Thursday, September 1, 2016

Surviving the blog lay-off

I've always felt like having deadlines and due dates were the only reason to get anything done. I guess it probably has to do with the way we were trained as children in school. You'd get an assignment and a date by which it had to be done. Should you not been given a date, there would have been no incentive to do it, nor any reason to even begin for that matter.

For me, once I left school, I always wanted a deadline for any of my creative projects. My deadlines used to be very nebulous and somewhat arbitrary. I may have said something like: “I'll finish writing all the pages in my notebook by Friday,” or “I'll write until my pen runs out of ink.” These sorts of deadlines worked very well for me during some of my earlier prolific times. These early prolific times I define by how much I did, what I wrote or how the process felt to me. I bring up two times specifically, the fall of 2000 and the fall of 2005. Both times I had a tremendous portion of time on my hands and I was going through a major transition. I wrote a great deal during those two autumns so very long ago, but I wrote very little of value. After all, my deadlines were arbitrary like, “I'll finish this notebook today,” or “I'll drain three pens of ink by 5:00.”

I became much better with deadlines and quantifiable work during graduate school. I had to because I couldn't just write for the sake of filling pages and draining pens. Graduate school for writers is an exercise in productivity for the sake of meeting deadlines. I owed my advisor 40 pages of material every three weeks for two years.

Blending those two definitions of deadline, the real and the arbitrary, I made changed to my work habits after grad school. That first year out of grad school, I had wanted to write a half a dozen short stories and a novel. I wrote a dozen stories and four novels. I did this mostly because I was still wired that way and also because I made myself stick to a schedule with specific deadlines. Simply stated my goal was 10,000 words a week due by Friday. This was no easy task. It was completely achievable because I had no other things to distract me. I wrote in the morning, went to work in the evening and drank at night. It was a good life.

Then I began to add things: my blog, Umbrella Factory Magazine, The Sophia Ballou Project and later, Rocket House Pictures.

Then life added something extra for me: a family.

I know we all get busy, it's the nature of life and getting older. And I continued of with most of the things I had always done for years.

My output shrank, and rightly so, when my son was born. I had less time and I just continued with what I thought was important. I maintained only two things: my weekly contribution to The Sophia Ballou Project and my weekly blog post.

The blog became so important to me that I would not miss a deadline for anything. For years it was Monday morning. I posted every Monday morning knowing full well that no one would read it. I kept at this blog weekly even after I fell out of ideas.

Then, December 2014, we decided to shelf Umbrella Factory Magazine for a year and I decided to do the same with all of my other stuff too. I just took a small fast digitally.

It last six months.

Coming back to the blog was tough. It still is. I know I have not been able to maintain it in the last couple of years. And even now, it's been another lay-off. This time it's been four months, or the length of time my son has been on summer vacation.

I'll say this too, it took a long time for me to get involved with social media and it only took on flip of the switch to get out. I spend the same amount of time on social media in month that I once did in a day.

Although I have the sort of low-fi life I get day to day, I doubt my writing has improved significantly. I still write, in my notebook with my fountain pen and then I do subsequent drafts on my computer. When it comes down to it, I've either completed more I'm about to complete more this year than I have in the past few years. And still, this blog has been incredibly difficult to do.

It could be my schedule with the schedules of everyone else in the family too. It could be that the blog has become a priority several rungs down from where it once was. It could be that I just don't find anything I say to be nearly as interesting as it once was. It could be a lack of interest too.

And yet, here I am. I feel like all the above reasons, even just one such reason is enough to quit the blog. I also feel like I've been at this blog for so long that it deserves more. Sometimes, when something has the sort of history that this thing has, it deserves more than a fizzle and then quiet.

And the question of the hour: how does a blog, a blog like this survive a lay-off?

The same way a blog begins: a little at a time, one post, and a predetermined frequency. Again, it takes time to build up content. I suppose the two things that separate a lay-off from a fresh start are this: knowledge of what the blog once was and the knowledge of what the blog meant during the process in its heyday.

For me, what it once was, was a focus of all the things that I was doing like writing novels, managing a magazine and making film. Of all of those things now, I'm not so defined by them nor driven by them. Yet, here I am, I still do all the things I once did, seemingly, except for the blog. Which makes me question if the blog is even important at all anymore.
Is it?

Well, I know what it was and what it could be. I know the focus and the vagueness it can be. The question is, do I maintain it? And if so, why?

Surviving a lay-off of anything is very tough to do. For those exercise people, leaving the gym for 4 months and going back is next to impossible. It's the same way with the blog. It's the same way with any writing and writing practice.

For me?

I suppose it's the way it was in the beginning: a frequency, a vague notion of direction and a little commitment.

See you Thursdays from 9/1/2016 to 12/12/2016.

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