Why I blog
Last week I bumped into a fellow Phoenix Running Club member in the Port Moody rec centre gym. He greeted me enthusiastically with a loud “Who knew?” Explaining, he added, “…that books have always been your greatest passion!”
He had just read my blog post “Why I write unconventional (and unpopular) book reviews.” We went on to have a great conversation about books.
My friend has known me through running for perhaps fifteen years, yet we had never talked about books with each other. But from the day I wrote my first Olympic Training Log post in this blog, he has been one of my most loyal readers. On that day at the gym, he told me once again how much he enjoys reading my blog.
I love having fans like this. Almost every writer wants to have readers, wants to know that their writing is appreciated. Readers’ comments are wonderful because they reward the writer with the sense of connection with others.
That sense of connection is what sharing writing is all about. One of the huge benefits of the Internet is the wealth of good writing out there. I’m overwhelmed by the talented writers I encounter online. The majority of these writers don’t make money from their blog writing. (However, some of them have a huge number of followers, so they may make money from ad revenue. Also, published writers often use their blogs as marketing tools for their books or other business ventures.)
Most bloggers write because they are passionate about some topic, story, or idea. They may want to express emotions or show their creativity through words, design, photography, or in multiple ways. They share freely, and the feedback they get from fans is immensely rewarding in itself—that is true for me, at least.
Who reads my blog?
My blog doesn’t have a large readership, but even one insightful or sympathetic comment about a post I’ve written can give me a feeling of elation or a warm inner glow that lasts for hours. For me, connecting with others, including close friends, acquaintances, and strangers, provides me with a good part of my motivation to write.
I am more grateful than I can say to the loyal fans who read my blog and take the time to write comments, whether privately, on the blog, or (most often) on Facebook. I have two groups of fans. A very small group reads virtually everything I write. Yeah, they are my groupies. You know who you are. Another somewhat larger group reads almost everything I write about running. Well, I can understand that. Running is the one place I’ve left my (small) footprint on the world.
My most-viewed post by far is “Running a fast 10K: five key workouts”. This post is viewed every day; people find it through search engines. Certain other posts (e.g. about Sasamat Lake, Brussels, heel bursitis) are found frequently by search engines and get a lot of views even though I may not consider them to be the best or most significant examples of my writing.
I break one of the cardinal rules of blog writing by not restricting myself to one topic. As my Phoenix friend now knows, books have always been my greatest passion, so I insist on writing about them. Books not only connect writers and readers, but also connect one reader with other readers. We book lovers share an admiration for good writing. Many of us also share the desire to understand universal human themes through reading literature.
Surprising and delightful blog connections
I throw my blog stories out into the world, and my blog is like a vast net that sometimes scoops up people from unexpected places or long-ago times. When these people respond to a post, it’s not just what they write that’s important, it’s the experience of connecting in itself that is amazing. Here are some examples:
When I wrote posts about my coach George Gluppe at the time of his death, I got a torrent of responses from people. I heard from high school classmates and teachers I had not been in touch with for 35 years. Even though I had met many of George’s relatives decades ago, I heard from others I hadn’t known existed. Many people told me stories about how George had inspired them to be a better athlete, coach, or simply a better person. These responses were immensely comforting to me; this demonstration of how George’s life had been meaningful dimmed my recent memories of his suffering and impairment at the end of his life.
My first crush
Some of the people who contacted me because of George stayed in touch through Facebook. This was how I found out about the death of the first guy I ever had a crush on. He had become a bush pilot. I learn through Facebook that he had died in a plane crash at age 54, leaving behind his family of three teenagers.
This news made me reflect on fate and unfinished stories. In my memory, this guy I was crazy about in grade eight will always be the same: astonishingly good-looking in his dark, swarthy way, short but powerfully built. At thirteen or fourteen he already looked like a man. He said little in the science class we were both in, but was always flirting with his eyes with a girl who sat across the room. She became his girlfriend.
The two of them fascinated me so much that I wrote fictional stories about them several times. In real life, I had slight connections with both of them: I was an uncommitted member of the junior high running team where he was a star; and she was a multi-talented athlete who competed in the high hurdles in high school. The one personal encounter I had with her was humiliating: I encountered her by accident in my neighbourhood while I was sobbing uncontrollably because my boyfriend had just left for summer camp (and hadn’t seemed terribly upset that he would be away from me for an unfathomable month!).
