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Thursday, June 16, 2005

Blog Lessons

The children get out of school for the summer tomorrow morning, and camp doesn’t start for three and a half weeks. In the meantime, my mother is still in the hospital (but doing better), and my husband wants to go away for at least some of his vacation next week, assuming my mom is stable. I still hope to post here about once per week, but I’m not sure when I’ll get the chance. So it seems like a good time to take my friend Phil’s suggestion and tell people how to subscribe to this blog (or any blog you follow), so that anyone interested can be notified when I post something new without having to check back incessantly. Here’s Phil’s advice:
Here's a link to the blog subscription tool I use: http://www.bloglines.com/
You set up a (free) account using your e-mail address and a password, and then you can subscribe to any blog that offers an RSS, XML or Atom feed. (I think you just right-click on the feed icon on the site, copy the link, and paste it into Bloglines' subscription form. But you can experiment.)

Phil has offered me lots of technical and moral support for this enterprise (and was my very first subscriber), for which I’m grateful.

I can tell from my “ID counter” that there are people visiting this blog, but I’m not quite sure who you are or if you’ll ever return, which raises the question again of why I’m doing this, especially if not many are commenting. I think I need to keep asking this question, to make sure this is where I should be putting my energy. The original motivation (publicizing my book) is irrelevant or at least premature right now since I still haven’t heard from the publishers who are reading it. So the question is whether I’m being drawn to write here by ego or by something else. I admit that there is an ego hook, seeing my words posted without the usual query letters and wait. But there is also something exciting that I’m finding on other blogs, at least the good ones. Here are a few observations about the blog world I’ve been exploring:

1. Quakers are talking to each other across our theological and geographic divisions, which I find very heartening.
2. Christians are debating pacificism and economic policy, as well as other issues, also across theological and geographic divisions.
3. An astounding number of mothers are dealing with the isolation and mind-numbing repetition of motherhood by recording the activities of their children in great detail.
4. From the bits I’ve read so far, the mothers seem to be more supportive of each other’s struggles than many of the Christians.

Perhaps I’ve just landed on some contentious sites, but the religious ones often seem to be about winning arguments. I can’t help noticing that the theological debates seem to be dominated by men, though it’s sometimes hard to tell because of the use of pseudonyms. I have to say Quakers do seems to be an exception here, both in gender balance and in the use of real names. We’re such a small community, we probably all know each other, or will some day, which might help to keep the discussions civil.

Generally, I sense the potential for real learning and good in this forum when people use it to clarify their own ideas and explore their own motivations. At the same time, there is the potential for real harm from people who anonymously use their words as weapons, who engage in debate to win an argument, rather than to learn something.

I’ve been reminded lately of the importance of becoming aware of my own motivations. Recently I’ve observed people acting in ways that seem unconscious, which reminds me that we all can be unconscious of our true motives. I need to keep thinking about how to make this blog a place where I learn about myself, and where others might learn something, rather than just a new way to feed my ego. One Quaker site I visited (that I can’t seem to find now) had a list of “queries before you post.” (Quakers often use questions to help us reflect on what we’re doing.) This is an interesting idea, one I should perhaps adopt myself.

8 Comments:

Anonymous Phil said...

My name up in lights! Very exciting to be quoted in your blog. I would only add one thing to what I said (and that you quoted): many mail readers, like Outlook, can handle subscriptions to an RSS or Atom feed, so you don't have to use a blog aggregator like Bloglines.

2:45 PM  
Blogger Kathy said...

Just stumbled upon your blog in my research for Quakerism(is that a word?) as I am searching for my right spiritual fit.

I've enjoyed your thoughts, and your book sounds promising. I'll be waiting for it's release...

Thanks for sharing a little bit of you and your family.

8:20 PM  
Anonymous Andrew Jones said...

i've been occasionally checking for updates since it's a good way to keep up with you, tom, megan, and luke.

also, i enjoy your writing style.

-andrew

8:31 PM  
Anonymous Lela Betts said...

Eileen,
My mom sent me the info about your blog. I like reading it. Thanks for writing it. I'm not ready to get any more email, but I just put your web address in my bookmarks bar, so I'll visit frequently. hope we can talk sometime. I'll hold you and your mom in the Light
Lela

10:20 PM  
Blogger Eileen Flanagan said...

Thanks, all of you!
Eileen

7:03 AM  
Blogger Rebecca said...

I found you through Andi Buchanan's mothershock blog (I suspect you'll get a lot of traffic from her plug), and I've enjoyed reading your early entries. You're a wonderful writer, and I'll be back!

I've often questioned my own motivations for blogging, and in the end, I've decided that even if a little bit of ego drives the action, the many benefits I derive from blogging far outweigh any ambivalance I feel about the initial motivation. I hope you'll come to a similar conclusion!

2:28 PM  
Blogger Eileen Flanagan said...

Thanks for posting, Rebecca. I'm curious what you have gotten out of blogging. When I've mentioned to a few of my friends that I've started a blog, they look at me like I've started drinking whiskey for breakfast.

6:08 AM  
Blogger Rebecca said...

I actually wrote about this recently: http://ministones.blogspot.com/2005/05/thanks-for-memories.html

I'm at a different place than you are -- still contemplating entry into the world of writing after leaving a PR career 3 1/2 years ago to raise a family. Blogging gives me an opportunity to hone my voice and a place to test the waters. I know that the discipline of writing daily is good for me, and I get an instant audience and feedback, which keeps me going!

At the same time, writing gives me the opportunity to really reflect on things as I record them. I've processed a lot of things while writing about them, and I often reach surpising and useful conclusions in the process of framing an entry. I also have a wonderful record of this stage in my life now, which is no small thing.

I've gotten similar responses from people who don't "get" blogging. But there has to be a reason that so many people are doing it!

6:59 PM  

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