The power of blogging (and the barriers)

This post is inspired by Blogging and Vulnerability by Andraya from Aspergers and Me, and Writing is Communication Too by Cynthia from Musings of an Aspie.

 
The power of blogging

A while ago, Cynthia of Musings of an Aspie wrote a great post about writing that got me thinking. She explained why she needs to write in order to shape her thoughts and communicate with others and herself, and she talks about how starting to write her blog has empowered her in her life and improved her relationships with her family and herself.

I’ve been thinking about the fact that I need to write too for the very same reasons Cynthia describes.  I can also see that writing this blog is very important to me, and I’m disappointed that I’m not keeping it up like the great bloggers whose posts I enjoy reading.

In Blogging and VulnerabilityAndraya writes about the positive impact blogging has on her life, and reflects about what it takes to write a great blog*. She reasons that the best blog authors dare to ‘put themselves out there’ and be vulnerable; and that it makes their readers able to connect with them and trust them.

 
The power of virtual socialising

My pen name increasingly seems like ‘the realest** me’. My virtual life  helps me to grow in all aspects of my life. The Internet is where I can express complex thoughts and feelings because I can do it the way that suits me best – in writing. On the Internet, solitude and social life aren’t enemies. And it gives me opportunity to connect with an audience*** that makes sense to me.

However, I find it difficult to complete & publish what I write. My backlog of drafts keep growing and growing, while the blog remains quiet on the surface. I enjoy the writing process in any case, but what ignite communication and social development is to put the thoughts out there for others to see; or for others to judge if that’s what they are going to do.

 
The barriers

Here are the factors that I think prevent many posts from happening:

 
1. Trouble prioritising, reducing and ordering the content

The ideal for blog posts is relatively short, concise reflections around a clear point that loops nicely back to the title.

I’m overflowing with ideas and don’t know how to detangle topics from each other and write about just one sharp, concise point; when all I think about is so obviously all intertwined underneath the surface through a million associative paths … This is how I don’t get around to complete any post!

Messy bookshelf
Too much on, and it all gets messy

 
This post, for example, has already diverted into 5-6 drafts of tangentially related topics because it keeps getting too long. It has changed name at least 8 times as I branched sections off and saved them as new drafts on separate topics.

 
2. Perfectionism

I don’t claim to have ever written anything that’s perfect, but some of it is quite good. It is very important to me to write high quality content. Here is a post about what I mean by quality writing.

 

Ladder up into appletrees, artified

  
A dash of perfectionism is good, but too much perfectionism makes slow (and blind!****). It takes a lot longer to edit a post sixteen times than two, particularly when each revision leads to major changes, and overall the writing loses its momentum.

Not being a native writer of English adds extra insecurity. Maybe my words and metaphors don’t always mean what I think they do?

Where perfectionism gets really toxic is if one starts to compare one’s own writing with others’. Feeling that I don’t have anything worthwhile to contribute, or worse:  ‘I NEVER want to write like …’ [insert disliked blog genre/writing style here] creates negative ‘templates’ that block the free flow of ideas by guarding too hard against [insert negative template here]-ish writing.

 
3. Fear of vulnerability

Worries about privacy – the emotional and social vulnerability of myself and people I care about – create many blocks and often stops the magical little click on the blue ‘Publish’ button that make things happen. Or if I do click, wakes me up in the middle of the night because I feel naked on the Internet.

I write anonymously, so people who deliberately Google search on my real name to find something dubious (potential employers may do that), won’t find anything sensitive. That makes it easier to write. Still, though:

Writing a personal blog is vulnerable, that’s just the nature of it – Trial and error. The vulnerability is an integral aspect of its power to create personal growth and online relationships; but also a threat.

What matters is how it feels in the hours and days(+) after clicking ‘Publish’, and it is always hard to tell in advance. Sometimes it is hard to tell for a long time.

I have noticed that responses (comments, likes, spin-off posts) softens the sense of vulnerability. It makes it more like a conversation with friends, and less like a shout in a big dark space surrounded by a totally unknown and variable number of invisible strangers.