Sometimes it’s shocking to learn what happens to these people from our youth; maybe we would rather not know their real-life stories.
Two high school boyfriends
On the other hand, I was astonished in a good way when a high school boyfriend (whom I had not seen for almost 30 years) discovered my blog and got back in touch with me. He lives in Singapore with his family. We exchanged long emails to fill in the long gap of time somewhat. Trying to do this is in itself an art and poses many questions: How do you summarize the story of your life? How do you choose what you want this person from the past to know about your life’s accomplishments, the person you have become, and what your current struggles are? You might even ask why you are bothering to correspond with this person who no longer has anything whatsoever to do with your life.
For me, our email exchanges were valuable and entertaining. What I liked the most was that through my friend’s stories and philosophical comments, I could recognize exactly the same person I had first known almost forty years before. I recognized his dry sense of humour, his self-deprecation, the way his sharp intelligence was revealed in his perceptiveness about people and their relationships.
One of his stories, in particular, intrigued me. He sketched a brief history of the guy who had been both his best friend, and my first (and most serious) boyfriend when we were all in high school. I had fallen very hard for this guy just before I turned fifteen. We had had an intense on-and-off relationship for about a year that I didn’t fully recover from for a long time.
In fact, in many ways this boyfriend was similar, both physically and emotionally, to the man I eventually married. I’m sure there are unconscious factors at play that affect who we are attracted to and who we fall in love with.
But back to my friend’s email story: what impressed me was the way he could be so objective about this guy who had been at once his friend and his rival for my attention—he could recognize his friend’s huge appeal to women, his good looks and charismatic ways, and his moral weaknesses—without bitterness or jealousy though his friend’s success with girls must have exasperated him at the time. From the vantage point of now, he related his friend’s life history of adventures and mishaps with women, and his eventual discovery of the career that perfectly suited his personality. It was all very, very funny. Reading it brought back many memories and emotions—but, as had been the case when I read about the bush pilot’s death, I had an eerie sense of wondering at the chance that had led to this knowledge about my former heartthrob’s fate. Is everything a coincidence?
My blog writing is not a coincidence. I do it purposefully, and I write personal things because I want to connect with people in ways that go beyond a shared running history or interest in running. So it isn’t a complete surprise that some of the people I was once very close to should find my blog and respond to it.
(I can add, though, that the connections I have made through shared running experiences have been been fun and supportive. The Facebook updates and old photos are entertaining!)
A surprising connection from almost 50 years ago
The biggest surprise response to my blog came after I wrote something last year about the breakup of my marriage and leaving my home of over twenty years. A man I’ll call Pierre contacted me by email because he had been looking for information about my former husband Paul. Search engines had led him to my blog. Pierre explained that he had dated Paul’s mother for a year or two when Paul was only seven to eight years old (Paul’s father died when he was about five). He and Paul had become very close; Pierre was a an outstanding athlete who took Paul skiing and horseback riding and on many other adventures. In fact, Paul had mentioned Pierre to me many times, so I already knew about his attachment to this man who had been such a good father-figure and companion for him. Paul had always spoken with bitterness about his mother’s decision not to marry Pierre—Paul claimed it was only because Pierre was slightly younger than his mother, and she thought the age difference inappropriate.
Pierre hadn’t seen Paul since 1980, and was simply asking me for contact information. But we ended up exchanging several emails. I was grateful to Pierre because he made me understand that early events in Paul’s life had contributed significantly to the psychological difficulties in our marriage. I was also happy to see how much Pierre cared about Paul.
Pierre’s emails revealed him to be a very giving, warm person. He wrote many complimentary things about my blog writing and my willingness to be frank about revealing myself. This was hugely encouraging to me. I felt privileged to have encountered Pierre, even if it was only in cyberspace.
Similarly, I felt enriched by my email exchanges with my high school boyfriend. In connecting our pasts with our presents, we had reaffirmed what we had always liked and admired about each other—as well as clearing up some of the misunderstandings and hurt feelings caused by bungling youth. It was exciting, in a way, to learn how immutable personalities can be—how we remain ourselves, within, no matter what the physical ravages of time.