Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Monday, January 16, 2012

Genealogy Blogging for Fun and Profit

Well, I haven't really seen much of the profit part yet and you have to really stretch to call sitting at your computer all day and reading email, reader feeds and such, fun, but blogging is certainly interesting. I recall always wanting to write as I was growing up, but the physical mechanical skills were just beyond my ability. In short, handwriting was painful to me. I look back at the letters I wrote when I was much, much younger and they are pretty pitiful. There are a very few surviving letters that I typed on a manual typewriter and those are longer but since the typewriter was so slow, I really didn't say everything I had on my mind.

Now, that brings up another topic. I had really good ideas inside my head, but they always seemed so uninteresting and mundane when put down on paper. My idea of a short story, for example, was about one page of writing. The watershed event in my life was getting a really fast personal computer. Even when I started out with personal computers, for the first few years, the machines were way too slow for my typing and thought process. It was only when the machines caught up with me and then passed me that I really began to write. One of the other things that happened was that I began to write a Journal in 1975.

Writing a Journal is one of the best ways to start organizing your thinking processes and of learning how to say what you want to say. Like the old saying from Heber J. Grant, "That which we persist in doing becomes easy to do. Not that the nature of the thing has changed, but the power to do has increased." Of course, my progress was (and is) subjective. As with everything else, my Journal started out handwritten. But the quantity of the material I put in my Journal only started to grow when I finally changed over to writing on the computer.

Over the years, as an attorney, I had to write, albeit in a very limited and restricted way, all day long, almost every day. Initially, like with every thing else, I would hand write everything, very painfully. Then I got into dictation. That was both good and bad. When I dictate, I have a tendency to repeat myself and leave out whole ideas. Even with the limitations, I primarily dictated everything to my legal assistant for years and years. What I wrote would sometimes go through three and four revisions. Slowly, as the computers got more powerful, I began to write more and more on the computer. Finally and for the last 10 years or so, I began typing everything myself. Don't worry my assistants got enough to do because the volume of my work increased exponentially. I partially attribute any success I finally had in the practice of law, to writing all of my own briefs and pleadings on the computer.

That brings us to the Internet. I got involved in blogging because of a suggestion from one of my daughters about three or so years ago. Without going into the long details, I started on a dare. Initially, I tried about seven different blog topics. But gravitated very quickly to almost exclusively genealogy and photography as the two things I am most passionate about. The gratification in writing a blog comes from finding out that someone else actually reads what you write. Quantity is not always quality, but you have to start with the quantity to get to the quality.

Through this genealogy blog, I got surprise invitations to be a blogger at some of the conferences, notably the Family History Expos and last year's RootsTech. I am not really comfortable with self-promotion, but having an audience helped to get me motivated to try some new things. I think everyone who writes can see the evolution of their writing style and content as their interests change and as they get feedback from readers. As a professional advocate, I can be very, very argumentative and direct. You might not believe this, but most of my blog writing is toned down considerably. When I was an associate attorney, one of the main law partners asked my to come with him to a meeting. On the way to the meeting he filled me in with the facts and then told me what he would like to accomplish. When we got to meeting there were about eight or ten people there and it was a negotiation about a potential lawsuit, trying to avoid litigation. I sat there and argued and made points and talked for about two hours. Finally, everyone stood up and left the meeting. Our client was at the meeting and as we were walking out, my firm's law partner, who had brought me to the meeting commented to the client, "I hope you don't mind me bringing James to the meeting, I knew that if I brought him he would keep coming up with arguments until we quit the meeting, and that's what we needed."

So, this week I will be back at the Conferences blogging away. Stay tuned for the Yuma Family History Expo and the Arizona Family History Expo. Also, looking forward to RootsTech.

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