Thursday, December 12, 2013

Why I Blog
By Michael
ENSENADA, MEXICO


One of the benefits of the girls getting
older is that they are able to help out more. Here
is Frances yesterday, on her way up the mast to
pass a line through a block.
In 2010, before we left and when I started writing this blog in earnest, my friend, Jana, asked me, “Why share your life so publically, with perfect strangers?”

The question stuck with me because for a long time I couldn’t come up with an answer that rang true. At the time I told her it was a bid to make money, that the blog would help sustain us in the adventure-filled, income-absent life we were getting ourselves into. I planned to write diligently and we’d develop a readership and then I’d sell advertising and we’d be on easy street.

We did develop a readership— thousands of you from all over the world—and I realized then I had no interest in monetizing our site. I don’t like the aesthetic of ads, I don’t want to ask for donations, and I don’t want to hawk or endorse stuff for compensation--any more than my good friend with her Midwestern sensibilities would want to broadcast her life on the internet.

And so her question lingered. This blog thing is hard work after all. And all the time I spend working on this is time I could spend with the family I’m writing about. But I write on. Why?

Underlying Jana’s question is the assumption that people who blog about their lives are an extension of our culture that progressively over-shares. How different am I than the desperate, celebrity-obsessed, look-at-me folks who clamor for the spotlight, the folks willing to drink a glass of pureed maggots on a TV reality show for the sake of being on a TV reality show?

I’d say very different.

I almost settled with the answer that I’m a writer damn it, and writers write. I’ve never thought of myself as a storyteller, but I do have a human need to share and I thoroughly enjoy the work of organizing my thoughts and the time to do so that writing affords. But that answer addresses only the question of why I write, not why I blog about our life. After all, I could do a whole lot of writing (and I do) without a blog.

In 2010 I was blown away by the enormity of what we were preparing to do and I had a keen desire to share it with other people. Every aspect of it was interesting to me and writing about it was fun. But I don’t want to write in a vacuum. The reading side of the equation is the necessary carrot at the end of the stick. Writers need readers.

And it’s a good thing the readers came because the excitement dimmed. Today, the novelty of what we are doing, how we are living, has worn off. I still love it all, but it feels normal. Now the readership is one of the reasons I write this blog. We regularly get emails from people who are inspired by what I’ve written or who simply appreciate reading it. That kind of feedback is very motivating. I’m pleased as punch when I see that more people are reading this month than were the previous month. I didn’t hesitate when Cruising World offered to repost our blog on their site.

I wondered about others’ motivations and I queried a half-dozen cruising bloggers, putting Jana’s question to them. I received great, thoughtful responses, all of them echoing my own thoughts on the reasons and benefits of blogging:
  • We all started our blog as a way to keep family and friends we were leaving behind up-to-date. Now we write for strangers as well.
  • We all love writing and see our blog as a playground for writing, a place to get the writing exercise necessary to improve writing skills. 
  • We all write to preserve the memories. Like us, others look back on their own posts from a year or two ago and it’s like revisiting a faraway place and time. The transient nature of this life changes us all. We meet a lot of people and see and experience a lot, ever-changing. The blog is an attempt to capture that for ourselves.
  • We write for community. Seldom is chance the reason we run into other families doing this same thing. It is because of blogging that we’ve met (in person or virtually) other families afloat. Our lives have been enriched by friendships we’ve made only because of this blog.
  • It’s gratifying to write a post and then receive positive feedback from a perfect stranger. Another cruising writer said it best: “Impacting people and hearing back from them when I've made a connection gives me a sense of belonging and relevance.”
This age of information we're living in has some serious drawbacks, but I think these aspects are dwarfed by our new abilities to know each other more easily, to learn from each other and to gain perspective. Cruising blogs are as common as boat cards, thousands of vagabond sailors are out here sharing their experiences with strangers. Before we left, I was a reader. The stories and information people shared inspired and informed me. Now here I am, sharing our life so publically, with perfect strangers.
 
--MR

We're all happy to be back in Mexico. Frances said that it
feels to her like we are home.

Even without a blog, we meet travelers from all over. We
spent a week in San Diego anchored next to the Dutch
crew of Marida. They've been out for 13 years and are
headed home now. They just crossed from Japan to Alaska
and are on their way to the Canal to cross the Atlantic.

This is Waterhoen in Alaska, our friend and his crew aboard. He is
also Dutch and headed south to Mexico next year where we hope to
rendezvous. Already these Alaska scenes we woke to every morning
for months now seem foreign and distant. 
  

The girls spend hours making odd videos of themselves. 

6 comments:

  1. Your blog is an inspiration to those of us that don't [yet] have the gonads to embrace the cruising life. keep writing!

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  2. Well said (written), Michael. I write and sail because each helps me to grow, learn and discover myself. Though I may fancy myself a Tom Neale-type hermit and an introvert, there's no denying that we humans are social creatures. For some, verbal conversation and chatter answers the call. For others, writing and reading are our preferred means of socialization.

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  3. Before we began cruising we ate up anything - and I mean anything - that had to do with cruising. How were other people doing it? What was the scariest thing of all? How much experience did people have? What are things I haven't thought of that will bite us in the butt down the road? I began our blog as a chore - a dutiful chore. My early entries are quite boring and I go back and grimace and shake my head. "Who cares?? Why did I write that??? Zzzz!!!!" But I have come to enjoy it - I find it fun and now I do it because I like to do it. And our daughter, who doesn't want to write a blog - has taken up writing fiction... and she is quite good!!

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  4. I love your writing, Michael...it is perceptive and revealing...it is not just a recount of happenings. I like your voice. Keep on keeping on.

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  5. I love reading your blog, and adventures your family take. I second the statement above: "Keep on keeping on."

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  6. A heartfelt 'thank you" for writing this and for blogging in the first place. You have illustrated perfectly why I write and precisely how I feel about commercializing (not my cup of tea) and the reasons why I write. Having entered this really weird state of flux and needing to back off the blogging a bit, you have reassured me that writing is a worthy exercise in and of itself. Thanks again!

    ReplyDelete

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