Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Another Lesson Learned

The topic for the final week of Blapril is "Lessons Learned". I think that's been covered to some extent in previous posts, particularly the one about "Staying Motivated" but let's see...


At the end of Blaugust 2018, when life was very different (aka "normal"), I'd managed to post every day in August, finishing with a grand total of thirty-two posts. I had this to say about the experience:
 "It's been a trip but I can't say I'm sorry it's over. Turns out there's a very good reason I don't normally post on work days. It makes me slightly stressed, it mildly irritates Mrs Bhagpuss and sometimes I just don't have much to say." 
For last year's Blaugust things weren't normal any more. I was off work, at home undergoing chemotherapy, not going out very much at all. Despite feeling quite feeble physically, I had plenty of time on my hands and no shortage of mental energy. I found no trouble posting more than daily, racking up no fewer than forty-two posts in the calendar month. In summing up, something I didn't get around to doing until the week after Blaugust had finished, I said:
"Last Blaugust I was at work and getting a post out every day was tough, particularly mid-week. It doesn't surprise me at all that the limiting factor for me is time, not inspiration or ideas. There were plenty of days when I could have done a second or third post from the half-formed possibilites buzzing around my brain. I only held back because I also wanted to play some games and even with the entire day to yourself there are only so many hours. "
This year for Blapril, normality seems like a half-forgotten dream. Like most of us, I'm under virtual house arrest in lockdown and once again I've been banging out better than a post a day. My total for the month fell right in the middle at thirty-five but April is, of course, a day shorter than August.

The conclusion I draw from this is that, given the opportunity, my natural posting frequency is daily or more. Over the years I've fallen into a pattern of posting mostly on days when I don't work so it's hardly surprising that when I'm not working I post every day.

What has surprised me during Blapril is that, unlike last Blaugust, when I made time for gaming, this year I've felt much more inclined to give games a raincheck and carry on writing.

What I can't tell is whether this is a phase, whether it's related to the unusual circumstances (in both cases there's a background of imminent mortality, which may be sharpening some subconscious desire to "leave a mark"), whether it has something to do with the ongoing drought of new triple-A MMORPGs or whether, given the option, I really would always rather write about games than play them.

I guess I'll find out when I finally retire and have all my time to myself all day, every day.


I am not a naturally organized person. Never have been. I am good at organizing things that have to be organized but anything that can manage on its own can jolly well look after itself.

My normal practise while blogging is to think no further ahead than the day I'm posting. That had been working perfectly well for me since I started and until now I'd seen no reason to change it. Then, when Blapril started, entirely by accident I somehow found myself with pre-written posts in the bank. For almost the entire month I've been posting in arrears, putting up pieces I wrote two or three days earlier.

And it's not really working for me. For a while it had a slightly liberating effect, allowing me to put up a finished post first thing in the morning and have the rest of the day to myself but since what I did with most of the day was write another post, that didn't have quite the impact you might imagine.

After a while, even that limited freedom began to dissipate as I found myself re-working each supposedly finished post before hitting "Publish". Instead of being a couple of days ahead it felt more as though I was always slightly behind. For the last couple of weeks, even though I've only published one post a day, I've effectively been writing two.

I've also felt a number of times that the posts are becoming stale by the time they appear. In having them pre-written they lose some of their immediacy. It feels increasingly like a restraint rather than a release.

It's been a useful experiment but the lesson I take from it is that I'm better off coming to a blank page every day and just banging something out. I only have part two of the Beatles post lined up and ready to go now. I think I'll let that be the last one I sit on for a while.


For last year's Blaugust I signed up as a Mentor and promptly vanished. Well, except for the forty-two posts... I was nominally on Discord but I rarely logged in. I did have an excuse. As I wrote when it was all over
 "I think the main Lesson I learned this year was that I should have skipped being a mentor when I realized I wasn't going to be 100% fit. I was in Discord for the week before the official start but then I had my various health scares and when that settled down it was a couple of weeks before I even remembered Discord was a thing."
When Blapril rolled around I remembered that and signed up as a participant only. Except Bel, being Bel, very kindly left me tagged as a Mentor anyway and I ended up being more active and involved than I expected.

Not that I did much. I'm never going to be someone who organizes gaming events or initiates anything. I've always been far more reactive than proactive. I did manage to remember to log into Discord almost every day, though, and to join in with the conversation, sometimes even in real time.

