Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Yeah but...Who are You?

Over more than six years of blogging I've often felt exposed and sometimes vulnerable as I try to say something of value that is positive or thoughtful in the full knowledge that there are so many better voices than mine to be heard on all the topics that I cover.

After all this time it matters less whether I post regularly because an increasing number of 'hits' are of archived posts on specific topics- and it is a source of amusement and pleasure to see what it is that people are still reading, and noticing from which continent the latest wave originates. So as I write this, there has been a fairly steady 5000 hits per month- although it can go as low as 2500 when I struggle to post something fresh.

If there is a trend that I find frustrating it is that fewer new voices are choosing to comment on the posts and I put this down to the tendency of net surfers to skip about until something of use or of interest pops up, without any real engagement or sustained investment in the message or the messenger. If I was a commercial type this wouldn't concern me, if the product was still moving and interest was maintained.

But I'm not that type and that isn't a valid representation of my motivation for writing. If I'm honest here, I really don't know why I do this beyond the fact that the blog becomes a sort of journal of the things that excite me. Or more particularly, the things that I feel able to share that excite me- there are a lot of personal, family and local and political/environmental things that I stay shtum about. It began because a small number of us spoke to each other online in our posts and these were almost incidentally shared to a wider audience because sharing information freely was a liberating and excitingly new thing to do.

I try (and it is a struggle sometimes) to keep away from politics and  events that divide us. I try to concentrate on the acquisition of a creative life of some sort, and I imagine the reader as someone looking for a project, or stuck in a rut who might be interested in another viewpoint on making this or reading that. I love the idea that ordinary people can make and create extraordinary things, and in doing so they become more wonderful as people. I like the idea that things can always be better if we are more thoughtful in our approach to them.

Almost every two or three months I make the decision that I'm talking to myself  here and should stop posting online. I know nothing about the reader  (who is metaphorically outside my house in the dark looking through my window at my private thoughts-) and that thought makes me feel like a shameful exhibitionist. How do I square that with the fact that I've always been a rather private person- one who would probably be happier doing things than talking to people?

Who ARE you? Does it matter who you are? It matters who I am. Well, it does to me anyway.

My Flickr photo sharing pages are much more straight-forward. They are sets of pics on how to build two particular boats and currently there have been 1.4 million hits on them, and I've tried to be helpful to dozens of builders who have emailed me. That is a simple transaction of sharing. Blogging though is a weird sort of contract where the reader gets to be interested or not without the writer having any clue about the relative usefulness of the postings beyond the fact that people seem to keep looking. But I guess that is true of my books too, thinking about it. I just get figures from the publishers every month telling me that some number of copies were sold, with no idea if they are enjoyed or valued or not. That never seems to worry me...

Oh, and that pic at the top of the page? That's my mum in the 1930's with her two brothers in a boat. I was born of one of them and named after the other two, and if in my sixties I'm still searching for something in myself, it is to find the bits of those boys that are in me since they lost their lives so young.


  1. This is a journey, for you especially, but for all of us readers, known and unknown, also. So often everything is said, examined, judged or re-imagined to suit another purpose, and it is very refreshing to read a blog with no particular agenda other than to celebrate the life you live and share with us. It is a good life, and reflecting on it no mean task. To do so honestly, without guile, for six years, is pretty special.

  2. Not to belittle your effort to communicate, Rob, but a lot of those hits come from nowhere and go nowhere. Google is insidious. I've watched friends and acquaintances sit down and "search" via Google images, which I am afraid supplies most of the hits to my blog.
    I go through periods where I just can't think of anything important enough to share with the world, but then meet someone who is excited about what I've done in the past. I get all revved up again. Mostly I write because I like to, but also for those few people, like yourself who are actually interested. As Julia says, it's part of our journey. We are a hive, whether we recognize it or not. The internet is a great tool for promoting that. It's also one of the greatest time sinks ever invented, since very little of value comes out of it. Among the the piles of sh*t, however are jewels we can treasure, friendships we would not experience otherwise.
    Often I regret not being able to actually meet my on-line friends in person, which would be my preference by far, but baring that, this is the next best thing.

  3. I'm going to cry BS on both you guys. Perhaps you're feeling old and oppressed by time at the moment. I, too, do this blogging thing, as both of you. And only know of the existence of both of you because of it. And my life has been made far richer as a result. I went out of my way to meet Doryman when I was on the west coast, and am so glad I did. I only hope we get to repeat the experience many times. Only this morning, as I was driving to work through the countryside, listening to a beautiful solo fiddle tune by an Irish lad, the very unusual fiddle made by a luthier in Norway. And it reminded me that I know more than one person who crafts beautiful instruments. Made me think, again, that if I ever get to the other side of the world that Robert would be so kind as to agree to meet somewhere. And I only hope the experience will be as good as others. I can now count many of my best friends as those I have met first through their writings I found sifting through the back alleys of the web where the gold lies, even among the minotaurs.

