fishing for words

(and tossing out random thoughts)

really? asking for raw honesty from fishermen? a response

26 Comments

Dear fly fishing bloggers,*

I have a confession to make. I have been reading many of your blogs. You don’t know this, because I don’t comment much. My wife disagrees, but often I don’t feel my words will add much to the conversation. I lurk, looking for writing that will take me away from the everyday, writing that will inspire, now and again enjoying others’ stories about water I hope to fish, and some that I probably won’t.

I won’t pretend that my encouragement will reach that many eyes. But, occasionally and perhaps more than admitted, blogging isn’t about catering to readers; it’s about the act of writing. This post, itself, is a modest reaction to a claim on [name redacted]’s another blog that “…99% of fly fishing blogs are boring…” and have followed “…the boring/cyclical path of print.” This seems an unfair assessment, though it is unclear whether this judgment and call for bloggers to “…put it all out there…” is leveled at blogs in general and includes those written by the vast majority who fly fish when they can, and for whom their blog is a hobby and another welcome diversion.

While these charges offer valid advice for all writers, the simplicity of launching and maintaining a blog has redefined freedom of expression. It’s clear that the intention behind some blogs is a simple sharing of experiences with family and friends, and the occasional visitor. They may be written for the joy of the task itself, or to satisfy ego, record for posterity, or to push an idea, belief, or agenda into or onto the world. (Or perhaps, as a response to something read somewhere else?) This blog grew out of ego years ago, initially as a website, to share my life with those few who might be interested. Sure, I’m grateful when more than three readers visit in a week, but this has evolved into a more permanent record, a journal of sorts, through which even I occasionally revisit old memories.

I’d also respectfully submit that many bloggers could be considered the essayists of today, making observations of daily life. It’s easy to recall more famous essayists such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Sarah Margaret Fuller, Arthur Miller, Jonathan Swift or John Updike. But for each one of these writers, many others shared anonymous and perhaps less polished observations and opinions in leaflets, pamphlets, or other media that has since disappeared.

In one respect, blogging is a most public form of learning, with all of one’s mistakes on display. It’s inherent in the learning process that bloggers might unconsciously test styles used by others as they find their way, leading to a sameness. Writing, particularly regularly and regularly well, can be difficult. It requires a well of ideas, opinions, and experiences. These experiences may be limited, and not everyone cares to divulge every personal hiccup in their life. Here I decided early on that certain topics would be verboten; a voluntary limitation on “raw honesty.” I’d suspect this is true with other bloggers. (I can’t help but wonder if in today’s world the term “raw honesty” no longer has any real meaning.)

More widely read bloggers have a better understanding of communal attraction of wistfulness and humor and how rooting posts in common experiences can make writing memorable without need for flowery language and a vast vocabulary. These are plain ideas not so easily applied. And, frankly, I don’t expect this level of writing in every blog, understanding that countless blogs were started out of passion, not because the author was a writer.

Blogs become my favorites simply because the writing or topics touch me in some way. At times I want to escape through the eyes of another, especially when I can’t fish. There’s an attraction in stories that offer differing perspectives of familiar or nearby places. Many times it’s merely catching up with the goings on in a friend’s life.

Reading over what I’ve written here, I asked, “Is this raw honesty?” Honest, yes. Raw, no; that’s just not me. I’m just a regular guy, working a job, with a family, who fly fishes when he can, usually less than he hopes; and for whom his blog is writing and sharing without expectation. Judge my blog as you will.

P.S. A discussion with a friend about whether the wording of this post should be strengthened, interestingly enough, led to an answer in the understanding that being true (honest) to my style offered a subtle metaphor.


* I excised “fellow” originally inserted before “fly fishing bloggers” with the consideration this is not a fly fishing-only blog.

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26 thoughts on “really? asking for raw honesty from fishermen? a response

  1. Pingback: Raw Honesty

  2. I read the some post a few days ago as well, and was struck by the “raw honesty” take in the blog. I looked at my blog and said could I do that more often…probably. But in the same breath it’s kind of wishful thinking as through all these social media outlets, how much can we truly share without sharing everything.

    I agree with you, I read a ton of blogs. And love doing it. I leave comments when I can, but am glad to have spent a few minutes escaping into stories, photos, or anything different than I see in some of the magazines I receive. It’s fun. Saying 99% of blogs are boring is simply not true. They are just different than what one person is looking for, which is fine. I must admit I did enjoy that post for the simple reason that it made me think of how I write my blog, but I didn’t like his take that most blogs are boring and need to change.

    I will continue to read and follow along with many blogs. It’s cool to see everyone doing their own thing, and even better to see how they choose to express it.

    Cheers

    • Sanders: …how much can we truly share without sharing everything.

      And how much do we really need to share, or do readers want us to share?

      Sanders: I must admit I did enjoy that post for the simple reason that it made me think of how I write my blog, but I didn’t like his take that most blogs are boring and need to change.

      Me as well.

