Why DO I blog?

I asked myself this very question one morning recently when I realised that in the last few weeks that I had written more for my blog than I had done in the past few months.

It seems that taking a break has reignited my desire to write, which I see as a good thing!

In terms of interest and motivation, like with my most of my hobbies, writing/blogging follows a rough pattern much like a bell curve. I go through periods where I am staring at the laptop screen with a vacant expression on my face, wondering where the words and ideas originate, before hitting a high and churning out either a few blog posts or some fiction writing only to then come back down to earth with a bump and I am left feeling vacant once more. Although I don’t write for a living, I do wonder how productive I could ever be with a career that required this, but then at least right now I don’t rely on writing full-time to pay the bills.

The reasons I blog and the reasons that I write are not necessarily mutually inclusive. I write and have always written for the enjoyment of doing it, the process itself and for the end result. Conjuring ideas in your mind and then seeing an interpretation of them in black font on the screen is something that I do truly get a kick out of, and getting lost in the writing itself, although this occurs less when I write fiction, is something quite powerful. And I believe that the vast majority of fiction writing that I produce will never see the light of day – thank goodness! A lot of it consists of rambling unfinished sentences and paragraphs where an idea sparked and then died just as quickly.

I blog for the same reasons but much of the writing that appears on this blog is a manifestation of more immediate thoughts/values that come to my mind, what the American psychologist William James referred to as a “stream of… consciousness”. And much like a stream, I try to catch some of those thoughts and produce something that just about conveys them as best I can. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

When I first started blogging a few years ago, I was all about getting my blog/s out there. I read widely about how to promote one’s writing and how important it was to have ‘an angle’ or purpose to your blog (and if you had a few angles then multiple blogs were better than one). I posted links to recent articles on Facebook for a handful of friends that would take the time to read them, joined various blogging communities (including ones outside of the WordPress sphere) and even entered a small number of blogging competitions (I actually came third in one). And I realised pretty quickly that although I gained a lot from reaching out in some areas, it was also a lot of work. It felt like everyone was blogging and my voice was lost in the crowd, that was, unless I did more and more in terms of marketing. I was on a self-promotion treadmill and I put an increasing amount of pressure on myself to seek followers and likes. But at the end of the day, it just didn’t feel like me. Partly due to laziness and also being pulled in different directions for work and so on, my writing gradually came to a standstill. And when I did sit down to do something, I felt bitter. I realised that I didn’t enjoy writing anymore.

So when I first established this blog nearly two years ago, and even as recently as a few months ago, I made public commitments to write more regularly. I hoped that by making such a bold statement, then not only would my writing improve but I would get past the hurdles I had faced previously, where I lost that loving feeling about writing. But it has dawned on me that I have experienced similar feelings in the past few months once again. I was in effect chasing a similar idea, admittedly on a different treadmill this time, where it was all about getting posts written and published, and less about enjoying the process of writing.

So now I make a different commitment to myself. I will write when I have the time, energy and inspiration/motivation to do so. Sometimes it will come in fits and bursts and other times, it will feel like I am clutching at straws, but I am okay with that. I am taking the pressure off myself. I don’t blog for money or for fame (although let’s be honest, who doesn’t like a ‘like’ or some feedback on a piece, preferably positive and/or constructive). And certainly if these were the two main criterion that I was measuring my blog by, I would have deleted this blog some months ago. Some of my favourite and most honest pieces of writing have received minimal views or certainly ‘likes’. I still sit sometimes with the intention to write with a vacant expression on my face and a brain lacking focus and ideas, but I now enjoy the process of writing much more than I have done in some time.

WEBSITE REVAMP

I recently followed through with something that I have been reminding myself to sort out for a while now… a website revamp.

It has been a long time coming.

Although I loved the simplicity of it how my site looked previously, where the landing page consisted of bold featured images, after some time of trying to figure out why it just wasn’t working anymore for me, I realised that the images took centre stage more than my writing. It was more ‘style than substance’ in terms of first appearances. Plus I was ready for a change, I think that is one of the wonderful things about creating content and finally hitting the publish button, you are releasing a little of yourself out there, into the world and that includes how the content appears.

So the overhaul included a biggie – a change of template.

I believe that my site now appears fresher, bolder and I, myself am feeling reinvigorated by the revamp and ready to crack on with producing more content 🙂

A JOB OFFER AND AN ITALIAN WINDOW

I have just returned from a short vacation where I was originally hoping to carve out some time to write this post earlier. But the tourist bug caught fast and my days were mostly spent touring temples and seeing the sights in the wonderful city that is Seoul.

My head was full of trying to navigate my way around the capital of South Korea and nail some of the basics of the language, so I was grateful that the day before leaving I had made a decision about what to do about an offer presented to me a few weeks ago.

I said no.

No to the offer of a role that could have shifted me in a whole new direction that of a website developer and contributor.

My reasons for declining were built on a multitude of factors, but my main recurring thought was that I wasn’t hungry for it. To be more specific, hungry for that particular position at this point in time.

Fear did play a large part in my decision, but not in the perhaps obvious reason that I was scared to take a chance on something unknown to me. But rather it was the fear that was in my gut of ignoring what I truly feel inspired doing – writing that has meaning to me. There is a strong possibility of sounding arrogant here, as though my writing is ‘better’ than the website I could have been writing for. But this couldn’t be further from reality. Having taken the time to consider the offer actually made me acknowledge the cold hard truth, I have been skirting around what I enjoy doing for some years now.

