Monday, August 9, 2010

Why Do I Blog?

Hunter S. Thompson said, "So we shall let the reader answer this question for himself: who is the happier man, he who has braved the storm of life and lived or he who has stayed securely on shore and merely existed?"

I am Peggy Tibbetts.

I live, therefore I write. I write, therefore I blog.

My arrival here marks my 4th blog – if you count MySpace blog – and nobody does anymore – and none of the content I post there is original – so technically this is my 3rd blog. You can have your MySpace, Facebook and Twitter, I still think blogging is the best way to gain readers.

I wanted a blog long before I started my first blog, From the Styx in February 2006. I believe a blog should have a theme. So I had to figure out what I wanted to say. I had just left my job at Writing, where I was managing editor of the newsletter and wrote a monthly column, Advice from a Caterpillar. After 5 years, I was in the mood to stretch my wings.

My husband was a trustee on the Silt Town Board. We were both involved in local issues. After ten years in our small rural Colorado town, we were frustrated at the lack of public awareness or interest in local issues. At the same time we knew it was because people didn’t have access to information.

Hunter S. Thompson had died the previous year. Along with being a nationally known writer, Hunter S was quite popular – some might say notorious – locally (I live 50 miles from Aspen where he lived). He didn’t blog but he often wrote op-eds in the local newspaper. Everyone wanted to read what Hunter S had to say about anything. When I looked back on the Battle of Aspen and his colorful life in politics (he even ran for Sheriff in 1970), I saw how it influenced his career, made him a better writer, as well as a loved – and loathed – local celebrity. I realized that I could use subjective humor to develop my own style of gonzo journalism as it relates to small town life in Silt. That’s how From the Styx was hatched.

By the end of my first year, I had a major issue on my hands. Saving the dog park. I wrote an ordinance that designated a park we had already been using to walk our dogs as an off-leash dog park. I led a group of local citizens through the petition process to its final passage. I documented it all on my blog.

Since then I have covered a mayoral recall, chided the energy companies for polluting our air and water, helped local residents tell their stories, and scooped the local paper more than a few times. Two years ago I received recognition as a Sunshine Activist from WikiFOIA. I have also been running the Crazy Bitch series about my dog’s struggle with mental illness, our efforts to help her live a normal life, and the harassment we endure from neighbors because of it. Most important of all, I have gained hundreds of readers.

I even had to hire a lawyer to keep the Town Attorney from shutting down my blog because he didn’t like what I wrote. My blog is the dlisted of Silt. The blog nobody admits they read but everybody does. I’ve made friends, frenemies, and enemies. But who cares? As long as they read my blog. Aside from those nasty legal fees, braving the storm of small town life has never been so much fun.

A local newspaper reporter once asked, “Aren’t you afraid you’ll get sued?”

“No. I write about public officials in their capacity as public officials,” I said. “I don’t write about their personal lives.”

“But you often mock them,” he said. “You could get sued for that.”

It’s true. A couple people have threatened to sue me. But I know my rights. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) publishes a Legal Guide for Bloggers, which spells out bloggers’ rights.

So anyway, my point is, blog about something you care about. Tell a story. Dare to voice your opinion. Offend someone. Controversy grabs people’s attention. Use humor and satire to engage your readers and keep them coming back. Above all, have fun with it.

I’ll be back on August 30. Next time I’ll tell you how I coaxed Advice from a Caterpillar out of its cocoon.

Peggy Tibbetts

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  1. Interesting post, Peggy. Nothing like stirring up a bit of controversy, huh? When that happens, everybody knows your name. :)

  2. Very interesting post. I can't wait for your Aug. 30th post.

  3. Interesting blog post.

  4. Thanks for the comments. Yes, controversy gets people's attention. However it is also risky so it's a good idea to know your rights.