Monday, August 22, 2022

Your Voice In The Crowd - Staying Motivated Through Blaugust And Beyond

This Week In Blaugust: Staying Motivated. Oh, boy...

I've made plenty of blithe statements in the past about motivation, how I never run out of things to write about, how all I need to do is sit down and start typing and something will come, how there are no rules for any of this so all you need to do is whatever feels right. How if you really don't feel like posting today, you can go do something else instead, Blaugust or not, because we'll all be here again tomorrow and we'll still love you.

Sounds like I'm setting up to knock all that down, right? Yeah, not gonna happen. It's all as true as it ever was. There is something I'd like to add, though. 

In a weird way, blogging is, all at the same time, about you and not only about you. Having been at this for a decade and change now and having read a myriad blog posts by other people, where they turn over their motivations and intentions and examine them from all kinds of angles I'd never even have known existed, I'm beginning to see a few recurring themes, if not patterns.

My own blogging arc goes something like this: apprehensive > cautious > settled > experimental > established > confident > playful. Well, something like that. Seriously, I'm not going to go back through more than two thousand posts to put the damn thing into a graph. 

It's roughly along those lines, anyway. I've noticed a lot of bloggers who stay the course seem to go through similar stages, albeit not in the same order. 

There are others that crop up quite often. Some I've identified but haven't personally experienced include disillusioned, bored, irritated and why did I start this damn blog in the first place? Any of those would seem to be a point at which advice on Staying Motivated might become relevant, which is why I've never seen it as particularly apposite to my own situation and also why the kind of advice I freely hand out when the topic comes up each year is probably not much help to anyone who needs it.

This year, though, I have noticed a new phase in my blogging journey. (Don't you just hate it when people append "journey" to some activity or other? It's so lazy, like sticking "gate" on the end of words as though suggesting there's some kind of scandal or cover-up, when there patently is not.) 

There. That's an example of it, my new phase, that last paragraph (Which is barely a paragraph, let's be honest. I used to stick to a strict rule of a minimum of two sentences before a paragraph break but now that's not so much a minimum as an aspiration.)

And that's another. To quote one of John Cooper-Clark's favorite phrases, one which he repeats to the point of absurdity in his highly readable autobiography, "I Wanna Be Yours", give it a name: self indulgence.

Dr. John Cooper-Clark is the most apposite of references here. If there's a writer more self-indulgent than he is, I can't think of their name right now. Johnny (I can call him that. He's never going to read this.) gets away with it by way of weapons grade charm and industrial strength wit but we can't all be so lucky. 

In recent weeks, it's become apparent to me that I've been attempting something similar, only I don't have the wherewithal. Constant digressions and diversions, ring-fenced by parentheses and signed by quotation marks as they may be, all too easily find themselves wandering down conversational cul de sacs from which they barely escape with their meaning intact. It's fun to write but is it fun to read?

It'll be like everything else, won't it? To some peoples' taste but not to others. Does it even matter?

This is where I usually chip in and say "No! Of course it doesn't matter! It's your blog. All that matters is that you enjoy it!" Which is all fine and quite possibly dandy, except that, in a very unreal way, it's not just your blog, is it? 

If it was, you could have flagged it "Private" so no-one but you could read it. Then you could have posted whatever you liked, sat back, had a good old read, smiled and nodded your head, agreed with all the points, laughed at all the jokes and patted yourself on the back over just how well-writen it all was.

Somebody's doing that right now and good luck to them. We'll never know. But here we are in Blaugust and even though that means upwards of a gazillion posts published every day, someone is going to read yours. Yes, yours.

That's motivation, isn't it? Or maybe it's not. I'm in two minds if I'm honest. I mean, obviously we all want other people to read what we post because otherwise we'd keep it to ourselves, wouldn't we? And we want to hear some feedback, because without comments how do we know anyone's paying attention at all?

On the other hand, no-one wants to get bad feedback (Okay, someone does. I've always subscribed to the old theory that if you can imagine it, someone, somewhere's doing it. It's not going to be anyone you want to know, though, is it? Let's agree to pretend they don't exist, at least for the purposes of this paragraph.) 

Knowing other people are out there, reading what you write, can be exciting, exhillarating, but it can also feel, well, scary.

However scary it feels, you can't let it get to you, or you can't if you want to keep on blogging. You just have to put that thought to one side and focus on the positive: you have a platform to talk about anything you want. Why not use it?

Yes, alright, it's a very small platform. No-one's saying it's Twitter, although that's probably a good thing, isn't it? I mean, Twitter, right? It's more like Speaker's Corner in Hyde Park, where anyone can get up and spout off about whatever they like. There's always going to be a few people passing by who'll hear but if you can make it interesting or exciting enough, maybe you'll draw a crowd.

