What’s Blogging Worth?


Question: what kind of bear is best?

No, that’s not it–been watching too much of The Office. Here’s the question:

When wife comes home from work and asks “what did you get done today?” does writing two blog posts count as getting anything done? Do I feel better about it if I tell her I generated two “multimedia journal entries”? BLOG sounds so juvenile and trivial.

So does the validity of the answer to my question (not the one about the bears) depend on some external standard for grammar, literary content or photographic merit? Or does it come from the value of the time spent and the feel and sense of the post just to ME? Is blogging a worthy way to spend time if it’s only good for the blogger?

To answer my own question, there are days (over the past six years of it) when blogging pretty much amounts to doing nothing. And there are days when my post or posts contribute in some gratifying and sustaining way towards what passes–if your standards are low enough–as a “body of work”. Parochial folk writing, ruminative rambles, trivial or esoteric vignettes though they may be–the daily fragments say something about who I am (or one day, who I was), what’s curious, perplexing or significant to me as that focus morphs over time. Blogging as personal archive and legacy?

I try generally to NOT post on a given day (increasingly common) if what I would say has absolutely NO value for some of my imagined and known readers. Sometimes I fall short of that caveat and blog because it’s there. The cup of coffee, the empty screen and welcoming keyboard, the illusion that there’s somebody out there–how can I keep from blogging? (Apologies to Mr. Seeger who recently co-opted one of my favorite old hymns (midi warning) for a radio series and book. But that’s another blog post.)

Sometimes in my undisciplined early morning junk drawer exposure to the blogosphere I even post photographs that have absolutely nothing to do with the text. So fire me. Don’t like insects? Get over it. Sometimes a photographer just has to love the one he’s with, and this season, folks, its weeds and bugs.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. I blog because I have too…
    Last week my Typepad site blew up for a few days and I could not blog … felt terrible

    I think I do it for me and it’s nice that a few people drop by.

    Why do artists sketch?

    Why do gardeners garden?

    Is life all about functional activity anyway?

    Please don’t go away Fred …because some people also like to have a window into your life

  2. Morning, Rob!

    Window into my life? I’d like to think so in the vacuum of personal interaction my rather reclusive existance has become.

    For a couple of years, the book and related engagements made me feel, well, engaged–in ways I don’t today. The blog also gave that sense of connectedness in its first few years, but now not so much, because I have changed and the realm of blogs and blog readers have changed. I’ve not worked very hard to swim with the current, and sometimes I regret this.

    Blogging for me is necessary journaling. Sometimes it seems pathetic that the weblog represents such a major part of my self-expression, for want of very much adult contact or conversation in person.

    Other times, I’m very thankful for it–as a dynamic and current personal business card and memoirist window into a life.

    Is the blog a step on a path toward some place worth going, or only the act of taking each day the next step without the destination in sight or mind?

  3. I’ve had very similar thoughts, but I try not to let myself think them. My blogging is an extension of my journaling of a past life. I’ve kept hand-written journals for nearly 30 years, and blogging seems a natural adjunct to that. Do I write for myself or for those few readers that happen by? I certainly wasn’t writing in those journals for other people to see. I try not to think about that. I know I have a compulsion of sorts to write. That’s about all I want to know.

  4. I love reading your blog and Colleen’s blog every chance I get. You two have created a vision of Floyd that sounds like a wonderful place to live and express yourself creatively. Please don’t stop.
    Besides, anyone who admired Dr. George Folkerts is OK in my book!
    Nancy from Alexander City, AL

  5. I have the same mixed feelings you do, Fred. When the feeling of ‘what am I doing and what’s the point?’ comes up, I just take a break that day and wait until I come up with something I feel good about having on the front page. I keep telling myself that the source is eternal and that I’m not running myself dry. We are pretty deep into it to cut the cord now, I think. It does become harder when readership drops in the summer, since we are taught that everything must keep growing like the profits and the economy.

    I like Rob’s point of view: Why do artists sketch?

    Nice to meet you, Nancy.

  6. Why does something that one enjoys always have to have a “purpose?” It’s that Puritanical notion that our country was built on: everything has to be “improving the time” or it’s sinful, wasteful, slothful, or all three.

    None of the highest, best things in life have, or can have, a price tag attached. Love for love’s sake, art for art’s sake, and if I may mongrelize things a bit, blogging for blogging’s sake. You do not need to have a purpose for writing, or any reward other than the satisfaction of writing. You do not need to have a reason for including one of your photos; that it is a representation of the beauty in your world is enough.

    I enjoy your blogs daily, whether they are highly structured essays or simple ramblings. Each is a privileged window into your world, and valuable to you and to me for being so.

  7. Gosh, Fred…if I blogged only on those days when I felt like I had something “worthwhile” to say or share, I’d hardly ever post anything. How can you know if something is has “value” to people until you’ve shared it with them? One man’s blog banality is another man’s treasure. I say blog it all & let the readers sort wheat from chaff.

  8. I wish I had thought of that phrase: window into your world. That is what your blog has been to me these last few years. I have treasured having it, so that lets me know how much I treasure the Appalachia I left 40 years ago this month. Thank you for blogging!
    Furthermore, your book directly resulted from your blog, and it enriched your life and many others. I predict the blog will greatly support your next creative doings, too.

  9. I enjoy reading your blog almost daily and hope you continue. I don’t comment often, but find your perceptions of the natural world and rural life to be entertaining and inspiring.

  10. Fred, it must have some purpose, because I check it every day I’m in the office, and have been for quite a while. So it means something to me, something different from day to day, but something worth refreshing.


  11. I linked to this post in your”you might also like” section, and thought you might enjoy reading your post and the comments again. In 2008, you couldn’t have foreseen how Facebook would change everything!

  12. Thanks Kathy, and given this additional nudge to do so, i think I might include a longish piece in the Almanac abut writing, blogging and other forms of creative community–or the need to attempt to make them serve this function. And I always liked that bumblebee and milkweed image. We had not so much milkweed here this year, as another friend also noticed. Don’t know why.