Ha! I have no theories whatsoever, let alone any grand ones. But there are some thoughts kind of bumping around in my head like so many superballs and I'd just as soon get them out.
Prompt 1) In response to my "gee I don't know what I want to be when I grow up" post a reader suggested that I think about what I would do for free. Which I have been thinking about plenty, trust me.
Prompt 2) A lawyer and reader emailed me and said he was flirting with the idea of starting a weblog but wasn't sure what it's professional impact would be (a potential danger? he wondered). He said he didn't want to blog anonymously, and asked for my thoughts. (Immediate question: why are you so certain that you don't want to blog anonymously? I agree, but I can't articulate why, and I wonder if you can?)
Prompt 3) At BloggerCon there were all kinds of people talking about blogs in ways that make me say, "hmm, that's not what I think," and others that make me think, "yes, this is what I think," and so I'm becoming more conscious about what I think about this medium and its meaning and use and purpose, at least for me.
Now, I can't really connect all this cogently so I'm just going to sort of blurt here and maybe a theme or a point will appear.
1) What would I do for free? I would blog for free. I do. In fact, I would pay to be able to blog. I do. I pay for Typepad, and so far I haven't for a moment begrudged a cent of it. (Now don't go raising your prices, guys.) What else would I do for free? I would go
around meeting people and making friends with them and asking them questions about the things they think are pretty neat. And learning their stories, and thinking about them, and talking or writing about what I learn from them. And I would throw parties and invent games and point out pretty things and bring people together and make them feel safe talking about what's important to them and sharing what delights them and being themselves. Sometimes I'll fix people up -- if not as couples then as inner circle friends, if I see the possibility for a connection. Sometimes I can tell that people who both like me will be able to communicate with one another in a way I can't communicate with either of them, and I can bring that about. I will always do that, as long as people let me, no matter what my business card says I am doing or my title is. Also for free I would sail, and teach people to sail. In fact, I pay a fair amount of money to sail and take other people sailing. Also for free I would walk around and look at pretty things. I would read a lot of books. If people would let me I would read their business plans and ask a lot of questions and figure out the really cool and interesting parts and help rewrite them. I would learn stuff -- it doesn't matter what -- and then demystify it for people who are intimidated but interested in it by writing about it. There are some other things I would do for free, too.
2) Should my reader blog? I don't know. Depends. I think that if you think you want to, you ought to. It means you have something to say. I know for me starting to blog settled (for a time anyway) a certain restlessness I had in my professional life. Maybe it's just my nature to be restless, or maybe it's where I am right now. But I need a kind of self-expression, and I need to think in a big-picture way about the culture and the profession and the world that I'm a part of, where I came from and where I'm going and who I'm alongside and why. As a junior associate, my daily work involves lots of writing but not lots of self-expression, and not lots of creativity, and not lots of conversation with professional colleagues about what it is we lawyers are doing, anyway, and what it means to be a lawyer, etc. And blogging suddenly gave voice to that part of me. A big voice, a voice heard all around the country and across the ocean. Heard sometimes more than I really was prepared to be heard. But so far, not one negative repercussion. Not one negative comment. I'm not sure I've been reaping professional benefits, in the conventional sense of money and prestige and clients and recognition. But those weren't benefits I was particularly seeking. I expect those benefits are out there and available if it's what you want.
3) At BloggerCon there were a lot of different kinds of bloggers. I have no idea, really, what kinds were there. I can't generalize. But some vocal ones seem to be political bloggers, and technical bloggers, and bloggers who seemed to want to build or establish "authority" and demonstrate how smart they are through blogging in some kind of tangible, measurable way. Some wanted to get paid for it, I think. Others maybe just want their stats to climb really high, to be on Shirky's A-list, to have more comments than anyone else. I dunno. When I showed up at BloggerCon I guess I had some fantasy idea that wouldn't it be nice to get paid to blog? But when I listened to all the people seriously looking to do that, I realized that's not what I want out of it at all. For me this blog is about making friends, and meeting people, and learning about them, and making a safe place where people can talk honestly about what's important to them, and demystifying, in my own little teeny way, the scary professional myth that we lawyers are stuffy and self-important and risk averse and abstruse all the time. All the stuff I would do for free in my life. Like, that's what I am for in the world, to the extent I have any sense of function or mission or purpose. It's what I do in person and it's what I want to do on this blog. I have made real actual friends on this blog, and I've become fascinated by other people whose blogs I read now who I hope to convert into real actual friends. And the truth is I look at my visitor stats but the biggest number I look at and the one that gives me a thrill is the comments when people write back, and the ones of those that give me the biggest thrill are the comments or the emails I get where people say, "yes, you made me think about something real and true that matters in my life and this is how it is for me." Wow. That's why I do this.
4) Inexplicably, I am getting teary right now writing this down. Like, somewhere in here is something important, fundamental, to me. Wish I knew a little better just how it all fits together.