It's been fun. Maybe particularly so because our ongoing collective weirdness means normal socialization is on hold for many of us. I do get a huge percentage of my regular social contact at work, both with colleagues and with the public, talking at some length to whom is literally something I get paid to do. Discord has offered an enjoyable alternative.

I'll be staying in Discord when Blapril finishes, at least when I remember. I wonder how many people will hang around? Also, does anyone know why the notification bleeps carry on indefinitely after I close the Discord app? It's quite annoying because I tend to close it half an hour before I finally log off at night but it keeps on burbling at me even though I can't see what anyone's saying.


And finally, the lesson I never learn. I really wish I could cut to the chase sometimes but apparently that's not part of my skill set. Believe it or not, most of my posts have already been quite heavily edited by the time they appear.

For years I've been saying I want to write shorter posts but I just can't seem to get the hang of it. And Blapril/Blaugust would be the ideal time because, as several people have pointed out, engagement with other people's content actually drops during these events because most of us simply can't find the time to read everything.

We've had several really excellent new entrants to the event this year. The standard of posting has been very high. I'm not going to call anyone out for praise specifically because that can suggest an unintended slight on anyone that doesn't get a mention but I've thoroughly enjoyed reading many of the posts I've seen this year.

I just wish I'd been able to see them all. I've tried but I keep missing stuff. And if I'm doing it I know other people must be too and anyway who would blame anyone if they opened one of my fifteen hundred word essays and thought "Yep...nope" and immediately closed it again? Not me, that's for sure.

So once again I tell myself I must try to stick to the point, trim the fat, not bury the lede. And then I end up writing long.

Oh, well. It keeps me off the streets.


  1. Here's a link to the various ways of turning off Discord notifications:

    I have the notification sounds off. I generally leave the main desktop window open on my 2nd monitor so that I can chat with guildies and family. Luckily this is generally a low key activity.

    I do have some servers muted so that I only see the new message indicator when I go there. Servers with lots of message activity tend to drive me crazy with notifications because I want to just see what is important to me, not that server's firehose of chatter. Also, I'm the type of person that can't let a notification indicator sit unchecked for too long. That type of "look at me, it might be important" tugs at my mind.

    If I don't want to chat or am just getting to the computer in the morning I just look at the Discord icon in the tool tray to see if there are any new messages. I can then check things out, if needed, as part of my morning computer routine.

    1. Thanks! That's actually not the problem I have though...

      I'm fine with the audio notifications being on when I'm logged into Discord. I don't really want to mute them then. The problem is, when I close the app completely - switch it off, if you like - the notifications still keep on pinging. It's not really a problem in that I only log out when I'm about to switch the PC off as well, but I can't imagine it's intended behavior.

      Googling it, I see a few other people have posted on the issue but no-one seems to have a solution. I guess I'll just ignore it!

    2. If you're already doing this and it's still happening -- then I can only assume possession of your PC and to maybe seek the help of a local priest.

      But! 'Closing' Discord doesn't really actually close it. In the task tray (usually lower right side of screen, but depends where you've put your start bar and whatnot. Near the click in any case, couple of icons tend to just show, the rest will be on the tray with a small arrow icon to open up view to the rest), if you open up the little icon panel down there, it will have a Discord icon still.

      Right-click and close that, and it should stop notifying you.

      Actually! I can think of one other thing that it might be before possession. Above advice assumes you're using the Discord app and not the web interface, and more that you never used the web interface. If you did -- there will have been a notifications permissions request at some point.

      It will vary on your browser where these settings are, but if you dive in there and disable permissions it would stop pinging from there.

      ...But if you are ONLY using the web interface then it will also stop them altogether...

      In essence, use the app if you can. ;)

      If anything else though, let me know and might be able to help!

    3. Aha! Thanks! You were right that it wasn't actually closing. The icon on the left of the task bar was vanishing (that's where I would usually right-click recalcitrant apps to make them go away if just closing them didn't work) but there was still a Discord icon in the task tray. I can't recall seeing any other app do that before. Usually all that's in that task tray are a couple of systems widgets.

      Anyway, that fixed it. Thanks again!

  2. "Thank you, Mr. Grace...."

    Boy, I've not seen that show in ages. It used to run on a local station 15-20 years ago (typically right before Classic episodes of Dr. Who were on), but I haven't checked since the oldest mini-Red was a toddler.


    I guess I'll find out when I finally retire and have all my time to myself all day, every day.

    Mrs. Bhagpuss might have something to say about that.


