Friday, January 7, 2011

Facing down blog ennui

Kate Hayes coined the term “mid-blog crisis” in a post earlier this week on her blog, Adventures in Parenting, to explore her feelings of ennui, which she likened to a midlife crisis. I know just how she feels.

Like Kate, I’ve been looking at my blog occasionally and thinking “Why do I do this again? Does it matter to anyone? What would be the downside of giving it up?”

I’ve been blogging for 17 months now, ever since I signed with a literary agent who was willing to represent my running/parenting memoir. I was very new to social media at that point; in our first phone conversation, my agent urged me to put together a website, start a Twitter account, and blog regularly. I did all three, and for many reasons I think her advice was excellent. I really like having a website up; I get a lot of enjoyment as well as occasional professional reinforcement from Twitter; and the blog has been a fantastic exercise in regular writing.

But when I say regular writing, I have to take a moment to stop and roll my eyes. For reasons I cannot to this day re-create, I somehow decided when I launched my blog in August of 2009 that I should blog five days a week, every week. Even though I knew of plenty of other bloggers who posted just a couple of times weekly, I had the idea that for me it needed to be like a job: show up at that blog Monday through Friday. And like a job, since that time, I’ve taken only national holidays and two weeks’ vacation per year off from blogging.

Other people who know me will probably roll their eyes at this. I know: Another daily obsession? The mile-or-more-of-running and the 1000-words-of-journaling a day aren’t enough as far as the diurnal rituals? Well, in all fairness, the blogging one isn’t quite as severe: the running and the journaling are seven days a week, and the blogging one is only weekdays.

Still, like Kate Hayes, sometimes I stop and remind myself of just how little it matters. Plenty of friends and acquaintances mention reading my blog in passing, but even more people tell me it’s hard for them to keep up with it. Really, reading my blog is not supposed to feel like a chore; you won’t miss a thing if you take a day or two off now and then. So I have to admit that the majority of my blog readers would probably be happy rather than disappointed if I stopped posting every day.

And yet here’s the advantage of blogging every day: unlike when my essay writing consisted of one or two newspaper pieces a month, I no longer maintain a seemingly endless backlog of story ideas that I’ll probably never get to. Now I get to everything. After all, I need a new idea five days a week. That enables me to burn through a lot of ideas, rather than stockpile them the way I used to. And it also reminds me that you don’t need to sit down with a great idea already formed in order to write a good piece. Many of my favorite blog entries – which went on to become published pieces in commercial publications – unfolded on days that I thought I had nothing to write about. Writers are fond of the phrase “How do I know what I think until I see what I say?”, and never is this more clear to me than when I’m fulfilling my daily blogging requirement. Even if I thought I had nothing to say, I often (though not always!) prove myself wrong.

My agent’s reason for urging me to get a blog up and running was that she wanted me to build an audience for the eventual publication of my book. But my book has been out for two months now, and when I run the numbers on who the purchasers are, I don’t necessarily think the blog has had much of an effect. What I do think it has had an effect on is the quality of my writing. Daily practice at anything simply makes us better at it. And while I’ve had a daily journaling habit for nearly two decades and in the past would have said the same thing about the merits of that – it’s a daily practice that improves my abilities every time I do it – blogging pushes me one step farther in terms of quality control. Unlike when I write something for the Boston Globe, I don’t spend a great deal of time judging the literary quality of what I write every day in my blog, but unlike when I write in my journal, I try to ensure that at the very least it’s coherent and not too lengthy for even my most committed fans (Hi, Mom!) to be willing to read.

So despite my incipient blogging crisis, I’ll persist, and I hope Kate Hayes will as well. As I always say about daily running, the single best reason to blog every day is so that you never have to take time to decide whether or not it’s a good day for blogging. Good entries, bad entries, and all that fall between: I’m not ready to give up yet.

1 comment:

  1. New reader here, maybe just a few weeks. Not sure how I found you. But I'll be checking back regularly if you need some motivation!