Monday, August 21, 2023

Motive And Opportunity

Week four of Blaugust already! Actually, there are five weeks of Blaugust according to Bel's plan:

  • Welcome to Blaugust
  • Introduce Yourself
  • Creator Appreciation
  • Staying Motivated
  • Lessons Learned

I hadn't noticed before but it's an interesting breakdown. The first week is about the event, the second about the blogger, the third about the outside world but the last two are - at least in part - about the process.

I do like writing about my process. Whether anyone wants to hear about it is another matter.

So, "staying motivated", eh? Is that a problem?

Clearly it is for a lot of would-be bloggers. People blog all the time about how they're not blogging. They blog about how they'd like to be blogging but can't find the time or the ideas or the enthusiasm or how they don't have the energy or the determination.

Some bloggers I read blog about this sort of thing quite often and yet they keep on blogging. It seems as though just working through whatever issue they're having with blogging by writing a blog post about it gets them over the hump, at least until the next hump comes along.

Others, having explained why they aren't blogging, stop. Sometimes they stop for a while then come back. Sometimes they stop for good (Although you can never say never in blogland. I've seen blogs flicker back to life after years of silence.)

It seems to me that bloggers roughly fall out into a handful of types, some of which require a lot more in the way of motivation than others. Since I don't want to second-guess how anyone else thinks or to divide complex human beings into trite categories (Heh. Of course I want to - I just don't have the time right now...) I'll stick to talking about the box I'm in: Compulsive Writers.

Compulsive writers need very little motivation. Honestly, the problem we have is knowing when to stop. We just like the sound of our own voices too much ever to shut up. We rarely run out of things to write about because we're writing stories or articles or think pieces in our heads all day, every day, anyway. On the rare occasions we can't think of anything to write about, we'll just find something someone else wrote about already and write about that.

As a compulsive writer, blogging is just the platform I happen to be using right now. Before I blogged I used the comment sections of other peoples' blogs (Seriously, I used to leave comments almost as long as the posts I write now. The comments I leave these days are long enough but back then it was waaaay out of control...) 

Before that I wrote thousands upon thousands of words on forums and before that I produced print zines on a bi-monthly schedule (Sometimes monthly.) for a decade and a half. Before that I was in full-time education and had my hands full writing endless essays. I was told more than once by the people who had to read those essays that maybe I could try writing less, which I'm not sure is something students often have to be told.

Given that background, I can sometimes find it difficult to empathize with others, who find getting the words down on paper harder than I do. (Or screen, I guess. The language hasn't really caught up yet.) In previous years, my advice has often been simply "Just write". If you're stuck for ideas or aren't feeling it, just sit down, start hitting the keys and see what comes out. 

In my experience, something always will. You're reading the proof of that now. I had no idea what I was going to write about this morning. I just had my breakfast (Black tea, one thick slice of wholemeal toast with butter, Beryl shared the toast.), came back upstairs to my Summer Palace (Used to be a bedroom, now it's my study for all the months when heating's not required.) thought about it for maybe ninety seconds, then started writing.

It's not an infallible process. Not quite. Very - very - occasionally, I'll sit down and won't be able to get started at all. I don't keep a record but I'd guess that happens at most three or four times a year. Because I'm not being paid to do this and I'm not on any kind of dumb streak that "can't" be broken (Seriously, streaks suck. Do not get yourself stuck with a streak, ever!), about the only time it makes any difference at all is during Blaugust. 

Other than that, on the extremely rare occasions I would normally be writing a blog post but don't feel like it, I just don't write a blog post that day. I don't believe there have ever been two days in a row when that happened. 

During Blaugust, though, there's this idea that you have to write every day. It's a mistaken idea. The rules, if you can even call them that, make it abundantly clear. These days, there are awards for posting once, five, fifteen or twenty-five times. No need to aim for the top. You can pick whatever target you feel you can hit.

And yet it's easy to forget all that and fall back into the original pattern of the event just the same. The Blaugustian consciousness stubbornly retains the original target of thirty-one posts in thirty-one days which, once again erroneously under the current ruleset, quickly becomes "a post every day for the whole of August". 

I think I'm finally getting past that misconception. I do now have in my head the clear understanding that it means thirty-one posts in total in August, so if I miss a day I can do double duty to catch up.

That's really not such a comfort, though. I mean, if I'd missed a day it would probably not have been through lack of inspiration or motivation. It most likely wouldn't have been through choice at all. It would have been because some external factor interrupted my flow. It's not enormously helpful to know you can write two posts tomorrow if you didn't have time to write one today.

