Here, now, my mission is to psychologically reframe the notion, act of blogging. Pinpointing my existing framework is challenging, because it’s more so a subconscious perspective or preverbal belief. Prosaically, I want to think about blogging much like I think about journaling, as foremost a form of self-dialogue. Though ostensibly adjacent, blogging is different than journaling. It’s worth noting that it’s taken me the better part of a decade to learn to journal; rather I did so organically for a stretch of puberty before “forgetting” in adolescence (thanks in large to myriad cultural forces i/e the advent of performative and abbreviated social media communications). Slowly but surely, in my 20’s I’ve rediscovered journaling and developed and maintained a healthy of writing things down.
the gateway habit – journaling
In my life, journaling may be distilled to three rudimentary components:
- determining what needs to be written down
- determining where to write things down
- writing things down
This seems reductive- it both is and it isn’t. I really start with no. 3 and no.’s 1 and 2 take care of themselves. For years I was more concerned with what journaling wasn’t, than what it was. While I somehow avoided falling into a black hole of technique sampling (I’m personally prone to quasi-preparatory dawdling), this was due in large to a general pattern of journal-avoidance. My ideal of a journal was precisely this sort of orderly day log, (I still don’t like to use the word “diary”). Attempts to maintain a real-time prose record of my life were futile and frustrating. Imitating the self-mythologizing style of so many historical figures’ was simply not feasible then, and it still isn’t.
The only quasi-consistent writing habit I maintained, more or less from puberty, is memorialized in a google doc called “songs w christoph.” (chris is a friend and bandmate of mine. It’s several hundred pages long, and aside from stanza breaks, the document has no discernible format. It’s just a decade of accumulated verse. This formlessness is, AFAIK, the prerequisite to any content at all.
A year or so ago, I dropped any cultural associations and ideals with the act of journaling. More so, they slowly let go of me. I don’t know when I consciously noted the open-endedness that makes “songs w christoph” work, but I started implementing it more universally in my life. Grocery and shopping lists, creative writings, work-related todo’s- I started just jotting them down indiscriminately in my nearest notebook. In addition to “marble composition books” I jot notes in Bear on my mac, and occasionally the notes app on my iPhone. When I’m up to it, I implement Tim Ferris’s indexing system in combination with some zettelkasten-style tagging, though on the whole I’ve let organization become an afterthought.
Since surrendering my ideals of style, content and organization, journaling has become near effortless and increasing useful and meaningful. I allocate little bandwidth to actively maintaining the habit and I pass few self-judgements for taking a day or week off. Seldom do I retrospectively reference my journals in any sort of structured way. In the rare case I do need to dig up something specific, the worst case is it’s not indexed, and I have to flip thru several dozen pages to sniff down my trail. Even if this takes 45 minutes, the situation is far preferable to one without any journals at all.
Like the handful of other substantial life-improving behaviors and habits I’ve successfully adopted over the years, letting go of expectation is truly the first step.
It follows that (blogging) expectations must be recognized before they are released… Whilst scanning, I’m immediately bombarded with blogging ideals and models to imitate. But much like journaling it’s the negative identification that seems to get in my way. Ideals do not serve as aspirations to emulate, rather they are self-defeating points of comparison.
The proclivity to shut-down my own effort / creativity in any domain is probably best addressed in the context of greater psychological patterns of self-sabotage. Rather than open that box here, I’m inclined to emphasize what I believe is the essential nature of the problem, in this specific case: “anyone who wants to beat a dog can find a stick” (russian? saying).
That is to say, identifying expectations, or enumerating their specific natures may not actually be that useful. In any case, the ultimate hindrance that such expectations pose is a prohibitory invalidating comparison: instead of tugging me in the wrong direction, they stop me in my tracks. “Good,” “bad,” and “correct” expectations are similarly detrimental. They all insist that whatever it is I’m doing is what blogging is not.
Inversion then presents itself as a viable option: if I can reduce blogging to some set of essential principles, and focus on embodying those, I’m bound to succeed. But this tactic too, I suspect is a trap. I’m able to synopsize my journaling principles, but that’s only in retrospect.
So what now? Where to begin? If the release of expectation and delineation of scale-reductive manageable aspirations won’t do, what will? At this juncture, the peripheral cylinders stars firing: set SMART goals, find a social accountability partner, institute stakes like a financial penalty. The list perpetuates and I’m beginning to notice I’m already home. The solution need not be formulated and explicated in advance.
It’s happening. I’ve written, at a glance, 500 or so intelligible words on a single topic. Moreover, this writing takes steps to resolve an identifiable personal problem and contribute meaningfully to a sustained narrative. I’ve honored two blogging principles I didn’t know I had: pragmatism and archiving. I did it without much thinking about thinking or getting lost in the weeds of comparisons. I answered my own question, “how do you write a blog?”
appendix: deriving principles
- in revision, optimize for non-redundancy over (or for the sake of) ontological cohesion… efficiency precedes continuity
- think on the paper, whenever possible
- topicality emerges from ease and meaningfulness, not the other way around