I’ve been staring at a blank screen for about 15 minutes now, watching the cursor blink.
To me, this is blogging.
The bones of it.
Oh, there are other aspects. There’s the ideas in the shower and the constant alerts on the phone. There’s the endless list of titles that are too good to keep, and too difficult to actually write about. There’s media files with a thousand images. There’s the blog buddies, the readers– the people of blogging are the meat of it, and without them, it’s just bones….
A skeleton of thoughts that could have once danced. A blank page that would have been brilliant. A blinking cursor that precedes a story that should have been told.
Would’ve, could’ve, should’ve, and if done right– blogging does. But, like most social media platforms, it continually needs to refuel itself on social influence. It fattens itself on the lifeforce of people.
Our bones are different, but our meat is basically the same.
I’ve been staring at that cursor longer than normal today, because I recently asked you all to ask me anything. I expected questions about prison, and questions about marriage or widowhood. I expected oddball questions about my lifetime career in the center of the art-technology-business venn diagram. I expected a few riddles and absurdities, and one or two about my family. I received all of that through the form, the comments, and emails– thank you, participation is the blood of such projects.
What I didn’t expect were all the questions about connecting to other people. How to do it right. What to say. When to say it. How to find, forge, and foster friendships. How to build a community online. How to take it offline.
How to belong.
I guess I didn’t expect it because… I feel so very connected to you. If you’re a regular reader here, and you’re connected to me through your blog, or Instagram, or Twitter, or Facebook– then I know you. You didn’t dig up my email to send the question for the AMA, you have it. You probably have the old one, too– the one I had before prison, before losing my husband, before, before, before…
And that’s when I realized why you asked. I belong here. I’m very much connected to my community. I’ve taken online friends and made them offline friends, and I’ve had mostly good experiences with people everywhere I go.
But here’s the thing… I don’t know why, or how. I don’t know what magical word I said, or what simple thing I did, that inspired 900+ letters from my online community through my 438 days of incarceration. I don’t know how I’ve kept an online bestfriend for 16 years. I don’t know why strangers show up to my birthday party, or how they become friends. I don’t even know why I end up friendly with most of your spouses and children.
I just don’t know.
But this is blogging, and responding to you, is part of the shape of me. It’s part of my bones. It’s why I watch the cursor blink before typing willynilly. It was humbling when I was speaking to an audience of 100. A recent social media site calculated my audience influence, based on everything ever, and it spewed out the number 37,000. When you speak, the shining template robot said, 37,000 people listen. It’s an expensive little robot, owned by a company that needed to assess my number before considering my work.
I stared at that number for fifteen minutes, thinking– this is what people think blogging is. A number’s game.
Meanwhile, I was wondering how you can round off an audience. Who is number 36,998? Does he have a cat? Is she named after her grandmother? Would they like some sweet tea? Did the shiny robot take into consideration the idea that 36,000 or so of those people are just the same 5 who are loyal everywhere?
All of that is irrelevant. It only goes to explain the pause before the write, the calm before the furious flurry of clacking keys.
There’s a blank page after my blinking cursor, but it isn’t blank. It’s filled with you. Your sound. Your substance. Your feedback.
To me, that is blogging.
Because blogging is a social platform and social platforms are about community, and no community outside of apocalypse scenarios has ever just been about the headcount.
That said, our bones are different. The villages we need to sustain us are different. People are different. The important thing is to be able to find the people you can connect to, connect to them, and then keep them in your life.
When you wake up in the morning, what do you want to look forward to? Who needs to be involved for that to happen? When you’re upset, what items catch your eye? Who made those items? When you are feeling lost, how do you bring yourself back to yourself?
Who are the people behind your whats and whys and hows?
Find them. Don’t wait for them to find you.
Blogging is a wonderful platform to do so, but the internet is filled with communities waiting to be born.
It’s worth the labor and the stretch marks, because how you spend your days is how you spend your life. And it’s good to know that you stretched, and you created, and you packed your life with so many connections and threads that you nearly-literally wove your own safety net.
It’s a safety net worth weaving. Mine is beautiful. It caught me when I fell, so very far, so very hard, so very publicly.
But you know that. You’re built into it. You’re the meat and moment of this place. The substance and the life-force. The reason I don’t break, can’t break, won’t break.
And I want you to have that feeling, too. So, even though I really don’t think I’m qualified to write on this topic, I’m going to write on this topic. I sat down and wrote thousands of words about “how to people”.
Please consider this the longest disclaimer you’ve ever read. I don’t know what I’m doing. I have no idea where most of these beliefs or ideas sourced. I have no secret magic tips, but I’m going to churn out advice for you…
Just in case something I do is the reason I’ve had a life blessed with an abundance of good people. Just in case my methodologies of dealing with an online community are why mine is safe and joyous. Just in case it helps. Just because you are loved.
Just because you asked.
I love you,
P.s. I’ll post my guidance in pieces, all through December. You’ll find it all linked up under “How to People” in the top toolbar sometime tomorrow.
Also, congrats to the Tiny Peppers. Over 2000 posts in 30 days. I think we pretty much won the internet. And thank you, thank you, thank you– to the cheer peppers who saw us through it all. We love you all.
Do you have trouble peopling? Do you have anything that people ask you for advice on– stuff that you don’t actually know anything about?