If you want to draw a crowd, by the way, I suggest not posting about games no-one else plays. Just a tip, for free. If you want to talk about those games, though, and no-one in your house can bear to listen to you going on about them any more, not even the dog, then don't forget you have a blog. That's what it's for! 

Do you need any more motivation than that? (Don't look at me - I think my answer ought to be obvious...)

My point, which I did have, believe it or not, was this: remember you're not just writing for yourself, you're writing for an audience - but remember also that somewhere in that audience is you. It's your choice who you want to please the most, yourself or the crowd, but you're going to need to please someone or what's the point? 

It can be you or them but best of all it can be both. Easier said than done, of course, but trying to come up with ways to square that circle could be a motivation in itself.


  1. And yet, I think the blog for most people really has to be something just for you. I don't think it's a mystery how to make a popular blog. (Which is: think of a search term, and then write a blog post that would answer that search, and title it with the question the search term would ask). I know this is true because I have Google Analytics working and those posts where I did just that, gets readers every day, while new stuff is read by my 39 regular readers and is then forgotten.

    I don't do more of that because a blog, for me, isn't about what other people want to read. It's about what *I* want to read, just me. And so I love reading those blogs by other people that are about their personal relationship with gaming or any other thing they feel passionate about. That's what I really enjoy about Blaugust -- reading people's passion.

    If your writing looks more like a LISP program as time goes by, who am I to judge? I buy '...' and '--' in bulk.

    Thank you for being motivated and helping the rest of us stay motivated, too :-)

    1. My natural inclination is definitely to see a blog as very much a personal expression for the enjoyment of the person writing it, to the point that I think there probably ought to be a different word for the primarily commercial websites of people whose main goal is to monetize their postings. If you go on for long enough, though, it's hard not to get the sense that a blog is also in some way a performance and once that sets in it's impossible to forget that every performance desires an audience. If I was literally posting 100% for my own amusement right now it would be Noah's Heart day after day, interspersed only by music posts, but because I know at least a few people will be reading, I feel some (Very slight, is has to be said!) obligation to maintain at least a veneer of variety.

      And as for motivation, West Karana was one of the blogs that spurred me to take the fatal step and Chasing Dings continues to be an inspiration. I do miss the bridges, though...

    2. Well, when I was single, and my son wasn't living at home, I'd build my working week around figuring out which bridges I'd see on the weekends. Now I'm not single, and my son is living at home, and nobody particularly wants to go out bridge hunting with me. There's this bridge in New Brunswick I am dying to see...

      Looking back at my years of content, the posts I like best are the ones that remind me of what I was doing back then. Making soulless content for clicks... that's not for me. Though, you inspired me to write one just now, so there's that :-)

  2. Now I can't get the picture out of my head where you eagerly talk at Beryl about Noah's Heart, and the dog's like "What's he on about?"...

    1. Pretty much her default expression every time I open my mouth...

  3. One of the many reasons I'm drifting away from blogging is fear of comments. :) Well, not just ANY comments, but the comments that call me out on something I've said and ask me to back up my arguments. Because then that starts to be really fatiguing and can suck up 100% of your leisure time, unless you just ignore those comments, I guess.

    In the history of my blog (1st post is dated May 13th, 2002) this has happened like half a dozen times and yet I still don't want to risk it!

    1. I was worried about that at the begining but I think in a decade it's happened maybe four or five times. I really hang out for comments so I'm always excited to get any at all!

    2. Oh wow. I always feel that my opinions suck. But one thing I have found in my longish blogging career is that not having opinions sucks more. And if I am wrong about stuff (almost always), I love learning better. I don't really want to provoke people. I am not sure if I have ever been called out on my blog. If I have, I don't even remember it so I must not have felt it was a big deal. I get called out more on my old Youtube videos.

    3. Your opinions do the opposite of suck... er, wait, let me rephrase that... Your opinions are some of the best expressed and most clearly argued in this part of the blogosphere. Keep them coming!

  4. I have to say, your latest phase has been making me chuckle at your comments. There are few blogs I try to read everyday but yours is one as it makes me smile. Thanks for that!

  5. There you go, being truly motivational. I think it’s fine to write about games no one else plays. Sometimes a reader will find something new, or something they’d forgotten about and give the game a try.

    1. Thanks! I'd like to imagine my posts about games no-one else is playing as some kind of public service but really I just find new games insanely easy to write about compared to ones I've been playing for years.


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