Birthday trip blogging.

So remember how I said I was going to try to blog the birthday trip while I was on it?

Well, I started to. I wrote the post for Day 1 Friday morning and added links and everything, but since I only had the iPad and not my laptop I was having a lot of trouble getting my photos uploaded to the right place. I outlined the post for Day 2 (bullet points) on Friday night, but slept in Saturday morning and so didn’t have time to write the full post. Saturday night we got back to the room so late that I didn’t even have time to outline my recap for Day 3. And Day 4 was a half day plagued by rain, so when I got home Sunday late afternoon all I wanted to do was crash.

All of this is my lame, placeholder-y way of saying that the recap for the birthday trip is coming, I swear it! Look for the first installment tomorrow.

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The one that got away.

Today is the final day of NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month, for those of you just joining us). Every day in the month of November, I have published a post on this here blog.

Well, every day except YESTERDAY.

It was one of those days. I woke up Saturday after about five hours and couldn’t fall back asleep. There were many dogs in my house, mine plus my stepfathers’ two. They are kind of ornery in the morning. I wasn’t feeling so hot, either, like I was still trying to fend off this cold I’ve been fending off for a couple of weeks.

So I declared it a Bum Day and rode the couch until 5-ish, when I took a shower and started to get ready to go out. Joe and I were meeting some friends for dinner. This double dating thing is new to us; we haven’t historically had a lot of couple friends. We were giddy, even though I was both exhausted and possibly getting sick.

Dinner was good and the companionship even better. We laughed a LOT. Even so, about an hour into it, I felt the telltale drip going down the back of my throat. The beginnings of a cough started rattling in my chest. Rut-ro.

After dinner I made Joe go to ShopRite with me to purchase the $1.29/lb. pork loin (the sale price ended yesterday). Y’all know I love my cheap meats. We also picked up some peppermint tea, because I knew – I ABSOLUTELY KNEW – sickness was coming.

At home I changed into my PJs and lay on the couch while Joe brewed me some of that tea. We started to watch another episode of How to Get Away with Murder (we were behind almost the whole season) and as soon as I was finished with the tea I promptly passed out. Joe nudged me awake and I crashed into bed, where I slept for nine solid hours, save one quick AM trip to the loo.

It was during that trip that I realized: I TOTALLY FORGOT TO POST SOMETHING YESTERDAY.

Missed it by that Much

I wondered if I could post something after the fact and predate it, but that felt like cheating. I’m a lot of things, but a cheater isn’t one of them.

So, I failed…sort of.

I published 29 posts this month, including this one. They weren’t all winners, but they weren’t all lame, either.

Best of all, they got me over whatever mental block I’d been having about blogging again. Not every post has to be Important. They don’t all have to have perfect photos. Hell, sometimes you can skip the photo thing entirely. Guess what? World doesn’t end.

This challenge reminded me that blogging is, at the heart of it, about using your voice. It doesn’t matter whether you’re using it to pay tribute to loved one or deliver a mini-rant about processed foods – it just matters that you’re saying what you think, what you know, what you feel.

Now that the challenge is over, I likely won’t continue posting every day. I’ve got a novel to finish, yo, and daily blogging does cut into my limited writing time. But I’d like to keep posting 3-5 times a week, schedule permitting. It’s been fun. I’ve missed this.

And to all of the NaNoWriMo winners out there: congratulations! I don’t know if I could do the 50k words in 30 days thing. I don’t even know if I’m crazy enough to try. But I do admire your dedication. And who knows? Maybe one day I’ll be cool enough to join your ranks.

First Draft-itis and how my NaBloPoMo goal is helping.

Today is November 15, which means that I’m officially halfway to my NaBloPoMo goal. It hasn’t been as difficult as I thought it would be, though there have been some days that I’ve been like, “What in the world could I possibly write about today?” I mean, technically there are TONS of things that I could write about, but I’m actually not that interesting a person. (Evidence: this post.)