  3. I also read the mentioned post and then had a good laugh. Blogging is what it is as defined by the person who writes it, not so much by those who read it. I also read many, many blogs for a variety of reasons; keeping up with friends, reading others experiences or just for a good laugh. As a writer, I tossed the rule book out years ago. It’s my writing, like it or not. If you do, enjoy, if not, don’t read…I’ll never know the difference unless you call me out in public.

    By the way, I will say in all honesty that I have just “discovered” your blog. Your words are honest and unencumbered with ego. I hope you enjoy because I do.

  4. Someone pointed me at the original article, and being as I write one of the named blogs, I gather I’m supposed to fly into a rage and respond, thereby providing the entertainment the author seems to want.

    And therein lies one of the many problems with the post; the idea that bloggers exist to provide entertainment for bored, ennui-ridden ex-bloggers is a stretch. As you noted, most do it for reasons that aren’t clear. And I’ll suggest we’ve seen a flood of new — and very good — blogs hitting the streets in just the last year or so.

    Over the past two years, Singlebarbed and I have managed to piss off a magazine publisher, a magazine editor, the “industry” editor and at least three of the major gear manufacturers, so it’s difficult to make a case that we’re self-censoring excessively.

    I’d say the post says a lot more about the author than the blogosphere, and nobody’s obligated to set themselves on fire on a daily basis for the amusement of others (at least not the free amusement).

    I’d say there’s ample evidence he’s dead wrong anyway.

    • TC/The Trout Underground: Over the past two years, Singlebarbed and I have managed to piss off a magazine publisher, a magazine editor, the “industry” editor and at least three of the major gear manufacturers, so it’s difficult to make a case that we’re self-censoring excessively.

      Or in some circles, Winglebarbed? (How many of you caught that?)

      As to the flood of blogs, to make an awkward analogy, I’d daresay that many folks are just as content with a small rainbow as with a trophy brown…

  5. Hey Patrick. You know I’ve been hanging out with you for quite a while and I like what you’ve written. I think a lot of us bloggers do it to let other know what’s going on out there and I’m with Howard. If you like my writing, enjoy. If you don’t, don’t read it. Oh, you got a good shout out from Owl in case you didn’t see it. Owljones.com.

    Mark

    • Always good to have you around Mark (I lurk around Northern California Trout as well.) and thanks for the heads up. (Owl responded to my Google+ post.) I should figure out where we might meet – between our cabin and your place – sometime this year, to do some fly fishing together; though, to be honest, it’ll likely be me picking away at your local knowledge. And with my casting, you’ll want to keep your distance. Guess I can bring the beer.

  6. Wait a minute. Other people read our blogs? I thought I was howling to the moon for the sake of the howling — which, by the way, feels pretty good. Digitally or otherwise.

    Raw honesty isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Honesty is used too often as a smokescreen for boorishness and raw doesn’t usually read very well. So I’ll take thoughtful genuine first. But that’s just me.

    Having said that, write what you feel. No one’s making money at this — are they? — so do what makes you feel right. As many have already said, cool if others like it – there’s lots of other places they can do if they don’t. If you live and die by your hit count, you’re misguided.

    • Mike:
      Wait a minute. Other people read our blogs? I thought I was howling to the moon for the sake of the howling — which, by the way, feels pretty good. Digitally or otherwise.

      Yup, it certainly does; there’s a certain satisfaction in putting experiences and ideas into understandable words. Though I’m not always successful…can’t count the number of rewrites…

  7. I also read the blog admonishing fellow bloggers and tend to agree with many of his points. Your response more accurately describes my take of blogs and their “mysterious” purpose in life. The many friends I have made while fly fishing have begun in a river a 100 feet away, at a stream side when resting a pool, or at a take out parking lot. Friendships begin with a handshake, a smile, a laugh and are cemented with a story. I started a blog a month ago – its purpose is to duplicate a live visit waterside – all I expect is a handshake, a smile, a laugh and a story. No more – that is how I select and follow other blogs. Add some humor and you’ve got me. My goal is not to pen the equal of a great American novel – my desire is to be read and have someone think, “I’d enjoy fishing with that guy.”

  8. Hi Patrick,

    This is my first time here and I will say that I really enjoyed what you wrote.

    I think that this guy decrying the lack of “raw honesty” is some ridiculous attempt at starting a conversation, like kicking an ant hill to watch them scatter. (Seems to have worked, though…. Ha!)

    I don’t think I’ve ever read a blog that came across as shallow, or catering. It was some person’s attempt at trying to share an interest with other people that share said interest. I think that this person is mis-interpreting raw honesty and political correctness with the fact that most in our community would rather not be complete prigs to other writers.

  9. Anytime Patrick. You can get a hold of me at mkautz@volcano.net.

    Mark

  10. I read ‘the other post’ and commented that I agreed with him; that being said, you make some really good points as well. Grant’s comment above makes some wonderful points, too.

    The kicker is, there are a lot of fishing/fly fishing blogs out there.

    Some are established, consistently well-written and informative (i.e., Mr. TC/Underground above, Cameron at TFM), some are relatively new & provide a classic journal/essay feel (Mr. Sanders & Miss Block of Mysteries Internal fall into this category for me). Of course, many are just fun & entertaining escapes (Owl, Mr. T!, Howard, etc.) that I look forward to.