  4. Old and oppressed by time and world events maybe Barry.
    Alright I got the old heart stuck on the sleeve again- but look at the three lovely essays that came as a consequence! I feel in very good company. Barry and Michael if ever you are in Victoria, Australia...

    But just out of interest, who was that other guy that read this blog once?

  5. Me Rob! And I read it whenever you post and it makes me think, challenges my assumptions and makes me strive to try and be a more interesting person than I really am. It inspires me to try and periodically write something better than my normal drivel. Don't stop!

  6. Thanks Steve. I think maybe we all motivate each other in what we read and see of the other's experiences.

  7. Blogging is like standing on a soap box on a street corner. Most of the world won't know you are there, most who do pass your way will walk on by, of those who do stop and listen most will make no comment. There'll be the odd heckler and just maybe there'll be a snot nosed kid at the front who is interested, and what he learns might just change his life a little bit.
    Who am I? I'm the snot nosed kid who used to build things in his shed, the teenager who thought everything would be fine if we just gave peace a chance. The Granddad who want's a better world for the kids.
    The internet is a powerful communication tool for good and evil and its great to know that out there in all corners of the world there are good honest people with soft thoughtful voices, the internet lets them be heard. 5000 hits? That's double what I get.
    Keep posting we'll keep listening.

  8. I was that kid too Graham- all you need is love .....there's nothing you can do that can't be done. And now I'm that grandpa too. Thanks for your comment it adds significantly to this lovely body of feedback and expression of common purpose.
    So we are all "that other guy" for each other....

  9. Robert-

    I think we write for a variety of reasons, some for fame, some because it is fun, some because of an unknown need, but out it comes. I stop in at quite a few blogs of folks I respect and wish I could meet in person, including yours. I don't always comment unless I feel I can add something. Do keep writing. It's good inspiration for the rest of us, even if we're a little quiet sometimes.


  10. Great to hear from you Bruce. I often feel the same way- I have deleted so many comments that I have started on posts from many blogs because I have not felt able to contribute beyond what felt to me to be superficial. I'm no better at being a reader than the next guy.

    Is it significant though, that all the responses to this post (except Julia's) are from other bloggers? I guess you just get used to saying things out loud online, or you don't...but that doesn't mean that we wouldn't value hearing from the lurkers who like this stuff. Most of us love to answer questions!

  11. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  12. Hi, I'm Kent and I'm a boater too. Glad to know you. You are sharing important bits of life that are treasured to you, and will be treasured by others through the record of time. History for too long has told us only of the famous and the victor, but what interests many are those who are not. We find fame (or infamy) and victory in simpler things, like gliding up to a dock or having working trailer lights. And as you said, finding a balance between anxiety and confidence in our abilities.
    As I type there is a pen and a notepad next to the chair, for lists :) And there is an urge to go out sailing again and enjoy the moment, not the destination. Meander. It's a term you shared. And a new goal to strive for. Maybe a boat name as well.
    So please continue to testify and we will sit here nodding in agreement and chuckle, covered in sawdust and smelling of mineral spirits...and other spirits possibly...Glad to meet you Robert and crew, check in our crew and boat menagerie at smallboatrestoration.blogspot sometime.
    Best, "Clark"

  13. Hi Kent, thank you for stopping by and taking the trouble to comment so thoughtfully. I have looked up your blog and will spend some enjoyable time getting into it I'm sure. It means a great deal to me to think that a few of my little pieces have been worth the consideration that you have shown.
    Cheers, Rob

  14. You write beautifully and seductively Rob. In your hands any subject comes to life. Just do it for all the instinctively creative reasons within you. Be your own audience and others will follow. Felicity x.

  15. Felicity, I really appreciate your feed-back. Thank you very much for taking the time to express these things so very generously.

  16. Brendan, who should blog but doesn'tJanuary 11, 2018 at 6:36 AM

    Who am I? It's difficult to stay a silent lurker after facing that challenging question. I stumbled across your blog after my 8 year old accidentally snapped her violin - a terrible, sad thing, but also a lesson well learned and a chance for us parents to show some compassion and teach forgiveness. I quickly realised that you were retired, and therefore not what I was looking for, but I spent the next few hours reading some of your posts late into the night and quietly thinking. Perhaps that's really what I was looking for?

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and your work, even if you're not sure who is listening.

  17. Thanks Brendan. It's lovely to think that having stumbled by, it was worth your hanging around for a bit of a read! About the broken violin, I think your approach is absolutely lovely. Gentleness, learning, thoughtfulness and compassion aren't very trendy nowadays, but those are attitudes I value more than most. It's not hard to find angry adults that could have used more exposure to these when they were growing up.