    I found it interesting that you found yourself making more time for writing than gaming, which implies more of a need (or deriving enjoyment from, your pick) to write rather than game. I certainly found myself worn out after Blapril, and wanting to have spent more time gaming (and writing fiction, which is completely separate from any non-fiction blog writing in my mind) than blog writing. If I don't play games, I don't have subject matter to write about that's relevant, and I don't want the blog veering into social and political commentary which would likely fill the gap. (I try to keep a lot of that separate from other online activity, for personal and professional reasons.)


    Finally, I have to ask as it's been bugging me since I first started reading your post. What game are those screenshots from? It's (obviously) anime, and it kind of feels like a dating sim, but beyond that I've no idea as I'm not that into either area. (Unless it's Doki Doki Literature Club, which I've heard stories about.)

    1. It is Doki Doki Literature Club. I posted about it a while ago although it's one of those games you can hardly say anything about with major spoilers. Even talking about the premise is a huge spoiler. I recommend it, especially if you play the sort of game it appears to be, but also if you don't.

      At the moment I am definitely more inclined to write than play but I'm sure that if, say, Pantheon or Ashes of Creation launched, that would change. It'll be interesting to see what happens when New World launches but although I liked it a lot in alpha/beta (whatever they were calling it) and the way they've gone since makes it sound even more appealing, it still isn't really my sort of game because of the control system. I've pre-ordered it though so we'll find out in August.

      I wouldn't have used a clip from "Are You Being Served?", which has resonances here it probably doesn't have in the U.S., only a couple of weeks ago several people outed themselves in the comments as, if not fans, then certainly nostalgists for it. That particular catchphrase is always handy, though.

    2. Oh, I've heard about Doki Doki. Starts out as a cute (sorta, I guess) dating sim, and then it goes all haywire. To say the least. My oldest played it, and she said "Wow. Just... wow."

      I'm not sure what I'd want to expect from that statement, but I'm also pretty sure I'm not that into dating sims. I guess that's mainly because there's the potential for a ton of wish fulfillment there, and even by subverting the genre in the way Doki Doki does, the graphics of the girls all represent idealized versions of women (and men) in a way that anime and the Korean MMOs all do. I guess it's an "everything is perfect" in a way that GW2's toons all look like.

    3. Oh, and I did notice your mention of needing chemo. Please tell me that things went well.

    4. Re the chemo, yes, fine, thanks for asking. At least as far as I know. I finished back in September. I was supposed to have an internal checkup at the anniversary of the operation in April but die to Covid19 that's all been postponed. I'm supposed to be monitored for the next 2-3 years but I'll have to wait until things get back to the new normal before that really gets going again. If you want the full story you can dig it out of the posts here last year - I didn't post about it much but there are a couple.

  3. I've found myself with a bit of an opposite problem during the pandemic, I'm more inclined to read about video games than to actually play them. Which is good considering how much content was being published for Blapril, but I think I've only beaten a single game in the past two months...

    1. Another weird thing that happens to me when I'm off work for prolonged periods is I read much less fiction. Usually I get through about a novel a week but in the last ten weeks I've read just three novels. I do most of my reading on the commute to and from work and on my lunch break. If I'm home I'm far more likely to be reading blogs or websites, if I'm reading at all.

  4. The Discord comment was just prior to starting work this morning (aka; logging out of my personal windows login and logging into the 'Work' one I made with a very different startup profile and set of desktop icons).

    It wasn't all I wanted to say though! So back for more now that work is over. (Although I haven't actually switched accounts again yet, just in the off chance I get a reply to one of my earlier emails. ;))

    Anywho, really interesting to hear how you felt about the stacking of posts. You're not the first person I've heard it from either that having several days of posts ends up making them feel more stale.

    I (throughout April at least, I've been writing day-to-day for May) kept one day ahead. It was a buffer I absolutely needed to reduce the feeling of pressure.

    Sure, I was still writing a post every day -- that part didn't change -- but I knew that if something came up, I COULD drop a day and not fall behind unexpectedly.

    But I've never been ahead more than that with fully completed posts, and I have trouble sitting on a post after I've written it, so I could imagine feeling the same as you if I did.

    But one thing I can say to that: They still feel like grade-A fresh Bhagpuss posting when they reach our eyes on this end of the internet.

    You might say that's a result of the daily rewrites you found yourself falling into, but I would suspect they would have come across to us as readers that way even without.

    In any case: It's going to be great having you around in Discord even post all this.

    You will certainly find that the volume of conversation typically does die down following one of these events, but never to nothing. There is a pretty solid core that is around year-in year-out. :)


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