Blogging Has Taught You Very Little Useful
August 28, 2013
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Wil Hutton at Aggregate Cognizance has an interesting post up: Gaming Has Taught You Very Little Useful. It reminds me of all those arguments about video games back in the eighties when grown men would point out with a perfectly straight face that playing Galaga improved their hand-eye coordination. This is patently absurd, of course… but it’s also perfectly natural to defend yourself when you’re under fire for spending a lot of time on something that’s otherwise useless. Naturally, a sweeping generalization like the one in Wil’s post begs for a counterexample, but I have to say… it is largely correct.
I do remember, though, way back in high school… English class was a nightmare. I’d get these writing assignments and… I just simply. could. not. do them! It was pure agony. I was completely embarrassed about it. My mom and my teachers all assumed I was just a typical “generation X” slacker. Granted, I never asked for help. The whole thing was a domain of raw humiliation and I had no idea what to do about it. So I disengaged… and coasted along through high school on the path of least resistance. My inability to write a simple essay would end up making my college years similarly lackluster. My choice of major was severely constrained by this, though I didn’t really grasp that at the time.
I got on with life, though… and at some point I started blogging about games. The impetus at the time was that the Car Wars forum at Steve Jackson Games’ website was private and I didn’t have anywhere else to engage on the subject matter. At some point, though… I sat down and fired off a quick post on some random topic. This would have been maybe my 300th post. I don’t even remember what it was exactly, but going back over it before hitting the “publish” button, it dawned on me that I had written a pitch perfect five paragraph essay.
It was all there… the introduction, the conclusion, the supporting details. I was even answering the obvious objections. It had all just sort of fallen out of my head and into textual form. Whatever it was that had been blocking me back in my school days… it was gone. I wasn’t a superstar by any stretch… but just the fact that I had achieved a basic level of competency in writing… it was exhilarating. Blogging on an otherwise useless topic had allowed me to gain for myself a skill that everyone involved in my upbringing and education had been unable to impart to me.
Not one dollar had exchanged hands– and if I had accomplished anything it was to merely help an audience of about twenty or thirty people to perhaps gain a modicum of enjoyment from a relatively obscure pastime. I was wasting time… and helping other people to waste it right along with me. And face it, the market is willing to pay next to nothing even for a good five paragraph essay on a worthy topic. But something had changed in me. Overcoming that basic incompetency on my own made me feel like a rock star. Sure, it wasn’t particularly useful skill. But I could sense doors beginning to open up all around me… and I suddenly had the courage to try to go through them. I don’t know how else I could have gotten to that point without spending a lot of time on an otherwise useless activity. It’s a small thing, but it’s still one of my most treasured accomplishments. And I’ll write five paragraph essays now whenever I feel like it!