Blaugust Performance Self-Review – Blaugust 31

2723 wc

Back in July I filled a directory with 70 photographs for potential use in Blaugust posts. Last chance to use them! This is Chingoteague. I'm not sure if this is sunrise or sunset but let's just say it's sunset to fit the theme of the post.

It’s time to review my performance in Blaugust! Setting goals is only half the battle in self-improvement. The other half is evaluating your performance to see what worked, what didn’t work, and how you can improve for next time.

I planned to do this after Blaugust, but then I thought, hey, this could be a Blaugust post, too! It’s sort of like having the last day off.

Non-Repeating History

Blaugust 2015 left a bitter taste in my mouth, because I remember it as a frustrating time with my job exploding in fifty thousand different directions at once, leaving no interest and zero energy for writing blog posts at the same time, so I gave up in the middle.

So for Blaugust 2018, I was very pleased to be able to publish the 31 posts I set out to publish. Mentally, it was a lot easier than last time. I mean, a lot easier. Physically, I worried that hand issues and/or a cataract would make it difficult, but it turned out the main difficulty was finding topics for 31 days in a row. Most days I found something of interest (to me), but some days it was a big struggle. This was not a surprise.

I did most of the actual writing on an Apple wireless Bluetooth keyboard connected to my PC. At first I used Scrivener, but then I wrote the posts directly in WordPress’s editor. It’s one of my least favorite editors for writing text, but it’s the most convenient for posting to WordPress.

I was quite pleased with myself for keeping the “blogging about blogging” to a bare minimum, which is always a huge temptation during writing challenges. You mentors had it easy! (This post doesn’t count. :)

The majority of my posts were actually written and posted on the same day, most of them written and published even within the same writing session.

I wasn’t terribly excited about the subjects of many of my posts this month, with the possible exception of the one about finding my oldest computer files, which I found highly entertaining to write. The rest were quite a chore to mold into something I felt were worthwhile posts, and I felt like most of my posts especially in the latter half of the month should have gone straight into the garbage can.

Statistically, the post which got the most views turned out to be The Hand Report, oddly enough. The worst-performing post was, you guessed it, My Oldest Computer Files, the exact one I enjoyed writing the most.

My cat looking out of the picture window in my living room.

On Writing

It’s not difficult for me to write every day. What’s challenging is to write something publishable every day. To me, those are two entirely different disciplines with entirely different skill sets at work. One is just writing down all the random noise of “talking to myself” that I always do, all day, every day. The only trick there is to disengage the inner filter and keep the fingers moving.

Writing publishable content, however, means a lot of editing, which takes up at least 75% of my writing time. That’s the part where I craft every word and sentence and paragraph until everything fits together perfectly, which, for me, is time-consuming and a bit like sculpting. Combining the writing and the editing together into the same writing session every day is draining for me.

If you’ve ever heard of the “pantser” vs. “plotter” debate in NaNoWriMo, I’m very much a pantser, in that I usually just start writing blog posts with a single topic sentence and see where it takes me. With blog posts, at least half the time, it takes me nowhere, and I end up with a truckload of Drafts that I don’t publish.

I didn’t work out any kind of schedule or strategy for writing these Blaugust posts, after I abandoned my first idea. I just sat down to write at completely random times, with little or no idea what to say or how long it was going to take. If you’re planning on becoming a writer, that’s not a great way to do it. The discipline of writing every day at the same time for the same length of time goes a long way toward meeting writing goals. (Or if not the same exact time, then the same situation or context.)

Dawn over the Atlantic ocean at Chincoteague.

Blogging Topics

Toward the end, I found myself writing mainly in the morning (ie. anywhere between 7 AM and noon), usually about something that happened the previous day, which is basically journalling or writing a diary. It’s a fairly reliable source of topics, but I don’t particularly like to do that in blogging. I know there’s a large contingent of bloggers who think blogging should be personal, but I’m not one of them. I prefer my blogging to be informative and/or entertaining, or at the very least a work that has its own merit independent of the creator. In general, my ideal blog post is one that might someday be a Google search result.

Which is somewhat ironic because when I was plotting out topics to write before Blaugust, I had a long list of personal topics to explore. I was going to write about writing music, audio engineering, video production, all the manuscripts for novels I’ve written, dealing with anxiety, software development, and all kinds of stuff that I ended up thinking were terrible ideas when it came time to actually sit down and write about them. So I guess I would have to deduct some points from my Blaugust performance for not following through with any of my plans.

