Finding a Voice Down Under: A Short History of My Blogging Career (Study Abroad #3)
This is the third post in a 5-part series about my study abroad experience in college. I went to Sydney, Australia for a semester in 2009. I also wrote about why I decided to go abroad, solitude and reflection in learning, staying present in modern phone culture, and the learning edge.
Fun fact: The first blog post I ever wrote was about the term invocational media. The post was a reaction to an article claiming that "digital computing" is no longer a useful term, and ought to be replaced with something better. I wrote the blog post twelve years ago, in Australia.
I was taking a class called Web Production at the University of Sydney during my college semester abroad. The class focused on the design, functionality, and structure of websites. It also touched, briefly, on the history of the internet and ethical issues raised by technology. Most importantly (for this story anyway), everyone in the class had to write weekly blog posts. So I wrote blog posts.
Why I enjoyed blogging
At the time, blogging was a new form of writing for me. That in itself made it interesting. I could learn from something new.
I'd written journals. I'd written papers for my college classes. I'd written detailed documentation for projects, and also silly instruction booklets for made-up kits with names like "The Official Purple Things Kit," "The Official Invented Holidays Kit", and "The Official 33 Things to Do With a Potato Kit" (my sisters and I spent a good decade making Official Kits for each other for birthdays and Christmases). I'd dabbled in fiction and poetry (including several years of NaNoWriMo, in high school and early college).
Blogging was different. It was a non-fiction mix of personal stories, reports, opinions; it was often a shorter form, relatively informal, with a different audience than most of my earlier writing. All of this meant it was good practice for learning how to craft better strings of words. Writing well requires practice, reflection, and revision.
I liked the practice. I liked the idea of learning how to be comfortable enough with what I had to say that I would let a public audience read it. So, as a result of taking that class, I built the first version of my personal website and started a blog.
I tried to write regularly—and even succeeded for a while. The attempt to write on a schedule meant I had to keep finding new ideas and opinions to share. The practice bred some amount of comfort with the act of sharing opinions.
Being more comfortable writing, and sharing my writing, reflected my other growth during that semester in Australia. Being on my own in an unfamiliar place led me to learn about solitude and reflection. I learned about keeping myself happy and motivated. When I returned to Vassar later that year, my undergrad advisor commented that I seemed more confident and outgoing than before.
My blogging mostly fell by the wayside in grad school. There was too much else going on. Fortunately, I picked it back up partway through, thanks to being a recipient of the MIT Media Lab Learning Innovation Fellowship. All the fellows were encouraged to write blog posts about their work. I enjoyed writing my first one, so I wrote more. Then, looking for more ways to improve my writing, I attended a blog workshop and began writing for the MIT Graduate Student Blog as well.
The rest, as they say, is history. (More on why we started blogging here, at the Owl, in my first post.)
What I like about blogging now
As we approach our one year blog anniversary, I've been thinking about what I enjoy about blogging and what I've learned from the experience.
One key reason I blog is because I'm going to be writing anyway. Having a dedicated place to put that writin—with a weekly deadline to help motivate me to sufficiently polish my writtent thoughts and publish them—is useful. It helps make writing feel like a practice; it shows that I take writing seriously; it helps me practice writing.
In conversation with my dad recently, he said he likes blogging because of the window it gives you into your past self and your past experiences. When he sailed the Transpac race when I was a kid, he sent daily updates by email to everyone who wanted to hear the blow by blow account of him and his crew crossing the ocean. It was a blog by another name, before blogging was a thing. He said that reading any of those posts now can transport him back to those moments, what he was thinking, how he was feeling. It was a great way to remember; and I'd probably really appreciate looking back at the blog later.
True, true! My blogging is for me as much as it is for any audience. As I wrote last week, part of the cycle of learning is review and reflection. Writing is often part of the process of learning.
And so I write.