make too many statements unless I feel convinced that I've covered all the ground and there are no loose ends left behind, the pulling of which would set all to unraveling.

If there's a reason for writing this blog, in short, it's to give myself the opportunity to work on writing more, at least writing in a certain style and voice. It's likely that I'll stick mostly to what I know—or at least what I pretend to know. Hopefully, there won't be too much in the way of self-indulgence or trivia and the result will be something of which I'm willing to take ownership—even if I'm unable to take explicit credit (or blame).

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