And it wouldn’t be a performance review if I didn’t ask myself why I didn’t follow through with my plans: Basically, I didn’t feel like sharing. I ask myself quite often, “Is it worth blogging about this? Is there anything to be gained by writing about this topic?” If the answer ends up being, “No, not really,” then I tend to axe blog posts. Lately I also tend to ask, “Is there anything to lose by writing about this?” or, “Is anyone going to complain if I write this?” It’s hard to think of topics that nobody can complain about. :)

My cat in her natural habitat. I'm only useful to her for dispensing food and water.

Community

Overall, I’m feeling quite a lot like I did toward the end of my political blogging days (c. 2010). I have opinions about things, but I just don’t want to share them in public much anymore, particularly for anything controversial. Which is hard because every single thing is controversial right now. Throw a dart at any topic, and someone is ready and willing and able to take an extremist viewpoint and go to war over it. Roger touched on this topic in one of his Blaugust posts. I agree with some of his points, and I disagree with others, but just a discussion of more reasoned, rational viewpoints seems quite controversial in 2018.

I found myself more-or-less retreating inside my own bubble by the end of Blaugust, focusing entirely on my own writing while virtually ignoring the entire rest of the blogosphere. There was a lot more to read than I could possibly have kept up with, and I eventually gave up trying. Much like email (and snail mail), I get very stressed out trying to keep up with reading everything and I had to repeatedly declare “bankruptcy” by clicking that “Mark All As Read” button. So I probably missed a lot of great stuff out there.

I did try to at least skim the titles of everything that went through my feed reader, though. If I were to dispense any advice to new bloggers, it would be that a catchy or at least informative title and/or first sentence is the main thing that gets me to read posts from blogs I’m not familiar with (an image might, too, but I don’t see thumbnail images unless I happen to see the post go by on Twitter).

Early on, I tried to think of ways to support the new bloggers, but I couldn’t figure out a good system. Commenting isn’t terribly easy for me. I tried to write a post about how I struggle with comments in blogging but I never finished that one. I think I’m in the extreme minority with my thoughts on blog comments anyway so it’s probably better if I just keep my mouth shut. Bhagpuss touched on some of the frustrating technical issues with commenting that I run into all the time.

My dog through a screen door from several years back.

Lessons Learned

I said that most of my Blaugust posts were written, edited, and published in the same sitting. It turns out, I didn’t like blogging that way. I greatly prefer scheduling posts at least a day or two ahead of time, giving me the chance to write a draft, then chisel away at editing it in future sessions. Putting some space between the writing and the editing helps me a lot. I ended up only starting a handful of Blaugust posts early, and I think I only completed one or two early, which felt weird.

I learned from the Discord that Feedly is the RSS feed reader of choice, and only one other person mentioned using InoReader like I do. I don’t quite get why Feedly is so popular; the only thing I can figure is that it’s simply the one everyone’s friends use. Back when I was trying to find a replacement for Google Reader, InoReader seemed like it was clearly the superior product to Feedly, although I can’t precisely remember why. This Blaugust made me think about giving Feedly another try.

Bhagpuss said something in an off-handed comment that took my breath away:

“Do people actually read posts on RSS feeds (as opposed to using RSS feeds to alert them of posts, which thery then visit the websites to read)? Why would anyone do that?”

To me, it was roughly equivalent to someone saying, “Does anyone even use indoor plumbing? Why would anyone do that?” Of course I use an RSS reader to read blogs. I can’t even conceive of a world of reading blogs without an RSS feed reader. I’ve been using one almost every day since at least 2006, and probably even before that. Usually the only time I leave the RSS reader to visit a blog’s web site is if the full article text isn’t included in the feed (a practice I generally frown upon), or if I want to go leave a comment.

It echoed some early conversations on the Discord toward the beginning of the month that left me similarly flabbergasted: People talked about actually going to a blog’s web site to read new articles. A lot of people, apparently. I can’t even wrap my mind around such a thing. I always compose my web site and blog posts with the expectation that people (and bots) are reading nothing but the XML content of the RSS feed. I only expect people to reach my actual web site from random Google searches, and in such cases I focus on making the article page as minimalist as possible. This Blaugust has made me question my thinking about all of that. (I don’t know yet what the “answers” to those questions will be though.)

Bhagpuss left another comment just yesterday that got me thinking, too:

They are about as far from being boring as it’s possible to be. Provocative, controversial, snarky, irritable and even angry but never boring.

