On Deciding Not To Post

I’m writing this on the morning of August 9th, so it’s the ninth day of Blaugust. I’ve streamed and posted a first impressions piece about a game from my Steam backlog every day for 12 days in a row now. It’s been grueling work, but I’ve whittled it down to a fairly streamlined process, so it “only” takes about 2 cumulative hours out of every day, or merely half the time of a part-time job.

The generic "this is a post about blogging" picture.

But beyond that, writing every day has sort of inspired me to spend more time in front of a blank page and write more for the blog. It’s not terribly surprising, then, that I have written four additional posts in these nine days, above and beyond the one-a-day requirement for winning fame and fortune in Blaugust.

What might be surprising is that I’ve evaluated and judged all four of them to be things I don’t want to publish.

I thought it might be instructive to talk about what goes into a decision not to publish a post. Perhaps this is relevant to “getting to know you” week as well.

The first post was a very detailed description of the entire workflow that goes into making my Steam Backlog Bonanza posts. It’s a complex post, filled with technical writing that is meant to educate and explain things. These are very difficult, time-consuming posts for me to write, because there’s an art and a science that goes into instructional writing.

Every sentence needs to build on the knowledge of the previous sentence. Every sentence needs to be examined from the perspective of putting yourself in the shoes of someone who doesn’t know anything. Every word needs to be carefully considered as to whether the reader will understand what it means. I spent many days coming back to it, editing it over and over again, considering what needed more explanation, and what needed less explanation.

After four or five days I got sick of working on it. Now I’ve abandoned it because too many days have passed and the “fire” that inspired me to write it in the first place is completely gone. Not to mention that my workflow was actually changing faster than I could edit it into my explanation post. And it was intended to be for Blaugust’s “prep week” and prep week is long gone.

This is a common theme with me and my blogging: If I don’t finish editing a post quickly, within a day or two of the idea that inspired it, there’s a very strong chance I will never publish it, because I will simply lose interest in it, or some other external factor will render the post irrelevant.

The second post was going to be about how I simply can’t keep up with reading all of the blog posts in Blaugust. I only got three paragraphs into this one before I realized that I didn’t know what I wanted to say.

I started with that one topic sentence (“I can’t keep up”), then I veered into the topic of commenting on posts, which was a completely different can of worms. (Last year, I started a post about “comment anxiety” but never finished it, either.) Then I started a third paragraph about how I have a really difficult time reading blogs that don’t have RSS feeds, and how much of a struggle it is to find those blogs, let alone find them more than once.

With three paragraphs about three different topics, it was clear this post was wandering all over the world and not getting anywhere. (I generally like blog posts to contain one main topic.) It also occurred to me that it would be extremely difficult to find a picture to go with the blog post. The topic of “comment anxiety” also veered too close to the “personal” subject of social anxiety, one of the defining traits of which is to keep it secret. So I abandoned it.

The third post was a reaction to an offhanded remark from Syp on a Massively Overpowered podcast. He mentioned watching Netflix or something while playing MMOs. I’ve done that many a-time in the past myself, but it made me realize that in the last year or so I’ve unconsciously adopted a policy not to play any games that don’t have interesting minute-to-minute gameplay. I just don’t play games anymore that make me feel so bored I have to watch Netflix to play them. It feels like a waste of my time and money.

Reading over the post now, I can’t really explain why I decided not to publish it. I think I was probably second-guessing the reaction to it. I imagined that it would be perceived as a “controversial” post in the MMORPG space, and people would react badly to it. I imagined people would think I was “attacking” grindy MMORPGs and everyone would feel compelled to “rebutt” that claim. At the end of the post I see that I started to write a paragraph anticipating those imagined rebuttals, explaining that I don’t think there’s anything wrong with MMOs with a grind, and how I’ve utilized such games in the past, and then I felt like the whole thing went off the rails and I completely lost confidence in the entire subject.

The fourth post was some answers to that questionnaire thing that’s floating around. When I started it, I was sure it would be a great post, perfect for Blaugust. Then when I got to the end of it, the subject of my writing reminded me of how much of a massive failure I’ve been at most of my creative projects and thoroughly depressed me. I spent the rest of the day in a bad mood, so I definitely didn’t want to post that one.

I think the running theme here is that fear is the main reason I decide not to publish posts. If I don’t feel like a post has a purpose, or if I don’t feel like I can defend (from myself if nothing else), I tend to err on the side of caution and avoid posting it. Disinterest is another big reason. If a post doesn’t hold my attention, it’s certainly not going to grab the attention of any readers.

Now let’s see if this post passes my internal filters and censors and gets published.

P. S. It did, but it took eight days of fussing over it.

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