I've been running this blog now for about two and a half years. I started it because I had something to say on the specific topic of gun control, and on the more general topic of individual rights. I've been posting on the web, in one form or another, since about 1995 - usenet, bulletin boards, blog comments, and finally my own blog - but I've read far more than I've ever written, both online and in dead-tree format. My wife says that the computer is my mistress, as I spend more time with it than with her. She has a point. And when I'm not in front of the screen I've usually got my face stuck in a book. It's a wonder she puts up with me.
But I don't do this because it's an enjoyable pastime (though sometimes it's very enjoyable). It's a lot of work, and much of it isn't all that pleasant. I started writing on the web because I was driven to. I could sense that something wasn't right, and I felt that I had to do whatever I could to determine what that something was, and try to correct it. I'm more interested in fact than in feeling. I'm more pragmatic than idealistic, though I hold my few ideals dear. I'm bright, but not brilliant. I'm not an original thinker, but I'm good at collecting, sifting, and collating information. I'm not inspirational, but I'm a good, technical writer. I understand my skill set and my limitations, which is apparently more than many college professors and most journalists manage, but I sometimes wonder if I shouldn't have chosen one of those professions rather than engineering. (My job cuts drastically into my reading and writing time, you see.) But then, I'm not PC enough for either job, really, and the money's better in engineering.
Anyway, I'm writing this exposition because all this reading and thinking has been leading somewhere, and the following essay, I hope, will help explain it to both you, the reader, and me.
The way I write essays varies. Sometimes I'll have a specific point to make, and I'll collect the links and quotes as I write. Is the Government Responsible for Your Protection? is a good example, or Why Ballistic Fingerprinting Doesn't (and Won't) Work. Those pieces are time consuming, but otherwise pretty easy. Sometimes I do a stream-of-consciousness piece, and am surprised by just where I end up. On Guillotines and Gibbets was one of those. I had the title in my head, but just sat down and hammered the piece out. (I'm quite pleased with it, too.) This piece is one. Usually, though, I collect snippets over a considerable period of time; a link to an op-ed or a news story, commentary on it by bloggers or their readers, pieces from books I'm reading or have already read. I'll Google the topic and research it in more depth. I'll re-read some of my older stuff that may be tangentially associated with it, and I'll read the comments to those pieces again, following the links to other pieces at other blogs. Then I collect it all in one place and try to make a coherent whole out of it.
The longer I do this, the more information I have to sift through. It's like building a jigsaw puzzle, but collecting the pieces in little lots. Here's a batch that assembles to make a picture, but it's only a small part of the whole, and there are leftovers. Here's another batch that makes another part of the picture, and you know they're associated, but the intervening pieces are missing.
I said in Fight Evil. Speak Up. that I write because:
I'm one of those who chooses to be concerned. I'm one of the tiny, but not silent voices in this culture who is willing to stand up and say "I don't agree," and why. I recognize the clash between our sense of life and our culture, and I'm willing to try to help expose it and reconcile it in those who are putting us in such danger because of it, and I hope that in some small way my efforts will result in individual conscious convictions - and eventually a culture - that I am happy and proud to call American again.And that's true, it is one of the reasons I write. Another is to help me form and understand my own beliefs - to actually consider what it is I believe, and why. That's why I like discussing things with people who don't agree with me - it forces me to consider other perspectives that I might not otherwise. In fact, I started blogging for precisely this reason, with the debate with Jack at The Commentary that produced The Blog that Ate Poughkeepsie, and I've tried to continue it with my debate with Alex on gun control, my debate with Dr. Cline on the topic of rights, or my long commentary discussions with Sarah on the topic of religion.
I do this for me, to help me understand.
But sometimes I'm envious of the ignorant. That tree of knowledge parable is a bitch.