On Blogging, False Starts, Negative Capability, Hopes…

It’s safe to say that my worst blogging fears have been realized. :) I started blogging last summer when I was nearing the completion of my online dossier, but I was worried I would start off with a bang and then just let the thing go…. I had good intentions, but after a few intense posts, I hit a minor roadblock, and never bothered to find a way around it. And now I’m here with my second blogging foray, a year later.

I wonder: Just how many hell-paved roads of good intentions by me and others have been barricaded by such minor inconveniences?

Could it be that my motivation is not pure? That I’m not a genuine blogger, with blogging in the bones? That blogging is an exercise for me that I’m trying on, but don’t really “feel it” the way true believers do, the way that those who have blogged in the womb do? Such a question seems appropriate to ask at at a time like this.

One of my motivations for coming back here, I’ll confess, is blatantly impure: For, from my students I found how effective “impure blogging” can be. I coerced my methods students last semester to keep a blog, and I was so inspired–maybe not always by what they wrote, but by the possibilities unveiled by what and how they wrote. They wrote their blogs as an assignment, under the threat of some kind of eventual grade–but still there is some meatiness, some soul, some blogging essence there. If they could do it and produce some valuable results….

Another opening thought–a technology lesson here: Yes, this is my second attempt in actual blog writing, but blogging is something that has been rolling over in my mind for at least three years now, since Megan Hughes and I first heard about it at a conference at Northern Illinios University. Meg was mildly intrigued, and came right back and started her own blog. And I pledged to myself to think about it. There is much to say and enjoy about Meg’s wry sense of humor in those early postings, as she quizzically relayed both the importance and silliness of the new medium. But my point here is about process. The blog that you are reading here started then, and needed all the intervening time and false starts and ephemeral ruminations. I find that ALL worthwhile technology projects for me require a similar process of “living with” an idea, a set of possibilities, several trials by error. Technology demands a coming to it on its terms–a submission–a type of “Negative Capability,” to put it in the Keatsian terms that appeals so to my English bones and breeding. Technology, when it fascinates me, does so because of the lessons about learning, life, and process it sets into motion. I think that many people who have antipathy for technology do so on this level: the technology is requiring a “living with,” a process, a reflective approach to purposes and methods–whereas the individual just wants to get something done, and on his or her terms. The individual is not looking for a “living with” (as in “inhabit the sprawl”)–he or she just wants to write a memo, send an email, crop a picture–just get something done.

SO…what was that road block in August of 2003? It was a copyright, intellectual property, decency in friendship issue. My friend and mentor, Julie McNellis, and I had been corresponding about my online dossier–its process, its lessons, its potential as an example, etc. A spat of emails were filled with “oh-oh-oh” moments, as we looked ahead and schemed. So in my enthusiasm, I just wanted to copy and paste letter after letter into the blog. But even then, I knew better. But to ask for permission? Julie would give it in a heartbeat, but that heartbeat might take a week or so to communicate. Another technology lesson: The slightest inconvenience is a deal-breaker. Or conversely, the great convenience of email and Web access is the tech deal-maker of all time.

Another reason for my blogging false start of last year: I didn’t have the GREAT bBlog software that I now have. bBlog is now installed on the English server, and its features provide the missing ingredients whose absence left last year’s experience hollow or incomplete. bBlog enables sorting and meta-tagging of entries. Now a blogger can grow a set of reflections over time in categories. Thus, with a little planning, the blogger can create an organized archive. My excitement for the central English Education assignment–the Programmatic Agenda–grows and grows at the thought of students being able to record their reflections, learning, information, Web sites, etc. in easily-sorted categories.

Anyway, the thing is started again. May it flourish!