The question du jour on the Quiltart list is why do you blog? I dashed off a response to the list but continue to think about it, and here's my new and improved answer. I started my blog in January as a way to execute my daily art project for 2010 -- taking a photo every day. Didn't think I would do much else besides post the photos, but I was wrong.
I spent my career as a writer and editor in both journalism and corporate communication. When I retired in 2000, people often asked me whether I was now going to do some creative writing. I said heck no, writing is what I do for money, not for creativity. I never had any urge to write "the great American novel" or any other type of fiction, and I didn't know enough about any actual subject to write non-fiction.
My favorite kind of writing was explanatory, which came in handy in 30 years of writing about the inner workings of the tax code or the finer points of pharmacy benefit management. But in retirement I didn't encounter much that needed explaining, nor did I have an audience who needed explanations. I did write some magazine articles and a couple of books on quilting, although the books languish because I haven't gotten around to getting them published. (The scourge of working for yourself: to be a success, you have to spend an hour marketing for every hour you spend actually doing what you like to do.)
A decade later, however, things have changed. First, the internet has in fact provided a potential audience. Second, I've now spent enough time as a quiltmaker and artist to have things to say that apparently are interesting and valuable to that audience. So once the blog was there, it turned out that I had a lot of ideas that wanted to be let out to play in public. Blogging is way more fun than I ever dreamed it would be.
After almost a year, here's what it has done for me:
-- My photography has gotten much better, thanks to the discipline of carrying my camera with me everywhere and always being on the lookout for good pictures.
-- I'm doing more research into art, because when I want to write about, say, the Expressionists, I want to make sure I don't say something really stupid in front of the whole cyberworld. Google, of course, is even a worse time-waster than the dictionary or the one-volume encyclopedia, because it's so easy to skip from one subject you're looking up to another, and some of those tangents are deadends, but you do find gold much of the time. I'm also looking back at my actual hard-copy books.
-- My museum visits are much more focused, because I'm always thinking about what I'm looking at and what I'm going to write about it when I get home; I think about the relationships of the different artworks to one another, which I like best and why, what might be interesting to point out to others. Having those thoughts while you're still on premises is much better than having them next week at home, because you can go back and look again, rather than wishing you'd noticed the brushwork or read the little writing in the corner of the painting that's illegible on the Google image. The same is true for reading; you know you always pay closer attention when you have to write the book report later.
-- I'm reading other people's blogs more carefully, because I'm more aware of how much work and thought goes into a good blog (and how easy it is to do a slipshod one). Some bloggers write regularly and frequently, and I greatly respect their commitment as well as enjoy their content. Others write infrequently but I eagerly wait for them.
-- I've been able to talk about my own work, how I make it and what it means to me -- kind of an extended artist statement. I know it can be tedious to hear people ramble on about their work, so I try hard to edit myself and stick to what's important. Having no adorable cats or kids at home makes it easier to keep my remarks focused on the art.
-- I've been able to share a lot of knowledge with other people, which I find extremely gratifying, and in many ways a lot easier than shlepping all your stuff to teach at a workshop. I do love to give explanations, and it's a whole different universe when you get to explain things you understand all by yourself, rather than explaining things that other people understand. I mean it's much more fun explaining how to piece a curved line than how to amortize actuarial losses in your pension plan.
-- I've made friends through blogging, leaving comments on their sites and reading their comments on mine; the dialog often brings out the best in both of us. This is probably the best part of it, and in the end, why I blog. Thank you all for reading, and for your comments, and I hope we will stay friends for a long time in the future.