I took a week off from writing, for several very good reasons, and now I’m back.
Of course you didn’t.
One of the reasons I took a brief sabbatical was my reaction to this post by Chris Brogan on what it felt like to not have a blog for eight days.
In it, he talks about how losing this communications tool made him feel blind, deaf, and mute. He then wonders how this extends to companies who don’t blog — they lack this incredibly effective sounding board/community builder/line of communication, but they don’t know what they’re missing:
Should all companies blog? Not sure. But boy, I sure felt wrapped in gauze by NOT having some kind of sounding board back and forth.
That’s an interesting question, for exploring another time. You can be all bound up in the most pleasant, softest gauze, and not know how trammeled you are. Blah blah blah gilded cage blah. Anyway:
So I wanted to know how it felt to not blog for a week. I’ve been blogging since 2003, and I’ve always either been consistently blogging on my own site, or as a weekly columnist on other sites, so this would be the longest non-blogging spell in five years for me.
How did it feel?
When I was in middle school, I hated school. I was good at it, but I had few friends, I was terribly awkward, and my peer group was, shall we say, less than supportive of me in my struggles to navigate my early teen years.
In middle school, I sometimes skipped school altogether and spent the day in Provincetown. The outsider culture there, especially in the off-season, suited me fine.
I’d buy some Portuguese sweet bread at the Portuguese bakery on Commercial Street, some fudge at the fudge shop near Town Hall (these were the only two stores open during the winter in the mid-eighties), and sit on the wharf and enjoy the solitude.
Things changed dramatically for me in high school. I lost weight, and a lot of my awkwardness. I found friends. I not only did well academically, I thrived socially. I had, in short, a blast.
Suddenly, I hated missing school, because I felt like I was missing out on the unfolding drama of high school life. I felt like a missed day would mean I had missed out on all sorts of things that were happening, and I didn’t want to hear about them second-hand, I wanted to be there. I wanted to contribute.
That’s what it felt like to not blog for a week. Like I was missing out on the unfolding drama.
The worst of it is, life goes on without you.
So last night, as I reflected on my week of self-imposed silence, I wondered what it was that I was doing to actually contribute to this unfolding story. How, exactly, am I adding value? How can I add more?
Here’s what I decided:
One of the greatest strengths of this whole new media/social media world is that we each have a voice. It’s so open and democratic, and so easy to self-publish in so many different ways.
I often advise people to learn the culture of blogging and social networks before jumping in, but it’s also incredibly important to bring your own self, and not to mold yourself into what you think your online persona should be.
But it can be easy to assimilate too much, and to take on too much of the accent and mannerisms of those who came before and found success here.
What I want to do is be authentic first, last, and always. Because that’s how I (and you) can add value.
I’m a very quirky individual, with a meandering and non-linear path that brings me to this moment, at this keyboard.
Rather than try to hide those quirks, to fit into my projection of an idealized version of myself (which is, I believe, one definition of the word avatar), I’m going to embrace them more, expose them more, and explore them more.
It’s really defeating the purpose of this democratic, wide open space out here if I’m trying to be someone I’m not. Why bother? That’s so totally not why we’re here.
I’m not saying that I have been. Just that I’d better not, and that I’m sure I can do better.
I’m guessing that you’re quirky, too.
Nice to meet you.