First of all, that’s a very nice compliment. But I started to wonder if “provocative, controversial, snarky, irritable and even angry” is how I would have described my blog, and the answer is that other than some exceptions I can think of here and there, no, not really. That doesn’t describe me as a person at all. (I don’t think?) If anything I’d say I try to not sound like that. I would have said I strive for sounding “neutral.” Even when I criticize a game I try to think of something nice to say about it, too. I’m sure I’m not always successful, but it’s usually in my head to try to avoid sounding like those people who mercilessly bash things just for the fun of generating controversy and hits. When I’m editing, I often try to “soften” that kind of language. In my early blogging days I definitely didn’t tone it down, and I’ve always regretted it and tried to make up for it.

The point is, maybe I need to review my posts more and see what I can do to get the blog to sound more like me as a person. Maybe this is a side effect of not including much personal stuff on the blog. In any case it’s given me something to think about.

A particularly fascinating tree from the Stony Man Mountain trail.

What’s Next?

There’s no question I’ll be resuming my one-or-two-posts-a-week schedule. Posting every day is entirely too much work, unless someone wants to pay me for my time. (I’m available!) Especially now, when I’m not gaming all that much, comparatively speaking.

Someday I would love to rebuild my blog using a non-Wordpress software platform, but as yet I haven’t found anything I think. I don’t particularly want to go the “managed blog” route like Blogger.com or WordPress.com or SquareSpace. I prefer the self-hosted route. But as a software product, I find WordPress to be incredibly bloated and antiquated, sort of like the way Microsoft Outlook is for email. It’s maddening for me to deal with it day after day.

I’m also terribly disappointed in the performance of my web host right now, as it sometimes takes a full second to load every page, which may not affect you the reader that much (especially if you use an RSS reader), but it affects me using WordPress’s post editor a whole lot. I keep thinking about moving, but again, it’s very difficult to find good, cheap shared web hosting anymore. Everything is moving to “managed virtual servers” which basically means everyone feels justified charging $20/month instead of $5/month. At that price I might as well go with SquareSpace.

I won’t be posting every day after August, but I will surely continue to write every day. I’d love to transfer some of this blogging momentum into creative writing. Believe it or not, I’m working on a book. (By “working on” I currently mean I’m “paralyzed with indecision and lack of confidence.”) I would like to finish that before November, when I will begin another draft for NaNoWriMo and start the cycle of inadequacy anew.

It's a random road trip from somewhere around 2010.

Post Archive

Here are all my Blaugust posts. I marked posts with, for example, (-1) or (-2) to indicate if I started writing the post 1 or 2 days early.

  1. Blaugust Introduction
  2. Gaming Goals Aren’t Fun For Me
  3. The Cataract Report
  4. Those WoW Cinematics
  5. New Writing Process Didn’t Work
  6. I Wish EQ2 Would Explain More (-1)
  7. Back Yard Bird-Watching (-2)
  8. The Hand Report
  9. Nineties News Nostalgia on Netflix (-2)
  10. More Netflix Documentaries
  11. My Oldest Computer Files
  12. Diablo III for the First Time
  13. Battle for Azeroth Impulse Buy
  14. The Siege of Lordaeron
  15. 2.5 Hrs Into Battle for Azeroth
  16. Finding Teldrassil
  17. Realm Pop (-1)
  18. Developer Appreciation Overthinking (-1)
  19. Sunday Browns and Disenchanted Disappointment
  20. Drustvar Screenshots
  21. Drustvar Complete, Mastodon (-1)
  22. That Amazon New World Preview
  23. News: Ashes, Torchlight, Twitch
  24. Where Exactly Is This Battle?
  25. Stormsong Valley and On Accident
  26. A Logical Dead End
  27. Side Quests and Spigots
  28. Cyberpunk 2077 Gameplay Reaction (-1)
  29. Hard Drive Shopping (-1)
  30. Battle for Azeroth 119 Update
  31. This post (-8)

Not shown: 9 unfinished drafts, and 2 failed attempts to revive previously unfinished drafts.

Thirteen posts or fully 42% of the total involved World of Warcraft’s Battle for Azeroth expansion, which is something I’m not particularly proud of.

This page is a static archival copy of what was originally a WordPress post. It was converted from HTML to Markdown format before being built by Hugo. There may be formatting problems that I haven't addressed yet. There may be problems with missing or mangled images that I haven't fixed yet. There may have been comments on the original post, which I have archived, but I haven't quite worked out how to show them on the new site.

Note: Comments are disabled on older posts.