AN ITALIAN ADVENTURE

A little under ten years ago I went on holiday to Italy and spent nearly three weeks touring some of its great cities such as Rome and Florence and then switching to a car for a journey through the magnificent countryside of Umbria and Tuscany. The trip left a lasting effect on me in more ways than one; it certainly affirmed my love of Italian food, art and culture. Those were given. But it was when I was staying in a relatively remote village near Perugia, Umbria where I would say that I received one of the loudest calls to arms I have ever received in terms of inspiration. Through the haze of my long-term memory, I’ll paint the scene:

I am sat leaning over a circular wooden table with what was a cumbersome and impractical laptop. It was heavy, bulky, and took up the vast majority of my day rucksack, but I had been determined to bring it with me on my travels.

I was doing some work for my relatively new teaching position (only one month before I had completed my teaching training and I was due to begin my first job in the forthcoming September). Academic books were spread out around me like a fan, covering the table and chairs and I was dipping between them trying desperately to focus on one thing and failing miserably, I had a great deal of work to prepare. Initial visits to the school had been exciting, I had met new colleagues and seen what was to be the classroom where I would spend most of my day. But I was also left with a large ball of anxiety in my stomach; brand new courses needed to be planned, existing resources needed updating and I couldn’t shake the feeling that perhaps I was in a little over my head. I was keen to be prepared or least to obtain a degree of preparedness, hence the reason my laptop had originally come on holiday with me.

At one point, I stood frustrated and decided to take a short break. White-washed walls gave the kitchen the illusion of space, but in truth it was tiny. Adjacent to a metal sink and drainer was a tall corner cupboard that was in turn next to the only window. I went to grab myself a drink and when normally, well at least for the past few hours I would have gone to sit straight back down this time, I took the few steps to look outside. The image was a mirage of green rolling into the distance, the colour varying in intensity as fields were divided by roads and cultivated land. The scene was occasionally interspersed with buildings with some obscured by trees and the hills beyond.

It was as I stood here, that I felt like my brain had been struck with a burst of energy that I had never experienced before. The image that I was looking at was also somewhere else. I was still standing in that kitchen but the scene that played out in front of me and the sensation of standing there conjured a vivid scene in my mind. A male, a boy, an explorer, lost? They were the first things then; adventure, a family member could have gone missing? His father perhaps? As I write those words, they appear abstract and but loose threads of an idea. But for me at the time, as cliche as it may sound, it was as though I was seeing the world around me with eyes that possessed a whole new vibrancy. For the next couple of days, I was lost in a world of my own with a view out of that window writing furiously on my laptop.

The Italian countryside was the inspiration for what came to be my first book. Now I say ‘first book’, as though I am a published author. I am most definitely not (for the moment at least) and I would say that I am also very far away from being anywhere near that. But that feeling of inspiration made me realise that I absolutely LOVED writing stories and in turn, it also made me hungry for more of those moments of absolute clarity and conviction over my creative thinking.

So the offer presented to me a few weeks ago, as amazing in its own ways as it could have been, ultimately deep down wasn’t right for me. I had to sift through a lot of my mental clutter to find the answers, but I knew I had made the right decision when I thought of how much of my time would have been spent doing the job, whilst also working full-time and therefore sacrificing precious time to write for myself. The hunger and the drive both weren’t there in the same way that writing fiction is for me or even the feelings created when I write posts for this blog.

So it was a no for now for a small career shift, but a big step in reminding myself of what I want to do in the long-term.

ME, MYSELF AND MY GREMLINS

I recently watched an interview with Elizabeth Gilbert where she described how people frequently approach creativity with either a martyr or trickster mindset. The martyr is someone who believes that they must suffer for their art and for the creative process. The strongest indicator of someone with this mindset is that the closest adjective to describe their creative process is frustration. Frustration at the words that hang just out of reach, at the blank page, at the deletion of hundreds of words that you spent an entire morning writing, the pen you write with (as it must be the pens fault for the lack of words) or even your computer screen.

The worst part of acting the martyr is that what actually helps fuel creativity can actually hinder the process. You experience the buzz that comes from creating ideas and content, but when the ideas dry up or become stuck in a no man’s land somewhere in your mind it becomes easier to get caught up in a negative spiral. You are quick to criticise and pass judgement on your own abilities. Martyrdom results in your ideas becoming stuck in the mud, so a lot of the fun is lost. So why do it at all?

But there is another way, Gilbert asserts and this is to view inspiration and creativity as though it were a trickster. Whilst the martyr wants you to self-flagellate for your creativity, the trickster, on the other hand, wants you to play and specifically dance. Dancing in this context is unless you prefer doing it alone, a two-way process and importantly it’s meant to be fun!

Gilbert believes that the trickster is a bit of a shady character too, dropping by for a matter of moments before exiting through the backstage door, or hiding just out of view before pouncing (probably when you are in the middle of doing something else). Viewing the creative process in this way opens your mind to the fact that the way you are thinking shouldn’t be a burden or at its worst painful.

That is partly why I created some metaphorical gremlins to describe a part of my creative thinking. Although at times it’s as though I am training a group of unruly puppies. At times they are the most frustrating things in the world; they pee and crap everywhere, they chew up important stuff and even at their most basic they can annoy the hell out of me. But on the other hand, like puppies my gremlins can sit patiently, coax me along, encourage even providing support and purpose.

My gremlins have to a large extent kept leading me down the martyr route for many years. But working through the careers course, discovering and meeting other people with a similar mindset has forced me to realise that that road sucks, and I need to head in a new direction. This isn’t about turning back or fighting against the gremlins, far from it, it’s about creating a new path where the gremlins and I work together.

9U4HOT0AOU

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