Why Blog?

I used to hate writing. I dreaded it. The thought of it made my heart pound; it was a struggle. That made college tough because you’re expected to write quite a bit in an academic setting.

I’ve always admired people that could write fiction. The creativity that goes into imagining a story followed by the attention to detail required to build characters that are believable. You must have an incredible understanding of people in order to do that. I don’t!

I’ve usually been more drawn to non-fiction. I like to read incredible stories that are real. They say “truth is stranger than fiction” and I believe it. Kerouac proved it in Dharma Bums (I think that was non-fiction). Anyone who could live through all that craziness is stranger than anything I could imagine. That book had me looking at the option of dropping out of college and “hitting the road”: pure inspiration in all the wrong ways. Well written mountaineering literature is like that too. Eiger Dreams by Jon Krakauer fits the category. So does Everest: The West Ridge by Thomas Hornbein. How could fiction compare to words from the heart like these?

Evenings were peaceful, smoke settling in the quiet air to soften the dusk, lights twinkling on the ridge we would camp on tomorrow, clouds dimming the outline of our pass for the day after. Growing excitement lured my thoughts again and again to the West Ridge.

There was loneliness, too as the sun set, but only rarely now did doubts return. Then I felt sinkingly as if my whole life lay behind me. Once on the mountain I knew (or trusted) that this would give way to total absorption with the task at hand. But at times I wondered if I had not come a long way only to find that what I really sought was something I had left behind.

I remember being 16 and reading that for the first time in the library at Centrailia Community College. Hornbein and Unsoeld were about to accomplish one of the most pivotal feats in mountaineering history. They were about to set the bar for all high altitude mountaineering to come. People have done bigger and harder things since. But with the exception of Messner’s solo of the north ridge of everest without oxygen, you would be hard pressed to find a climb in the annals of mountaineering history as ground breaking as the first ascent of the west ridge. And yet, Tom was haunted by the idea that he had gone all the way to Nepal “only to find that what (he) really sought was something (he) had left behind”. 12 years later I still remember that and I read it over and over. I guess I read it just to see if he was right.

What does all of this have to do with blogging? I’m getting there….

It’s amazing how much of an engineers job is writing. Writing proposals, writing emails, writing memos, extra service proposals…. I have been lucky enough to be forced to write. I’ve learned that writing is a problem that requires a problem solver just like an engineering project. First there is the problem of organizing your thoughts into the ones that matter and the ones that are extra. Second is the problem of figuring out how to convey those thoughts clearly. Third is the choice of words to pass the subtlety of the meaning. Fourth is the pruning and revising process, the elimination of the excess and the reordering to obtain the goal of conveyance. I still dread writing and will often put it off as long as possible but I’ve learned to enjoy its nuance.

I’ve also learned that some people come by the process more naturally than others but good writing is a byproduct of hard work and practice, nothing else. I can do it, if I practice enough and try. I will improve!

Also, I have realized that it is good to document the trivial things in life because in the end they aren’t trivial. They make up who we are, they are the substance of our existence.

It’s hard work to journal, and a journal is a little too private to be of much value to anyone but the journalist. That brings me to the blog. The blog is a place where it is easy to document and archive my thoughts. The format is informal enough that I don’t have to worry about if I’ve chosen the perfect word or kept the right tense or punctuated correctly but it still gives me a venue to practice the craft of writing. Also, a blog is private in that there probably won’t be enough there of interest to draw anybody in. On the other hand it’s public enough that anyone can see it allowing me to share anything I want to the world.

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