It’s how you tell the story
I ran across one of my old running journals a few days ago, in a shoebox, deep in my closet. It was fun to re-read after all these years, and recapture the ups and downs of training for the 2002 marathon season.
But after just 10 minutes of flipping through the pages, I was amazed how different it was from my blog.
The two are completely different breeds of cat.
While blogging is fun and helps connect me to other runners, the old style of notebook writing had its advantages, too. Here are a few that occurred to me.
1) An audience of one.
Back in the old days, I was writing for one person, myself. Therefore, I could scribble down any old weird thing that entered my head, and not care what anyone else would think — because no one else would ever see it.
My daily entries included the oddest stuff: what I ate for dinner, a new car I was considering buying, headlines in the news that day, an old friend I bumped into, Christmas shopping I was doing, wrestling with my kids on the living-room floor, and a thousand other things.
Of course, I also wrote about running — lots and lots about running. But add it up all up, and the running stuff probably accounted for only half of the material in my old journals.
That’s a lot different from my blogging. On this blog, I feel I have to keep things much more focused. Most readers don’t want to read about my Christmas shopping or what movie I watched.
So I’m not writing for an audience of one anymore. On an average day, I get 20 or 30 hits, ranging from a friend around the corner to a stranger in California. (One day, I got 99 hits. Some days, I get a handful.)
My old running journals are fun for me to read. They provide a more rounded view of my life. But no one else would care about that stuff.
2) Nice versus newsy
Back in the old days, if a running partner got on my nerves, or complained a lot, or didn’t show up for a run, I would vent in my journal. Oh man, did I vent. That was part of my running experience. And what was the harm? No one else would ever see it.
Here is how I described a friend who wasn’t training as hard as I was: “(Joe Blow) never got his ass out of first gear. He trudged along, well under 10 minutes a mile. To make it even worse, for the entire five miles, he kept his mouth in high gear, going on and on about his vacation, everything he did and saw and ate and thought. It got to be very old by mile two. But he was my ride home. I couldn’t tell him to put a sock in it.”
Yep, those were the days when I could write exactly what I thought.
These days, however, I have to be extremely careful. You never know who is reading, and word can get back to the wrong person in a flash. And there goes a friendship.
Therefore, I am always on guard in my blog. Sometimes, it can make for duller reading. I guess it really doesn’t have to be that way. I’ve read plenty of poison-pen blogs. But I just don’t want to join that crowd.
3) Developing a voice
Back in the old days, I didn’t give a moment’s thought to how to write an entry. I just spewed out facts and opinions on paper as fast as I could write.
These days, I take more time to think through a entry. I write and revise, write and revise. (In fact, I’m revising right now.) It has to be a little smoother, a little more polished.
Sometimes it takes me a week or two to write a race report, instead of an hour. There’s more pressure to make it a good read.
I also feel the need to have more of a persona, a voice. What I came up with was Trail Boy — a guy who loves running off-road, but has trouble finding enough trails and trail runners in his adopted town. He is excited when he finds new trails, new trail runners, new trail races. His favorite target is the clueless road runner.
So is it genuine, or is it an act? Well, most often, these posts are a 100 percent honest reflection of my feelings. But every now and then, they are a good-natured exaggeration. I hope I give enough clues so you feel in on the joke.
That’s the nature of blogging. You have to be a little more passionate, a little more entertaining, if you want people to read. No one cares that you did hill repeats today. You have to give them a story. Every post has to have a beginning, a middle and an end.
4) But it never really ends.
A newspaper columnist once wrote that writing a column was like being married to a nymphomanic. As soon as he was done writing one column, he had to start another.
So it is with blogging. You can’t skip too many days, or people will stop visiting your site. You have to post nearly every day, sometimes more than once a day.
You also have to provide a good story line: a major goal that you are trying to achieve, maybe. And you need to end some postings with a cliff-hanger to keep readers coming back.
I thought of this today as I tried to visit the blog of a friend of mine. He hasn’t updated his blog in more than a month. But I keep hoping he will. But he had the last laugh. I found out today that he has deleted his blog. He just got tired of writing every day for a tiny audience.
But I’m a writer. It’s my life. Most days, I write about things that an editor assigns to me. Only a few of those assignments really get my blood hot. Most of them are just work.
This little blog is my oasis. No one can tell me what to write, when to write, or how to write it. It’s all up to me. It’s my passion.
And I hope it never ends.
But I sure miss the old running journals.
THE BOTTOM LINE: A running journal is wonderful fun. A blog is too, but it’s more work. However, it’s worthwhile. It keeps me trying new things.
I know that if I get bored writing my blog, it means I haven’t done anything interesting lately. I know I need to stretch farther, look for a new race, set a new goal, work harder to find new friends.
A running blog is only as interesting as the running that goes into it.
May I keep running. And blogging.