    That being said, my OPINION is I find quite a few blogs are started in a “I have a blog, I catch fish, I’m awesome, send me gear/sponsorship/ad revenue now” mentality (for an example of this, please click on my name & go to my archives of Aug-Oct 2010 :p ).

    This is where Alex’s post comes into play: as an optimist, I’d like to think most people are semi-interesting/intelligent, and each person has some sort of a little corner of the world they are extremely knowledgeable about (or extremely interested in becoming knowledgeable about).

    For Cameron, it’s glass (obviously), for Grant above, it’s cruising across the States in an RV & fly fishing; Mr. TC/Underground, small streams, industry, CalTrout. Myself, I travel a lot for work and try to fish wherever I go while trying to simplify my home life.

    Everyone should have something to separate themselves a bit from the herd, either by technique, gear, geography, species or demeanour. This is where the ‘raw honesty’ comes into play. Raw honesty doesn’t mean whimsical, “I love the gurgling of the stream” stuff, or super edgy “I’m a fly fishing badass because I wear a skateboard hat backwards, and f**k the establishment.”

    It means being yourself & write what you want to write, not what the fad/crisis of the day/week is (Tenkara!! haha) just to get page views & hoping to get sent some free gear to review because of unique visitors.

    PS- My two favourite blogs:
    –Pine Island Angler (lots of redfish pics & it motivates me to save $$ so I can winter in FL before I think white pants are a reasonable item in my wardrobe);
    –Smallmouth Fly Box ( lots of smallie fly patterns)

    I don’t think those guys are even on Twitter, G+ or Facebook to ‘promote’ their stuff, one of them doesn’t even allow comments. They just have great content…for me, that is…

  11. The reference post was the author’s opinion. Not fact. I probably have a much more simplistic take on life than most, but it’s really a heck of a lot more fun when you tune out the drama. If you’re happy doin’ what you’re doin’…keep it up. That includes writing “boring, emotionless” fishing blog posts. If an amateur Ebert doesn’t like them…oh well…

  12. Since I don’t fly fish much and none of you bothered linking to “that post” a simple search led me to it. May as well read that first before going any further.

    I live in Illinois, the land of no trout. Bass is god here and the writing about the pursuit of bass is horrendously dull, something I’ve been complaining about for a couple of decades. Everybody and their brother thinks they can cut their teeth writing about the outdoors with still another article on fishing (fill in your choice of lure) for bass. But bass anglers absolutely love it.

    What Alex says about fly fishing blogs can easily be expanded into all kinds of fishing. You need something to put you to sleep at night, read about the proper way to do figure eights when fishing for muskie.

    The over abundance of blogs on fly fishing in the last few years, has made it inevitable that eventually they will start to be perceived as boring, been happening for years in the non fly fishing/non trout world for a long time. I’ve been leaving blog like posts on Chicago area fishing forums for 15 years. In that time I have seen countless people jump in wanting to be the next best writer around.

    They are all gone. I see them come and go all the time. This will start happening with blogs and I’ve noticed by more and more dead links, that it already is. I was told in art school that if some day I wanted to have a name in the art world, keep painting past 50 years old, by then 95% of your peers will have gone by the wayside. The same can be said of this writing thing, I’m finding out.

    The other day I put this on my Facebook page: Doing bookmark and blog roll spring cleaning. Why did I even find that remotely interesting the first time.

    I like to read good writing of any kind and as I kept returning to my bookmarked blogs, they just weren’t cutting it. They had to go. I deleted a lot and it wound up that virtually all of them were about fly fishing. The other run of the mill writing about bass fishing didn’t have to get deleted because they never got bookmarked in the first place.

    Basically, we all write for our own niches. I know for a fact that 99% of gear head bass guys think what I write is garbage. If that leaves me with 100 people that got something out of something that I wrote, I can live with that. And with that, I’m exhausted, need to go to bed, and have no further clue where I’m going with this……

    • With lower expectations, if one person gets something out of it (usually family or friends), I’m ecstatic. 😉

      That’s the sign of a repsonsible blog owner, going through the blog roll once and a while to cull out those dead links…

  13. I think yo hit the nail on the head with the Ego aspect of writing. Reminds me of a kid I went to school with. We were introducing ourselves to the class, we had to say something about ourselves. he said “listening to music.” When he was asked to specify what kind of music he said “I don’t like listening to other people’s music, I listen to the music I make on my computer.”

    What makes blogs interesting to me is the energy the writer puts into it, that could include the enthusiasm he or she has in the subject. Great article and blog you got here Patrick, I will have to stop by more.

    • And you reminded me of a “newspaper” that my friends and I published in high school…teenage fiction written as if ten years had gone by. The “Gumball Rally” would have been part of my reality and money woudn’t ever be a worry. Thanks, Dan.

  14. Pingback: blog appreciation, or just do it | fishing for words

  15. I resent the implication made by the silly blogging fly fishingman (responsible for the original rant) that all bloggers are human. It’s not easy being me. When was the last time you tried typing with a pectoral fin?

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