I’ve taken a few days off to reflect on my life since taking the YourTurnChallenge, and I’ve decided to make some changes regarding the role of blogging in my life. I labelled this “personal” not because I’m going to share more (or fewer) personal details and opinions, but because these are my decisions, and apply only to my situation, at this point in time. You may come to a different decision, but you might find some thoughts of value here.
The goal of the challenge was to build a habit of “shipping” daily, and since it was centered around blogging that was our focus. That makes sense if blogging is your primary mode of creativity, but my goal at this point in life is to build my studio glass skills, and grow a healthy following for my work, so that I can afford to continue working in glass. So I need to hone my craft and “ship” my glass. My initial focus during the challenge was my studio blog, www.steveghilliard.com, where I write about my studio work and studio glass in general. From that point of view the challenge was a success in that it taught me what it took to write consistently, and my blog statistics showed me which posts my readers liked best. My activity also attracted some readers from glass art forums.
After a week or so I had the itch to write pieces that didn’t fit my studio blog, so I resurrected this blog, which initially had no particular focus, but was just a place to get comfortable with WordPress and share my thoughts. This quickly became my default venue, to the point that one regular reader of mine didn’t realize I was still writing for my studio blog, since they had only subscribed to this one. I was still trying to write everyday, which at that point meant blogging.
About two weeks ago I discovered the idea of writing “morning pages“: three pages (750 words) every morning, on any topic. You’re not writing for public consumption, you’re just doing a brain dump, writing out anything that pops into your head, with no regard for grammar or spelling. The original prescription was for three pages written longhand, but I can’t do that, because I get serious hand cramps after more than a few lines. And my handwriting is indecipherable.
The morning pages practice helped me clear my head, and I discovered something unexpected: I have a hard time keeping up my productivity (measured in pages/hour) because I fall in love with my own writing and endlessly re-read and revise. I don’t do that at all with morning pages (with one exception*), once they’re “dumped” I move on.
So almost two months after the challenge I’ve gone from being a glass artist who needed to spend more time in the studio and building my tribe to that plus an author of two blogs, with a morning pages habit, a growing itch to write long form fiction, and a desire to participate in the ongoing YTC community. And participating in the community means reading their intoxicating writing (in addition to the book list I already had), and participating through social media, without letting it consume all my time. Sadly, I still only have about 16 waking hours each day. Moderation and prioritizing are in order, so I’ve decided the following:
- I will continue morning pages NO MATTER WHAT. Consider it the writer’s equivalent of brushing my teeth.
- My primary focus is going to be studio work, at least 20 hours/week.
- My secondary focus is going to be my glass studio blog, and the glass arts social communities. My goal is one well crafted blog post each week, possibly additional short posts depending on what I’m up to, and daily participation in the glass art networks, limiting myself to one hour per day.
- My third focus (at least for the next month or two) will be deciding on a direction for this blog. I would like to maintain a regular schedule for it, and it’s enormously flattering to have so many people following it, but I have a lot of ambitious ideas, and I need to avoid overcommitment. So I’m considering this blog third in terms of importance, but may drop it from my list if I can’t find a clear purpose for it. I definitely won’t be posting every day, and I want to maintain consistency and quality, so we’ll see how it goes.
- My fourth focus is rationed participation in the YTC community. I’m following the blogs of several people that interest and inspire me, and I enjoy the discussions in the Facebook group, all of which take time. I’ll try to skim everything, but I may miss some good writing now and then. I’ll do my best to keep up, and I thank everyone who has expressed interest in my writing.
I’m doing all this shuffling to make room for one more area of focus, the one that scares the hell out of me: I’m going to start outlining and character development for a significant work of fiction. All I have at this point are ghosts, wispy tendrils of plot and character, images that I can only perceive out of the corner of my eye. Even if I do manage to pull them all together they may amount to nothing, but I’ve got to explore this.
After all, I’m the one who wrote the blog post “Shut up and write“, so now it’s my turn.
*Exception: Regarding re-reading morning pages, I discovered quickly that doing that unfocused brain dump usually brings a few things to light that warrant further action. I use Omnifocus “Quick entry” for simple action items, but I’ve also highlighted lines in my daily notes so that I can find them again. But even when I go back to an earlier entry to pull them out, I feel no temptation to review the rest of the day’s scribbling. Maybe it’s because it’s not intended for others?