Winning by Losing the Blog Lottery
All month I’ve felt like a non-participant in the November Blog-a-thingey, as I missed posting at least once within the first week. But after that first failure, I’ve felt moderately in control for the remainder of the month. My record doesn’t look anywhere as good as Melissa’s or Maryland Math Madness, but the important metric is that I wrote way more than I did in October.
There was a strong narrative in the early days of blogging that suggested that if you approached the Internet with clear prose and an honest heart that you’d be able to blog your way to a better life. You can see versions of this in the Dooce / Wil Wheaton / Chris Hardwick story, and it’s still vibrant within the EdBlog community. Just start writing, just start Tweeting, just form a PLN, and The New Wonderful will invade your teaching life. Put your practice online and you’ll be rewarded with a new community, new friends, a new school or new job.
This narrative is magical thinking to the core, and I should reject it outright. “Clearly,” says rational brain, “those stories say far more about the talent of those individuals, not some universal power of blogging. Suggesting otherwise is nothing but hucksterism and snake-oil.”
That’s when the black dog, carrying our self-doubt and insecurity, arrives. “It’s not like you’re talented. If you started writing, it’d just be a big signpost of how inadequate you are, strobing in neon every day that your life fails to change. What do you have that’s worth sharing? Who wants to read a math teacher’s writing?”
One of the reasons I hold onto that narrative of transformation, and even propagate it in my own small way, is that I know the destructive power of those internal voices. I know the isolation of a being the last car out of the faculty parking lot. I know the bleak view from age 25, imagining a 35 year career dancing through the same soul crushing machinery. If the blog-salvation narrative is a fantasy, it’s necessary one.
But even without the intervention of the EdBlog VALIS, even with page-views measured in single digits, writing changes people. It’s not guaranteed to change you into Dan Meyer, but it will change you into a different and better version of yourself; the version that writes and keeps writing. Every post is a stab at the black dog Every post transforms the stuff you think into what you say, and that’s immeasurably closer to being what you teach and live.
Did Dan Meyer win the blog lottery? Did Wheaton or Dooce? Maybe so, but as it turns out, the math on this lottery is encouraging. Instead of a regressive tax, it doles out small but steady payments to everyone who plays, including a clearer head and more cogent arguments. It does eat time, but it returns a trickle of new relationships centered around those ideas you cared about enough to blog about.
So hooray for November! See you all tomorrow.