 

nerdy cartoon girl on black background, red heart dot

 
4. Bad conscience

Blogging, as a stereotype, has an aura of self-absorption and superficiality to it. It also tends to absorb a lot of time that could have been spent on people (as they would like) and duties.

My husband sees my hours spent in the blogosphere as a complete waste of time. The logic goes like this: when I write my blog it means that I have too much time and energy on my hands, and therefore should do more to find more work. Whether the job/freelance work search leads to any result is besides the point – it is the attitude that matters.

That goes for any major chunks of solo play/creative/research/communication time I spend on my computer. My husband thinks that I have an Internet Addiction (and he’s probably not totally wrong). ‘Come to bed now!’. ‘You have a problem!’ ‘You said 10 more minutes 40 minutes ago!’ ‘ You look like a Zombie… You went to bed WAAAY to late… again!’

I prefer to write in the quiet of the night because I hate interruptions. Nights are quiet sanctuaries. However, living a nocturnal life style means to be out of sync with the rest of the world, so that is not an officially sustainable practice.

I remember I used to be critical of my husband’s fondness of playing video games. He used to leave this world from time to time to disappear into in his war strategy game for hours, days and nights. I called it ‘video game addiction’ and a total waste of time. He used to defend himself and explain that it helped him to relax and wasn’t a waste of time; he said he learned many real life skills from playing the game.

Then I realised that he needs his video game world the same way I need to disappear into my own time. In fact I’m grateful for his playing time now, because it means I’m free to do what I want to do in the meanwhile. However, he doesn’t play much anymore… in a twist of irony, he has overcome his ‘video game addiction’ and now targets my ‘Internet addiction’.

 
5. Interruptions

Interruptions are demands for attention that tear into one’s work processes at all sorts of inconvenient times and break the work flows. For some people, like myself, being interrupted in a complex task means that it is difficult to pick up again where it was left off.

My wordpress dashboard’s ‘drafts’ section is a cemetery of dying posts that were closed down around midnight under pressure and never completed (I’m not directly complaining; I know my time consumption gets out of control when I’m hooked into a project, and that it isn’t OK to go to bed at 4 am in the morning. But frustrating it is.).

Objectively, I’ve have plenty of time at my free disposal compared to many others but subjectively, I feel like I am being interrupted all the time. When I am not being interrupted, then I expect to be interrupted any time, which is nearly as bad. The possibility alone switches on my defensive mode, where any social request seems like an enemy to keep off my territory.

I am now again the only human being in this house while my husband travels overseas, and hopefully I’ll be able to complete and publish a handful of posts in the next few weeks while I also try to find more work.

 
Thanks for reading – The next post will be about ideas for how to keep up more lively blogging habits.

————————————————————————————————————-

* She already writes a great blog – read it here!

** I know it isn’t a real word. That English isn’t my native language doesn’t mean that I can’t reinvent it.

*** Audience here means blog writers as well as readers – most are both.

**** Added after I found several typos when I read the post on my tablet the next day!

 
 
 
The illustrations in this post are derived from the Morguefile Archives (mainly).

Advertisements

17 thoughts on “The power of blogging (and the barriers)

  1. trophos

    I so sympathize with all of this! (Especially the being interrupted part…) My own compromise was to make my blog a blog of drafts, so I don’t go back and do major edits (just for typos and such). I’ve found it freeing, but I know it wouldn’t be for everyone. Do you know Anne Lamott’s essay ‘Shitty First Drafts?’ It’s a lovely meditation on the pressure of perfectionism.

    Like

    Reply
    1. Mados

      I didn’t know Anne Lamott’s essay, but now I do – Thank you. It was very helpful to read it because it made me realise that it isn’t harder for me to write than for anyone else:-) Maybe even easier, so there is no excuse for being so cautious about it.