But honestly, I didn’t challenge myself to write 30 days of killer content. I challenged myself to write 30 days of blog posts, period. I wanted to get myself back in the habit of actually DOING the blog thing, instead of just thinking about doing it.

keep-calm-and-write-the-draftIn some ways, it’s been like writing a first draft: I have to shut off my inner critic and just write. Sure, I proofread, and sure, I’ve corrected some typos after the fact (doing things like that is in my type-A DNA). But honestly, if I’m writing 30 posts in 30 days I don’t have time to labor over every single one. I kind of have to go with my gut and just get it out onto the page (or screen, as the case may be).

I’m sort of struggling with First Draft-itis on my current WIP. There are lots of things about this project that are just sticky. For one thing, it has multiple, first-person narrators. In the back of my head, there’s a niggling voice asking me WHY? WHY DID YOU PICK FIRST PERSON, YOU NIMROD? (The niggling voice isn’t very nice, if you couldn’t tell.)

But I do not have time to entertain those kinds of niggling voices. I’m on a deadline, and because I have a full-time day job that keeps me more than busy, I have to work toward that deadline with daily word goals. Realistic ones that I still can’t meet 100% of the time. I can’t allow myself to reread more than what I wrote during my previous session, even if I am having difficulty keeping my facts/timelines straight. Then I’ll just spend all of my writing hours tweaking/shaping instead of making progress.

I’m like Abraham in The Walking Dead: I can’t go back, I can only move forward.

Even as I press forward, though, I feel like I’m getting lost in the words. HOW AM I GOING TO WRITE MYSELF OUT OF THIS? WHAT CAN POSSIBLY HAPPEN TO CONNECT POINT A TO POINT B? I have a road map to this novel – and exhaustive chapter-by-chapter break down – and yet I’m still scratching my head most nights.

When this happens, I make myself think of E.L. Doctorow and the whole writing-is-like-driving-at-night-in-the-fog metaphor: “You can only see as far as your headlights but you can make the whole trip that way.”

I’m trying to focus on that, because with each 400-word goal, each 600-word goal, each 1,000-word goal, I’m inching along to my destination. And the best part is that even the days I think I’m writing utter crap, I’m actually not. When I read it the next day, I’m often surprised that the 489 words I struggled to pull out of my brain are actually quite good.

It’s good to be writing my way out of the fog, whether it’s in Scrivener or Word Press or old-school paper. Now I just need to get better at shutting off my inner critic. And this, ultimately, is where NaBloPoMo is helping. Because again: I don’t have the time for the navel gazing. I wouldn’t want to waste it on that even if I did.

Is blogging dead?

Back in 2001, when blogging was still relatively new and Facebook hadn’t yet been invented, I was all over LiveJournal. I loved it. I wrote daily posts (sometimes multiple posts, even) and read my friends list obsessively. I wasn’t working full-time – just writing and teaching – and I required a lot less sleep than I do now, so pouring hours upon hours into the LJ community was totally feasible.

Plus, blogging was so much simpler then. A good blog had a purpose. A good blogger had an engaging, authentic voice. Using hyperlinks was a good thing. Oh, and if you really wanted to stand out, you’d throw a picture in every now and then. But that’s about it.

No, really. In the early 2000s, this was all you needed to have a decent blog. You didn’t need a hook or a schtick or professional quality photographs taken with a DSLR that cost more than two of my mortgage payments. You certainly didn’t need a massive Twitter following, because Twitter hadn’t even been born yet.

All you  needed was a voice and a POV.

Like I said: simpler times.

But there’s a price to pay for simplicity. The easier it became to use a blogging platform, the more people were drawn to the tech. At a certain point, you didn’t even need to know pidgin HTML, like I did when I started. The blogosphere started to expand at an exponential rate. Marketers moved in to the neighborhood. Self-promotion spread like a cancer in the community. And when bloggers started to land six-figure book deals, based on their blogs, all hell broke loose.

It kind of stopped being fun, after a while, is what I’m saying.

