Discover more from The Simple Heart
A self evaluation of this blog
Plus, questions for you on how I could do better
It’s been almost 2 weeks since I started this blog on Oct 19. (I technically hit publish on the first post on Oct. 18, but did not circulate it until the next day.) And as I mentioned in the second post, I’m trying to do something very different. I want to create an online space to help people connect offline. I want to steel-man positions that are different from mine, both to strengthen my own understanding and to seek out integrated solutions to some of the tough problems facing our planet. And above all, I want to create a space that cultivates kindness in a world where the angriest content rises to the top.
It’s early, and the practice of blogging daily is not necessarily conducive to these goals. But I made a promise to Lisa that I would blog every day. I’ve found through most of my history that you move forward on things, by jumping in headfirst. And while I am very far from achieving the goals set out above, I’m moving closer to it.
This post is an attempt to share what I think I’ve learned so far, and describe what the process of blogging every day has been like. Here are some of the things I’m doing wrong.
I’m not diving as deep as I’d like into things, partly because of the daily commitment. The time commitment I’m making is about 1-2 hours a day, usually closer to 1. There’s only so much I can review and analyze, in that short an amount of time. And so there are a number of claims I’ve made that, in the best case scenario, I would spend more time on. For example, I concluded after <15 minutes of review that the allegations by the Facebook whistleblower – that her company was covering up research showing harm to young girls – were exaggerated. But while the evidence she provided was weak or even misleading, it left open the question of what good evidence is actually out there.
I’m not doing much to actually build offline. I had one in person meeting, with a local writing circle, about one of the blog posts. I’ve had a handful of in person conversations. But the goal was for the conversations online to spur offline connection. That hasn’t really happened.
I’m not engaging sufficiently well with comments. This one is going to be a hard one for me. I know it’s important. And there have been a number of thoughtful replies. But especially when those comments are on social media, I have a knee jerk reaction to just ignore. I just don’t like engaging much on social media. It feels there’s something about the norms on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter that make them unproductive platforms for even limited dialogue. But they are also: (a) the best way to expand the reach of the blog; and (b) spaces where there are, as I said, many thoughtful commenters. I need to find a way to balance my desire to engage with those commenters while also disengaging from social media.
Some other things to note, that are not mistakes, necessarily, but just general comments or observations.
I’m not sending an email out for every blog post. The criteria for which get emailed is somewhat arbitrary, but roughly is some mix of novelty plus quality. The two blog posts I put the most effort in, the launch blog about lessons from Lisa, and the long blog about the end of the Smithfield criminal case in North Carolina. But I don’t know how many of the other blog posts should be circulated by email. I’d be interested in your feedback on that. But until there’s a policy, if you want to follow this entire every-day-blogging journey, come visit the site! I’m going to try to get every blog up by 10 am or so PT. (That might be difficult as trials approach. Stay tuned for more on that.)
I’m not pushing out every blog on social media. This is partly because lower quality posts might hurt the Facebook algorithm on my page. But honestly, who gives a f___? Maybe I should just post every blog everywhere. My concerns about the social media optimization algorithm are part of the reason I started this project (and some other projects that you’ll hear about soon). So maybe I should just start posting everything everywhere, algorithms be damned.
Finally, while the content and even basic copy editing has varied considerably on this blog, I can see the writing muscle is being trained. Many of you know that my abilities as a speaker increased immensely when I forced myself to go out on the streets, and have in-person conversations and get on the megaphone every day for nearly 3 years. Especially when I started, people literally thought I was a crazy person. I would be standing alone, in the cold, on a freezing cold street. I held a sign that said “All animals are equal” (or something similar) and that had images of victims of various types of violence that offended a large percentage of the people walking by. I was berated by many people for this offensive speech, and even with those I did not offend, I was shockingly ineffective.
But doing it over and over again, despite my failure, was what trained my speaking muscle. And while I still feel I have much to learn, about speaking, I think my self-assessment is not wrong when I say I am one of the better speakers, now, in the animal rights movement.
The same is happening again with my writing. And I knew it would. I’ve remembered things like parallelism — the words I repeated to Lisa throughout her life (“Everybody loves you. Lisa. Especially your dad'.”) — that I had mostly forgotten. I’ve felt the emotional power of good narrative, to move not just the reader but the writer. And it impresses on me the importance of good storytelling to good activism. And perhaps most powerfully, I’m refining my rhythm as a writer. I blogged a long time ago about how music makes the heart (and perhaps a movement) sing. Good writing and storytelling should do the same. Everything with heart has a heartbeat.
I’m starting to feel that beat. I’m not there yet. But I can feel the echos of the beat, as I write more every day. And I’m hopeful that the beat will carry me (and others) forward in new and powerful ways. Thanks to each and every one of you in joining in that.