Friday, January 14, 2011

On the Occasion of the 411th

Looking for New Material, 2010

Who knew?

I started this blog a little over a year and a half ago. I had several ideas in mind for it, some of which I’ve since discarded. At first, it was a challenge, to see if I could do something every weekday. Then it became a challenge to see if I could make it to one hundred posts. That seemed ambitious at the time, but had something to do with one of the original goals.

Now I notice that I’m writing the 411th post to What I Saw. I don’t know exactly what I had in mind at the start. But I sure never would have envisioned that I’d make it to four hundred and eleven.

I write a lot for work. But it never occurred to me that I might have the quarter of a million or so words of rambling prose and fiction I’ve offered up here thus far.

I was listening the other day to an interview with composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim in which he described the joy of creation. The joy he had in mind, though, was not the result—the song or tune, in his case—but rather in the time during which he was creating them. As an example, Sondheim described sitting down one night after dinner to see if he could create a board game for a friend.

“I started about 9:00 p.m. with a pencil and paper and the next thing I knew the sun was coming up outside. Certainly I must have stopped sometime during those hours to get a snack or go to the bathroom. But I didn’t remember anything of it.”

Most days that’s how it is with me and this blog. The therapeutic aspect of it—and that’s how I look at it, the part that seems to be the payoff for me—occurs during the generative phase, the part that challenges me to do something that is hopefully interesting enough to be worth sharing.

The part that comes after that is the gravy. That’s where you come in.

I’d probably keep doing this even if there were no audience. It’s gotten to be a habit that's good for me. But there’s no denying that I enjoy your company when you take a moment to stop by. I’m always grateful for your comments.

The current (1/17/11) issue of The New Yorker magazine includes a fascinating piece by David Brooks about how “the new sciences of human nature can help make sense of a life.” As a researcher, I’m always trying to learn more about why we do what we do and how we become who we are.

There are a lot of interesting ideas to think about in Brooks’ essay. But one of the thoughts that particularly resonated with me was this, mentioned in the context of a discussion of what makes people happy:

“Research over the past thirty years makes it clear that what the inner mind really wants is connection.”

I didn’t think I was doing this blog for the connections. But like a lot of people, what I don’t know about myself is probably a lot more than what I do.

Thanks for coming along for the ride.


  1. Chris - I totally understand what you're saying about continuing doing your blog even if no one were visiting it. My two blogs are basically for my enjoyment and somewhere to let my creative side out.
    Since I started doing my photo blog
    I definitely look at the world in a different way... I stop and look at the small things instead of just the big picture and it's amazing how much beauty and inspiration there is out there.
    My Vineyard blog is for my love and obsession with this fantastic and magical Island.
    I'm glad I found your inspiring and beautiful blog.

  2. Well put. I've heard, too, that musicians would play even if there was no audience for miles around. The joy is in the creation, and any resulting connections are a bonus.

  3. I've been blogging for nearly 2 years and that's surprising given I never had any intention to blog in the first place. This all started when my forced early retirement for medical reasons led me to look for a hobby to take up my new found spare time and keep from going out of what's left of my mind. I've always had a passing interest in amateur photography so I did a web search on the subject, stumbled across Windows Live Spaces and the rest is history. The shutter bug and the blogging bug bit hard and I've been at it ever since! Like you, I think I'd continue without an audience but the gravy sure is nice, isn't it?

  4. It was in the movie "Shadowlands", where one of the characters said "We read to know we are not alone." That, exactly, describes why I read and why I enjoy your posts. Your posts always remind me of a story or a time of life or some thought I have or had.

    When I post picture to Flickr, I do it for me. I take the picture for me. For me to enjoy, for me to express myself or to tell some (silly) story. Yet, after I post something, I cannot help but check back frequently to see who's looking at it and who's commenting on it just to see if there are others like me. Just to know that I am not alone.

    I'm glad you write. I feel fortunate to know you and your work.

    Thank you. 411 times.

  5. Ditto to all of the above. It's become part of the daily rituals to check in on "What I Saw." Always interesting or fun or educational.

    Now, heading into this 3 day weekend, I'm home and off to toast your next 411. Cin-cin.

  6. Chris, you know I work as a psychotherapist, and for me, the best feeling in the world is connecting with people on a very deep and intimate level. Suffice it to say, I know the feeling ... Keep on keepin' on!

  7. Thank you for making your writing public. I love being along for the ride.