      What Anne Lamott describes it is the way I write too (except I don’t write only 3 drafts:-), so now I feel more normal:-)

      I like what she says here:

      Very few writers really know what they are doing until they’ve done it

      That is right! and the fun side is that it applies to creative processes in other genres as well; like music composition and painting. The painting/composition may have a title, a story and an explained purpose (‘The Artwork/Music is about how… [philosophical point]), but the truth is that the ‘point of it’ was almost always added last:-)

      I actually used to write the way Lamott says writers don’t work. When I was a kid (long before the computer era) I wrote fiction stories all the time, and I actually never wrote any drafts. I just started on page 1 and let the story flow the way it wanted, making few if any corrections during the process. I wrote ‘books’ like that (hand written note books of e.g. 80 – 100+ pages), a chapter or two per writing evening, with no going back and restructuring. Writing a book was like reading a book… like the story pre-existed, although I didn’t know what would happen next.

      I wrote school essays the same way. We were taught to plan the essay first and write a draft, and then we had a second notebook to write it ‘nicely’ to hand in, but I thought it was stupid to write it twice; when that time could be used for expanding the story/essay or write something new (and I was also lazy). So I usually wrote my essays directly in, and my feedback on essays was usually High Distinction or Distinction so I just thought they got it all wrong with their requests for planning.

      Now when I use a computer, I write totally different. I don’t write chronologically, but start all over the place and move sections around. Writing is like doing a puzzle rather than like reading a story, and editing/restructuring takes probably 99% of the time it takes to write a thing.

      The ‘fluid’ part of the process (raw creative input) is the heart of stories, and I think still my strength in writing, after all. So I’d like to aim to make only 3(-ish. approximately) drafts. Revising is an essential part of shaping a text, but I don’t know where to stop and as a result, my output is very low.

      ‘A blog of drafts’ sounds like a good idea to get the barriers down (it is not that your blog seem like a blog of drafts though!)

      Thank you for stopping by.

      Ps. To other readers/writers: here is the link to Anne Lamott’s ‘Shitty First Drafts’.

      Like

      Reply
  2. musingsofanaspie

    I really relate to the barriers that you mentioned. Like you, I have a folder full of drafts languishing because they started out as one thing and took an unexpected turn and now have no ending. There are also subjects that I just can’t write about because they would violate the privacy of people who haven’t given permission to write about them and then the stuff that feels entirely to vulnerable . . . it’s amazing we’re able to write anything at all really.

    Also, I didn’t realize that English is not your first language and would not have guessed!

    Like

    Reply
    1. Mados

      Yes with all these obstacles and considerations, it is impressive that some posts actually do make it through the filters!

      Your blog is in the highly productive end of the scale, and your posts (and topic choices) are to blame for many of my languishing drafts:-) These ideas and drafts are still spinning around and trying to find their shape and will hopefully make it through. I don’t hope you mind the attention with a number of my posts being spin-offs of topics you’ve written about (like this one)… These topics are very much on my mind for the time being.

      Also, I didn’t realize that English is not your first language and would not have guessed!

      Thank you so much! That is a real confidence-booster!

      Thank you for stopping by.

      Like

      Reply
  3. aspergersandmeblog

    Thanks for the positive mention to my blog!

    I can also relate to the barriers you mentioned, though I think I’ve more or less found a way around them. I don’t know if you’re actually interested in advice, though, so I’ll keep it brief. Basically, I’ve given myself permission to be imperfect, and I’ve made posting on a schedule (every monday) more important than getting posts “right.” Weirdly enough, people still respond positively to posts that I thought were imperfect or unsatisfactory. I was embarrassed to post my “blogging and vulnerability” post. I thought it was too unfocused, too much about me, and not enough about my overall blog’s theme. Clearly, I was wrong!

    Like

    Reply
    1. Mados

      You are welcome, and than you for your advice! That sounds like a good idea, I am considering to introducing a scheme like that. It reminds me a little bit about trophos’ strategy above, just in the sense that it is a ‘Just Do It!’ strategy to overcome barriers and allowing oneself to be imperfect (which makes a lot of sense, since not allowing imperfection doesn’t make the result perfect anyway!).

