(Post by CATHRYN WELLNER)
On December 30 Michael Dahl posed two questions in the title of his blog post on Speak for We: “Does blogging matter? Does it create change?” He was responding to the question David Henderson posed to himself that same day: “Does Blogging Matter in the Social Sector?”
I promised to comment on Michael’s post but have needed a couple days to think about it. I keep circling back to the same spot. Yes, blogging matters – to me. I am no longer in the community development field. When I was, I always wondered what seems at the heart of both Michael’s and David’s questions and thoughtful writing: Does my work matter? Am I merely being self-indulgent? Am I just a middle-class “poverty-geek” (David’s term)?
The question of the worth of our work never goes away completely. I can only respond, blogging matters to me. When web logs/blogs first started popping up like mosquitoes on a steamy day, I thought they were narcissistic outpourings of interest only to voyeurs or those with too much time on their hands. I would never blog and would certainly never put something so personal onto a public space.
Now I have four blogs. Several things happened between my initial skepticism and my current blogging. The first was that I began reading a handful of blogs. Some were so compelling I returned every time I new post appeared. The second was that I began blogging myself, as a means of sharing an eight-month journey with friends back home. I liked the ease of connecting with all of them at the same time. I also liked not clogging every email account with my photographs and writing. Friends could read it or ignore it without feeling guilty.
The third thing that happened was that a planned book project on which I had spent considerable time fell through. Blogging turned what felt like an enormous loss into an open door. Returning by ship from Australia, I attended a workshop on digital publishing with Madisen Harper. She asked us what our real intentions were—to write a best seller (2% chance of success) or to share a message that was important to us (100% chance of success). If it was the latter, we could publish tomorrow.
The stars aligned. A few months after returning home, I met Tom Masters. I was still clinging to The Book, and he had just published Blog to Book and Beyond. I was inspired by what he wrote and by a book I happened across, Life Is a Verb: 37 Days to Wake Up, Be Mindful, and Live Intentionally. The design of Patti Digh’s book was exactly what I had in mind for the one I had been planning. I picked it up because of the design and then found myself saying, “Yes!” to every page I read. When I came to the end, I discovered the book had started as a blog. More stars lined up.
After dozens of posts, I have enough material for more than one book or ebook or app… But I have even more material for non-stop writing until I breathe my last. I do believe our writing can make a difference to others, but for me that difference rests on writing from a place that is deep and personal and honest.
I don’t always do that, but when I do I know that what I have written matters, even if it matters only to me. In Owning It All, William Kittredge writes “about storytelling as the art of constructing road maps, ways home to that ultimate shelter which is the coherent self.” The sentence captures part of what I am trying to do with my blogs, to construct a road map of my life – more spiral than linear.
My other intent in blogging is to share my own hard-earned sense of hope about life and about our world, something Ursula LeGuin described in Dancing At the Edge Of the World: Thoughts on Words, Women, Places as the task “to live as a responsible being among other beings in this sacred world here and now, which is all we have, and all we need, to found our hope upon.”
For me, blogging is sacred space, and into that space I do my best to bring hope. So my answer to both Michael’s and David’s questions is a simple, “Yes.”
Cathryn Wellner, Kelowna, BC
Along Cathryn’s meandering career path have been stints as a French teacher, a school librarian, an itinerant storyteller, a university instructor, a community developer, a communications consultant, and a project manager. Then there were the years as a farmer, rancher, and arts organizer. She’s a citizen of two countries and has lived in five. The upside of all that change is stories. Now she’s settling down to write them: Catching Courage Cathryn Wellner Story Route This Gives Me Hope Follow her on Twitter: @StoryRouteTweet