Monday, August 26, 2019

What's My Motivation? Blaugust

According to Belghast's handy schedule, this is Staying Motivated Week.

"Staying Motivated Week – August 25th – August 31st: The final stretch. The idea is to post some help to keep folks motivated as they run towards the finish line. Also some general tricks and tips on how you keep motivated if you are one of the more seasoned veterans of the blogging community. If you are fresh to the initiative you could talk about some of the ways you have kept yourself engaged and creating content."

I am perhaps the least-qualified blogger imaginable to give advice on this topic. Just look at the August posts over to the right. Five days left in the month and I've already racked up three dozen posts.

That's already the most I've ever posted in a calendar month. I think my previous record was thirty-two for last year's Blaugust. This year I will break forty.

One thing I would like to emphasize, particularly to anyone who started blogging this month as a result of Blaugust is this:

  • It's okay to miss a day. Or a week.

Blaugust is exceptional. Everyone's so into it you might get the impression we're always like this. And some of us are. But most of us aren't. Blogging is a marathon not a sprint but it's very easy to forget that in the excitement of a big community event like this.

My normal posting pattern is very different. I average somewhere between 175 and 190 posts a year. I tend to post only on days when I'm not working, which, since I work a four day week, means about three times unless something exciting happens. If so I'll bang out something quickly in the evening.

If I'm off work for some reason I post a lot more. The reason my post count has been so high in 2019 is that I've been at home for much of the year, either recovering from an operation or going through post-op treatment that prohibits me working.

That's also meant I'm not really able to go out much (tiredness, risk of infection, highly increased susceptibility to sunburn) so I've had more than ample time to blog. And so far I really haven't run short of ideas, because

  • Ideas are like dust. 

They're everywhere and they pile up if you don't clear them out. If you read other blogs you'll see something every single day that makes you think "Oh, I've got plenty to say about that!". That's a blog post right there - maybe a series.

If you follow the news about the games you play or the developers who make them, things will constantly irk you or excite you or tickle your fancy. If you were talking about it to a friend or your guild you can post about it on your blog. Posts like that almost write themselves. After all,

  • Your blog is about something, isn't it? 

In this corner of the blogosphere that's most likely gaming but in the blog roll to your right there are blogs on real-life crafting, movies, drawing, parenting, comics, sports... Heck, one of the most enjoyable blogs I followed (now sadly dormant) was about bridges.

Whatever it is, it's something you do, right? You probably did it today. You probably do it every day. So write about it. Don't worry if anyone wants to read about the dungeon clear you did last night or the pair of socks you're knitting. Write entertainingly about it and they will, because in the end

  • It really isn't what you write about. It's how.

Which does not mean you have to be a great writer, technically or any other way. It doesn't matter if your grammar is shaky, your syntax shot, or your spelling all over the place. It's not like Reese Lansangan is going to come round your house and blow her whistle at you - although how great would that be?

It doesn't even matter if what you say isn't original. Your beatdown on the most flogged of dead horses is yours and you know what works as well as anything and better than most? Just being yourself. If your post sounds like you're talking to a friend over coffee and cake (or beer and peanuts) and you're both having a good time, that's all you need.

Rewind. It does matter if something you post is literally not original. Don't go nicking other peoples' stuff. Of course, no-one here would do that so I don't know why I mentioned it.

Okay, you got me. I do know.

Anecdote break. 

Before I blogged I used to be big into the APAzine Scene. APAs were (are?) like blogs you produce on a photocopier. Here, go read about it on Wikipedia. One time in an APA I was in there was a huge scandal. It turned out someone had been submitting work he'd "borrowed" from other sources, passing it off as "original" work of his own. Not only that but he denied it when challenged and we had to vote on expelling him at a meeting. He got kicked out. It was all very dramatic. And unpleasant. So it happens.

Of course, no-one can kick you off your blog. It's yours, which means

  • You can write whatever you want. 

And if what you write is entertaining, amusing, informative or just plain conversational people will read it. If you lack for motivation, just think: someone's bored at work, looking at their RSS feed right now, tapping a pen against their coffee mug, wishing a post would pop up.

It could be yours. You could be telling them about the new character you made in your favorite MMORPG or getting buyer's remorse out of your system for that dumb purchase you made on Steam. Or you could be giving an update on your weekend plans or posting a couple of pictures from the vacation you just took or being really, really sad about your pet that died.

All of those are posts I've read on blogs that were nominally about gaming. And that's another rule you can break to help you over any idea slump. Remember when I asked if your blog was about something? Well,

  • Whatever you thought your blog was about, it's actually about you.

So don't box yourself in. If you've gone dry on your topic of choice, reach into the bag and choose a different club. (Geez, did I just use a golf metaphor? I need caffeine.) I just did that this month, opening up the blog to posts about music. It's been hugely refreshing. If I was short of ideas for posts (Spoiler: I wasn't) this would have smashed that log-jam to flinders.

This could run on. I like the sound of my own voice, in case anyone didn't get that. And so should you. You should learn to like the sound of yours, if you don't already. One way to do that is to

  • Say what you want to say and let other people worry about whether it's interesting or not. 

Writers often talk about the importance of "finding your voice". Yes, maybe, if your goal is to win the Man Booker. Otherwise, you already have a voice. Just let us hear it.