My personal activity petered off around the time the blogging boom went bust. More and more people abandoned LJ. I got busier. I fell in love. My personal filter, which had often been lacking during my most prolific blogging days, grew thicker. The most important things going on in my life were not the kinds of things I felt comfortable sharing with the world at large. And when I got a full-time job, in a real office, filled with real people, some of whom read my blog, isht got real really quick.

It’s one thing to talk about your life to people you don’t see on a day-to-day basis. It’s another to do it knowing that your co-worker could walk up to you and say, “Oh, I read about the ant problem in your kitchen. Have you tried Borax?”

I shut it down. Eventually, I deleted it altogether. It was a relic of a life I no longer lived, an archive of a person I no longer was. (Full disclosure: thanks to the miracle that is LJ Book, I have a full PDF archive of every post I ever wrote on Girl, Uninterrupted. Only now it’s for my eyes only – which is how I prefer it.)

During the handful of years that I did not have an active blog (roughly three, but who’s counting?), I launched the now-defunct (sort of) Engage blog for the International Reading Association. It moved from a private-label social platform to a section on the public web-based magazine Reading Today Online. Eventually I opted to fold it into a revamped Reading Today Online altogether, after it was reconceived as more of a HuffPo style blog for literacy educators.

So here’s the thing about working in communications and social media: You spend a lot of time researching best practices. You know what good blogging/Twittering/Pinteresting/etc. should look like. You pour a lot of time into content strategy for your organization’s social channels. And guess what? It’s the last thing you want to do for yourself when you get home. Plus – and this might be the worst part – any active social media presence you have personally becomes part of your professional CV. And yes, you will be judged.

But let’s circle back to the initial question, shall we? Yesterday, an author I know solely from social media posted something about how, let’s face it, blogging is dead. And I was like, really? Is it?

I don’t think so, and here’s why:

People still read blogs. They just aren’t reading them in the same way as the did in the good ol’ days.

We post a lot of content on Reading Today Online. Things fall under different buckets and appeal to different audiences. Most readers don’t come to the home page to see what today’s top story is. Nearly all of our referral traffic comes from social posts – that is, the links we share on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.

You - Time Person of the Year 2006What this tells us that Time was right on when they declared You the 2006’s Person of the Year. Sort of. In this age of affordable high-speed Internet and mobile everything, we are now more than ever able to select what it is that we consume. Here’s a good example: the only time I see commercials anymore is when I’m watching The Good Wife On Demand because some stupid sports match inevitably runs over and messes with the DVR recording. Otherwise, I use the DVR to watch what I want to watch, when I want to watch it, fast-forwarding through the ads.

I curate everything I consume in a similar fashion. Music. News. And, yes, blogs.

What I want, when I want it.

Where am I going with this?

I don’t even know. This post started with the title “Blogger’s Block,” because I’m doing this whole NaBloPoMo thing and even though I have tons of blog posts that have been marinating in my head for days, weeks, even months, I had 22 minutes to bust something out…and I couldn’t do it. Because of all of the stuff I go into above. And then the whole question of “Is blogging dead?” started niggling in my brain and, well, this is the result.

In conclusion:

1. Blogging isn’t so much dead as it is different.
2. Maintaining a blog was a lot easier when I was young and stupid.

Yep. That about sums it up.

NaBloPoMo 2014

NaBloPoMo_November (1)A couple of weeks ago, I was thinking about how badly I needed to jump-start this blog, and get back into the habit of blogging regularly. In the six and a half months since I started it, I’ve written a whopping eight posts. This does not include the dozens I’ve written in my head, but never got around to typing out.

So I had this brilliant idea to give myself a challenge: I would write a post every day for the month of November. Instead of NaNoWriMo, I’d do my very own NaBloWriMo. I would start a movement!

And then I found out that NaBloWriMo already existed. Except, it wasn’t called NaBloWriMo; it was called NaBloPoMo (as in, National Blog Posting Month), and it’s been around for eight years.

Okay, so I wouldn’t be a trailblazer. But it doesn’t really matter, since my goal wasn’t to blaze trails so much as, you know, blog.

I added myself to the NaBloPoMo blogroll and am making this public declaration:

One new post a day, every day for 30 days.

No exceptions.