Use the Force

One of the crazy things about NaBloPoMo is the way it balances choice and force. I chose the goal of blogging every single day in November, but then again, the follow-though involves a certain amount of force. Sometimes I don’t wanna. It’s only natural. So, here it is on day 16 and I find myself wondering how to write about why I must write, and how to write about why blogging is so important for my private writing process, even though it is ridiculously public.

Blogging has been the driving force behind most of my scholarly work to date, and not only as subject material. It has been the enabler for thought, a sifter and a shaper, my nagging conscience for what needs to be considered. This I understand. What is harder to fathom is what happens when blogging is assigned and does not go well. For students, blogging can turn into a revelation and a choice, but it can also stay a points tally and nothing more. An important part of my professional development as a professor rather than a graduate student was to realize that I chose to blog; I might have felt differently if it had been assigned.

On the other hand, is this so different from the seminar paper? It is assigned also, and for many students it remains a course requirement and another trek into the land of what does the teacher want. Perhaps what I am reflecting about here is more of a characteristic of assigned writing as a category. The seminar paper, blogging, or to some degree any assigned writing relies on students taking up the writing as if it were their own idea. What makes this even more crucial for blogging is that effective blogging has a personal base. It needs to do more than recite answers to a prompt or answer a question about a reading. If it doesn’t question, push, try, and at times, fail, then it truly has failed.

This is why even though I am intensely interested in all emerging social software (or Web 2.0, if you prefer), I always return to blogging. Nothing else does quite the same thing.

Posted by

Author of the poetry collection The Tethered Ground and Professor of English at Missouri State University. Contact me for readings or for workshops on writing/publishing and on teaching writing online.

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