Friday, January 17, 2020

"That's What People Want"

I was recently offered some unsolicited advice about blogging by a search engine optimization expert with whom I found myself spending an afternoon. She had spent some time with this blog, she said, and suggested that I try writing shorter sentences with more bulleted lists, but her big tip was that I should focus more on practical tips and ideas "because that's what people want." I understood that she was basing her opinions on the experience of having helped increased the readership of dozens, if not hundreds, of bloggers before me.

I don't know anything about blogging, but I do know a lot about this particular blog where I've been posting almost every day since 2009. I know about myself and I don't tend to read online things that feature a lot of short sentences and bulleted lists, although I confess to having been lured into clicking on my share of jazzy headlines (another of her suggestions) only to be disappointed. Or rather, I might "read" those things in the sense that I gloss over them for the gist, then move on, which gets "measured" as reading whether any reading happened or not. This sort of reading might serve mercantile purposes, but I've always viewed what I do here as an educational service, which is why I've never accepted advertising, nor do I attempt to ding readers in any way beyond offering them the opportunity to buy my book which is a collection of posts that are already offered right here for free.

If you go back and look at some of those posts from a decade ago, you'll see that I was trying to find my way not only as a blogger, but also as a teacher. Some of those posts did feature practical tips and ideas, although I don't believe I ever resorted to bulleted lists. I quickly realized, however, that the world was already full of tips and ideas and there were dozens of outstanding bloggers filling that niche. I know because I regularly visited their sites myself when stumped for inspiration. So I found myself instead, attempting to chronicle my journey, my thinking, my reflection about what it was that I, that we, spend our days doing.

Karntakuringu Jukurrpa

Instead of tips and ideas, I've come to understand that my role, at least for now, is to offer a perspective and by making my reflections public, I'm inviting others to have a look at things the way I look at them, then to engage in their own reflections from their own perspectives. I try to avoid instructing, although I confess to sometimes being preachy. I never want to create the impression that I'm telling anyone what to do or that I'm the authority or that it's my way or the highway. My hope as a blogger is nothing more or less than to spark some train of thought in those who read here. Nothing excites me more than readers who take a thread from one of my posts and expand upon it, making it their own. I enjoy hearing from readers who say that I jarred or surprised them in some way. Few things are more gratifying than when someone tells me that I've put their thoughts into words. And, while I'm as conflict averse as the next person, I do value those who disagree and take the time to push back where our perspectives differ.

I've long taken this same approach when it comes to children, but it's been a more difficult journey to reach this point as an educator of adults. With children, I've made a conscious effort to simply be who I am with them, to avoid the pitfalls of commanding, of telling, of instructing, to never assume that I'm the expert in the room, to listen, to accept, and to know that the time best spent is the time spent just farting around. I confess that I began blogging in part out of ego, but also as a creative and reflective release, which is, I think, the adult definition of farting around. The process has evolved over the years. Today, I awake each morning with the intent to share something that is true for me. I've come to understand that my hope is that I can, in some small way, spark truth in other people. That's at least how I've come to understand my role as a teacher: I don't care what people think nearly as much as that they are thinking.

I don't know if "that's what people want" or not, but it's the unique thing that each of us has to offer.

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