And since we're actually talking about writing, not talking, learn to be your own favorite writer. Or if not favorite then at least in the top five! If you enjoy writing and enjoy reading what you've written, chances are so will someone else. And on the internet "someone" means lots of someones.

Of course, all of this is predicated on the idea that you enjoy writing. I mean,

  • You do enjoy writing, don't you?

Not everyone does. Actually, I imagine hardly anyone does. It's kind of a weird thing to do, when you think about it. Sitting on your own, staring at a screen, when you could be watching a movie or playing a game or taking the dog for a walk. Or painting the stairs, because you know they need it and it's been years since the last time. Okay, that one might just be me...

If you're sitting in front of the computer looking at a blank, white screen and wondering why, then stop. As the old kids TV show used to say "Why don't you just switch off your television set and go out and do something less boring instead?". Except with your blogging app, naturally. Because who even watches TV in 2019? 

Finally, and most importantly of all, always remember:

  • Blogging is a hobby not a job.

And hobbies have a finite lifetime for most people. Could be a fad that lasts a week, an obsession that takes up all your time and energy for months, a habit that lasts for years until you forget why you ever started. It could even become a way of life, something that never leaves you. The point is, it lasts as long as it lasts and that's fine.

Also, hobbies are pick-up-put-down. It's not a one-time thing. If you're not feeling it, have a break. Maybe you'll come back, maybe you won't. Either way it's your choice.

That may not sound all that motivational but trust me, it is. Take the pressure off and give yourself time for the enthusiasm you had when you started to well up all over again. Fun things are only fun when you don't have to do them. 

That last sentence should probably have been a bullet point...

  • Final tip: if you're stuck for ideas, just bang something out. 

Doesn't matter what. Just freestyle it. Sit down, start typing, see where it takes you. Easy to say and guess what? Easy to do, too.

That's how I wrote this post, after all.


  1. "Final tip: if you're stuck for ideas, just bang something out."

    Some long and interesting posts have developed for me from just attempting to frame and idea and bang out what I think will be a paragraph or two about it.

    1. It's the equivalent of picking up a guitar or sitting down at a keyboard and noodling. Do it long enough and a tune will emerge - and it might evenbe a good one.

  2. I think of you as the Brandon Sanderson of Blaugust 2019, Bhagpuss. You're equally prolific without sacrifice in quality. This particular post a case in point!

    The only thing I disagree with in this, is:
    "Writers often talk about the importance of "finding your voice". Yes, maybe, if your goal is to win the Man Booker. Otherwise, you already have a voice. Just let us hear it."

    But perhaps this is because, right or wrong, I feel like I lost mine in the intervening years between blogs. If nothing else it is different now, and in many respects I like the old one better.

    ...Maybe. If it was a FB relationship status, it'd definitely be 'It's complicated'.

    I read a few of the posts on Life On A Bridge, and this is a classic example of having a fantastic writer's voice. Yours is different -- but also very present. I think I could identify a piece of your writing out of a crowd of our peers, for example.

    It's something I try not to dwell on too much, but I do. At this stage it's become clear it isn't just a matter of shaking the rust off. It's going to be a concerted, practiced effort to get to a place I want to be in this respect.

    And that's fine! I love learning stuff -- the problem is generally reigning this in to actually focus on just one or two things at any given moment.

    1. I do think the writer's "voice" is very important. For fiction it's crucial. In the context of blogging, though, I think it tends to be something that emerges naturally over time if you just keep writing. If you focus on it too much you risk false notes slipping in. It's like trying too hard in sports - sometimes sitting back a little lets your natural talent come through.

      For what it's worth, I find your "voice" very distinctive and recognizeable. Whether it's the voice you want to be using, though, only you would know!

      I must read some Brandon Sanderson. I've had him recommended to me by several people. I need something new to get stuck into, too.

  3. Hope the health journey is going well. Good luck with it all! Luck is a strange thing to say there, but well, it often feels that way. I have been there.

    I'm in a massive down-blogging phase, but not sad or stressed about it. I do feel out of the loop a bit but still are checking and reading other blogs near daily. It happened when I went away and disconnected from the interwebs (for the most part) and am now just playing a quasi catch up.

    1. Health going well at the moment, thanks! Fingers crossed!

      Blogging probably should be part of a healthy creative diet - just as much as you need and no more. Maybe a little extra on special occasions. You seem to be keeping your hand in, to mix metaphors.

      Come to think of it, hand in what? I like cliches but not when I don't understand the full lcontext.

  4. It's funny to me that you say you write more at home than at work. Most of my blogging life I've written a *lot* more at work than at home. I would keep a text file open all day and add to it when I was bored or unoccupied. When I got home that was when it was time to play the games and stuff!

    1. In the 90s I was fortunate enough to have a job where I spent all day at a desk waiting to answer the phone. Some days it didn't ring all that much. I wrote all my apazine pieces at work and what's more I used the office photocopier to produce 30 copies of two or three eight or twelve page issues (One apazien wasn't enough). I was basically being paid to do my own stuff - I didn't even have to pretend I wasn't doing it.

      For the last decade and a half, though, my work has mostly involved walking abut and talking to people (and a lot of other physical stuff). Opportunities for writing - or even reading - blog posts don't exist, more's the pity!


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