Serenity

I sometimes find myself looking for serenity as if it were a moment of grace detached from the here and now. I suspect it happens to most of us. Serenity becomes a way of getting away from problems and finding a little bubble of comfort. A holiday thing.

The problem with this is that holidays end and you find yourself looking for the next holiday. It’s an escapist mindset.

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Who do we blog for?

Why do we write?

At first glance, it seems obvious: we write because we have something to communicate, something that we consider worth sharing.

But that only invites a second question: worth sharing with whom? With anybody out there? With people that know us? Friends? One single person? Ourselves?

I have more than enough followers to have a sense of community and to feel listened to. I don’t have nearly enough followers to feel like I have a real impact online.

And that’s just fine.

Wild flowers at sunset.
Evening among wildflowers (Germany, August 2021)

I am grateful for the audience I have. I am grateful for the people who take the time to read my posts and look at my photos. Time is a precious commodity. I genuinely enjoy the feedback I get and I always reply. I visit regularly a number of blogs and I like discovering new ones.

Would I want a larger following? There’s a part of me who would say yes. Then again, I see blogs with thousands of followers but very little engagement on posts. What is the point of having a large audience whose members never feel like interacting with your content? Do sheer numbers provide some sense of achievement?

There are so many things in my life that I would have done differently, that I used to regret, that I would have liked to undo. There were so many things that I wanted and expected.

I still regret, want, and expect things. But I’ve learned to pay more attention to what is there now. You know, the little things that happen right under your nose, so close that you can easily overlook them.

I also pay more attention to the things I want just because I don’t have them, and the things I want because they provide something of value.

I am fine with the way things are with my blog. It’s not indifference, passivity, or lack of desire to change and develop. It’s just an acknowledgement of the fact that I already receive a lot. And that things happen the way they happen for a reason. Whatever happens with the things I create, it says something that I can learn from.

Another thing that helps me maintain some serenity is that I pay attention to the content, form, and intention of what I publish. Even if I’m not that pleased with the result, I have confidence in the point I am trying to make, and I know it’s made in honesty.

I don’t care about “content creation”, I care about creativity that leads you to express yourself and expose yourself. I want to see the personal stake and involvement of the author. I don’t think there’s anything wrong in creating for money, influence, popularity or anything else, as long as it stays honest and does not try to pass as something else. There’s already way too much pretend expertise, authority and morality out there.

That being said, I’m not a zen monk. I wish I could say that, once I publish something, I send it out in the world and let it live. It’s not that simple. I sometimes second-guess myself. I happen to worry about likes and reactions. But I’ve come some way towards realizing that it’s just a little psycho drama in my head. It’s not a big deal.

I worry and I regret a bit less not because I don’t care, but because I am more accepting of what there is.

So, coming back to the question: for whom do we publish? Well, in my case it looks like this:

For those who like the language of photography and the confluence of photography and writing.

For those who struggled with trauma, depression, anxiety, and who have searched for a way to reconnect with themselves and with life.

For those who allow themselves to be touched by many things, from a stream hidden deep in the forest to small gestures of kindness.

For my younger self.

I’d love to know who do you think about when publishing on your blog.

Do our blogs represent us?

How much of what I write here represents me? How much of it does it really say something about who I am?

Watching the sunset from the dunes (Dunkirk, July 2021)

I imagine that you, the one reading these words right now, are also posting more or less regularly on your blog. I assume that your posts are meant to convey something meaningful to you. Something that you think is worth sharing. If that is so, then you are probably confronted with the same questions.

In fact, as we all know from our own experience, we end up reading, following, or liking other posts for reasons that may have little to do with the author’s original intent. It may be a subject we’re temporarily or accidentally interested in. We may stumble upon a formulation or a photo that touches us for reasons largely independent of the blog post’s intended message. We may feel particularly generous with our likes and comments because we have a good day. Or maybe because it’s our self-assigned networking time with other bloggers.

In the wild grass of the sand dunes (Dunkirk, July 2021)

We like to think that the external validation of our writing or photography is a validation of what’s inside us, of the things that make sense to us. However, if we are to judge based on how we read other blogs, we need to recognize that often it has more to do with the reader than the author. It has to do with the reader’s bubble of immediate interests, perceptions, and emotions.

We can only do so much to express what we think is worth expressing. We can work on our style. We can make sure what we share is clear, coherent, and to the point. But we cannot control how others perceive what we share precisely because we all react from within our own self-narrative.

The point is not that we’re all subjective, and there is no possible point of connection between our worlds. There is communication, but it is always partial and mediated by our context and by our mental scripts and defaults. With our posts, we are not engaging a dispassionate and detached audience, but persons with interests, doubts, triggers, biases, and emotions, just like ourselves.

For me, this has two important consequences:

(1) There’s no point in not being authentic. This is the part that we can control, this is what we can work on. For me, any form of strategic positioning based on others’ preferences or likes is not only a failure of authenticity but, in the long run, is counter-productive (because you cannot sustain something that you are not personally invested in).

(2) There’s no point in taking ourselves too seriously. At the end of the day, our cherished words, photos, or any other forms of expression are just a brief pop-up on the screen of the world. This is not a competition and we don’t need to prove anything.