That was the situation I got myself into last Blaugust and it was mildly stressful. I wasn't lacking in motivation per se but I did get to the point where I found myself slightly resenting the fact that I "had" to write a post when I came home from work, even though I was sometimes too tired and would rather have played a game or watched something on TV instead.

This year I've been dealing with that by writing slightly ahead, so I always have at least two posts finished and ready to slot in, when needed. That in itself, of course, requires motivation to spare. It wouldn't be any kind of solution for someone who didn't have more ideas for posts than they knew what to do with.

I quite often have more ideas for posts than I know what to do with. In normal times, some of them just don't get written. 

I find jotting down the ideas as I get them (Or more likely bookmarking whatever source put the idea in my head in the first place.) is of limited value. It's useful on those days when I don't have some burning concern, fad, fascination or whim to share but mostly what happens is I keep writing posts about other things and the topics I bookmarked go stale. I end up deleting more of them than I ever write about. 

That's also been a problem with my "writing ahead" scheme this Blaugust; most of the prepared posts are in some respect out of date by the time they're published. It's better than having to throw together a scrappy screenshot post in the last hour before bed but it's still not ideal. 

Trying to write thirty-one posts in thirty-one days to meet an arbitrary, self-set target no-one but me cares about is far from the ideal way to go about blogging. It's fun but it's not sustainable, at least not for me. That's why Blaugust has to be an event, not a way of life.

Here's where we come back to that unhelpful advice I tend to give at times like these: write because you want to write; if you don't want to write, don't bother. Take a break, come back another time when you do feel motivated. If you never feel motivated, that's fine. There are a million other ways to spend your time or express yourself. Maybe blogging just isn't the one for you.

As for Blaugust, see the Achievements and Awards as a post hoc record of what you did do in Blaugust, not a preset slate of requirements you have to try and meet. Iif you miss a few you wanted, there's always next year.

That's how it looks from my perspective but it's not much use to people who don't already have the same motivation I do. My motivation for writing blog posts is painfully simple. I just want to write. Conversely, I'm also quite lazy and quite easily satisfied. Blog posts come easily to me in large part because they're a lot easier to write than most other forms I've tried. They're orders of magnitude easier than trying to write fiction for a start!

I love writing and blog posts let me indulge that passion without having to put in too much effort. I also have some latent interests in layout and design, so blogging scratches those itches, too. On that basis, motivation pretty much takes care of itself. My time might be better spent asking myself how I could motivate myself to stop blogging, not the other way around.

And at this point in the first draft there were ten more paragraphs where I did just that - speculated on how I might move on from blogging to something else. Reading those paragraphs back, they didn't seem to add anything so I junked them. They felt out of sync with the rest of the post and they weren't in the spirit of Blaugust, which is supposed to encourage people to take up blogging, not explain why they might want to consider giving it up.

It's not like the post wasn't long enough already without them. Compulsive writers rarely know when to stop, which is why they also need to learn to be competent, even ruthless editors.

More importantly, this week is called "Staying Motivated" not "Telling Everyone Else How To Stay Motivated". I think I've more than covered the brief so I'll leave it at that. If anyone finds it helpful, great. If not, hey, it's another post done!

Twenty-one down, ten to go!


  1. I'm now just going to await your completion of the set of breaking down bloggers into broad categories where drive/motivation is concerned. :D

    "Some bloggers I read blog about this sort of thing quite often and yet they keep on blogging. It seems as though just working through whatever issue they're having with blogging by writing a blog post about it gets them over the hump, at least until the next hump comes along."

    Also though, that is me. If I hit a serious block for whatever reason, it is often enough to simply start writing about the block to then get past it.

    Sometimes that manifests as a whole post of its own, other times it's mere acknowledgement at the start of a post. But it has proven effective enough that I'm willing to offer it up as advice for someone who finds themselves in such a spot!

    1. I was tempted to do a bullet point list of types but I wasn't entirely convinced it would turn out to be as amusing as it needed to be and there was always the possibility it might come across as dismissive of or insensitive to some genuine issues people have with this sort of thing, so in the end I decided to do that annoying trick, where you just allude to something that might be a lot of work/get you into trouble without actually doing it, so as to get some of the effect without any of the effort or risk. Handy technique. Not sure where I picked it up.

  2. Funny, I was always told by teachers that I needed to use more words, not less.
    Go figure.


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