      I can also recognise what you say that people respond positively to posts you thought were imperfect or unsatisfactory. I also can’t tell which ones of my posts are going to be popular, I often get surprised that posts I spend less than average time on may be the ones commented most on (that’s my indicator for whether the post inspires someone… I love to get comments!).

      Like

      Reply
  4. aspiewriter

    Nicely written. I have a cemetary of dying drafts as well, and one day I will finish those thoughts…maybe…eventually…and if I do not continue to get interrupted! For me the interruptions are the worst part. That is when the flow is stopped and my thoughts and inspirations with it–drives me bonkers.

    I have tried at times to write shorter posts quickly so I would not be interrupted. I thought those posts were terrible, but I did have positive feedback so it may just be the perfectionist in me thinking I was posted terrible content.

    Like

    Reply
    1. Mados

      Thank you! I can’t even start to imagine the level of frustrating it must cause with kids and family life constantly interrupting.

      It sometimes surprises me too which posts becomes most lively:-) I suppose it also depends on whether that particular topic happens to ‘strike a chord’ with people.

      Like

      Reply
      1. aspiewriter

        Something else I hadn’t considered until now, that it is often those posts that I edit the least, the ones I write and let go (very difficult for me) that strike cords. Maybe those are the moments that we are being our true selves without worrying about what we are saying or how we will “sound”. Food for thought.

        BTW I never realized that English was not your first language either! To me, that means you are doing an excellent job.

        Like

        Reply
        1. Mados

          That is a good point… Trying to be too perfect can kill the soul of writing. Death by obsessive editing!

          Editing is an important way to shape the meaning, but I suspect that some editing activity can be more destructive than constructive depending on what drives it. For example when the motivation is fear of vulnerability (e.g. fear of making mistakes) rather than passionate search for intense accuracy.

          Two of the other comments talk about ways to let go of perfectionism and prioritise frequent activity as a way to keep it up. That sounds like a useful approach to avoid getting blocked.

          Thank you so much for your compliment! That makes my day! (~night)

          Like

          Reply
  5. autisticook

    13 revisions… 17 revisions… 11 revisions… (that last one was on a recipe I posted). Perfectionist much? 🙂

    I think maybe people respond more to “rough” posts or not-too-polished ones because they see gaps in which to add knowledge or interpretations. Their participation is needed more because it’s not “finished” yet. When something has a good beginning, clear structure, and logical conclusion, all that’s left for people to comment on is “I agree” or “I disagree”. There’s no room left for extra stuff to be tacked on or added in the margins. Maybe that’s why academics write like that. 🙂

    Does that make sense?

    Like

    Reply
    1. Mados

      Yes it does. And I think you are right. I sometimes (often) read a post which is really good, and I want to contribute to reward the author for writing such a good post – and as a blogger I know the feedback means a lot… but I don’t have anything to add! Because the author has already covered all the relevant points better than I can anyway.

      Some blog authors are really good at leaving something open that gets people to contribute!

      Anyway, I can’t help myself..

      As for the revisions, that sounds familiar:-) Is it useful that WordPress counts all the revisions… except I dare not look on mine;-)

      Like

      Reply
    2. Mados

      By the way, thank you for reading and commenting on all these of my old posts! I am quite flattered actually. And it feels good to return to earlier thoughts.

      Like

      Reply
      1. autisticook

        Haha! I’m not always commenting because I feel embarrassed about the amount of comment spam I generate, but now that I come to think of it, that’s pretty silly isn’t it? 🙂

        Like

        Reply
        1. Mados

          That is not spam at all, yes that is silly!

          Comment spam is when people comment on content they haven’t read and are not interested in at all, solely to generate backlinks to their websites or for some other obscure SEO marketing reasons. Not to speak of use robots to do the same things. Comment spam is usually general and/or unrelated to the post.

          Real comments (like yours) are always most welcome.

          Like

          Reply

Say something!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s