Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Ask Cloud: Making Space for Blogging

It is time for another Ask Cloud post! This one comes from an anonymous reader, whose kind words in her question make me blush:



"I enjoy your blog a lot. I am also a working mother (to a toddler), who has a blog that I write for both personal and professional enrichment. I was wondering if you could get a bit "meta" for any readers who may be interested in this sort of thing, and share a bit about how you fit blogging into your life. What specific purposes and benefits (on a day to day basis) does blogging serve for you? And more to the point (for me), how on earth do you balance all of the things you blog about (motherhood, being a wife, being a person who enjoys doing fun things, and being a professional with both main projects for your job and side projects like writing books and creating websites -- all awesome, btw!) -- how do you balance a full and enriching life (including working motherhood), with the time and space needed to reflect, process, and then write about all of it, in a consistent and regular manner, as you do here on your blog? I am amazed at this balance you strike, and I was wondering if you could address it specifically for those of us who also blog, wish to blog, or are just interested in process-related things like this. Any tips or strategies you can offer about this would be awesome. Thanks in advance! 
--Wants To Blog More and Better"

I think the easiest way to answer this is to break it down into two parts.

What specific purposes and benefits does blogging serve for me?

Blogging is a lot of different things for me, and different aspects are more important at different times. 

Probably the most important thing blogging gives me is a place to work through my thoughts and feelings about things in my life. This has no doubt kept me out of therapy once or twice (particularly in the early days of motherhood), and is also probably a good thing for my marriage. I'm the type that needs to really work through big decisions and issues, and writing about them helps me do that without boring my husband to tears when I want to discuss the same damn thing for the 500th time. This is not to say that I don't discuss the things I write about with Mr. Snarky- I do. But sometimes I'll take a crack at figuring something out in my blog first, and then discuss it with him. And then maybe write about it again. And then discuss it with him again. Examples of this are some of my career angsty posts.

Blogging (and writing in general) is also a way to use the creative parts of my brain. For years, music filled that role, but once the kids came along, I struggled to make the time to do music well enough to enjoy it, whereas I somehow manage to fit writing in around the edges. 

I also really like the community of readers/commenters, Twitter friends, and other bloggers I have found online. I learn a lot, and have also found kindred spirits that can be hard to find when you work in a field as male-dominated as mine is. 

Given all of this, I think blogging has evolved into something that I consider to be important for keeping me sane and happy, so I don't feel bad prioritizing it as something I do.

How do I balance all the things I blog about with the time to think about and write blog posts?

This one had me stumped for awhile. The glib answer is that I prioritize blogging, so it gets done. That is true, and important- but it is far from a complete answer. Maybe the better answer is that blogging helps make more space in my brain, so I see it as a useful thing to do, and will stay up late (sometimes!) or skip a game or two of Go Fish (again, sometimes!) to get time to blog.

But maybe what you really want to know is: once you've decided that you want to prioritize blogging, how do you fit it in?

This will probably be different for different people, but here are the some practical suggestions I have:

1. I carry a small notebook with me at all times. If something is bothering me or I am trying to work through an issue, snippets of text about it or just a rough outline of the things I need to cover will often come to me at random times during my day. As soon as I can, I take out my notebook, and write them down. Then I go back to whatever I'm supposed to be doing. I don't feel bad about doing this at work, because once I write the distracting thoughts down, they go away, and I can concentrate again. Also, I have the same thing happen with work problems, and I'll stop what I'm doing at home and write down my ideas for those, too. I figure it balances out.

2. I don't watch a lot of TV, so the time after the kids are in bed is prime blogging time for me. You'll note that I don't blog every night, though. That is because I like to spend time with Mr. Snarky, too. Sometimes we even watch TV- but I almost never watch it on my own. If you want to blog, pick a time when you can get 30-60 minutes uninterrupted and use that.

Recently, Sunday mornings have evolved into prime writing time for me. Mr. Snarky usually goes out for a run, and is gone for 1-2 hours. The kids are usually happy to play together with only occasional help from me. I make a big pot of tea, catch up on my blog reader and Twitter, and then write something. Sometimes, I work on the kids' story that I have in progress, but more often, I blog.

3. I keep a "blog ideas" list that I can access anywhere (I use Workflowy, but a plain Google Doc would work, too). I like to keep this electronically, so I can search and so that it can be reorganized easily. I will often jot down an outline of ideas for a post in addition to the topic or title.

4. We plan out our weekends, and one advantage of that is that I know we'll always have some good family time, so I don't feel like I have to devote all non-chores time to the kids. They'll get their time from me- I can also take time for myself. The side projects get scheduled into our weekend plans, just like "regular" work would if I needed/wanted to do that. I occasionally schedule in time specifically to blog, particularly if I feel like I haven't written much lately. I don't find that I need to schedule in time to blog that much, though. This is probably because I tend to write posts either because there is something I just HAVE to work through (in which case I'll stay up late to get the post written, because I know I'll sleep better for having done so) or because I feel like writing and don't have anything more pressing to do. In the latter case, I can go to my list of blog ideas and pick one rather than wasting time casting about for something to write.

5. I don't have high expectations for myself. I would find trying to keep a rigorous posting schedule stressful, and that would probably make me blog less. Blogging works for me because I enjoy it and can do it on my own terms. I do have a schedule over on Tungsten Hippo, but in that case I have structured things so that the posts I intend to make every week (the new book recommendation and the new quote) are easy to do- I just pull from a list- and the blog posts that are a bit harder I am OK with skipping some weeks.

Perhaps the general principle here is to look at what you can realistically do, and structure your hobby or side project in such a way that it can get done in the time you have and still be a fun thing, rather than yet another thing that stresses you out.

I hope that helps. If I didn't cover the aspects you wanted, let me know, and I can try again in the comments or another post.

Readers- do you have any tips for making the time and mental space for blogging? Or do you feel like talking about what blogging brings to your life? Do so in the comments.

8 comments:

  1. Coincidentally I've just reposted an article I wrote about starting blogging (which your reader clearly doesn't need). I use many of the same strategies as you, but I do find giving myself a goal (in my case I've just got back to one post a week, even if it is a slight one) is good in making me try and blog.

    I'm going to adopt your strategy of writing down ideas as well; I tend to just try and remember them (which doesn't always work).

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  2. I've long had a tumultuous relationship with blogging, treating it like smoking or another dirty little addiction I needed to get rid of because it's not work or family time. But I have come to realize that, much like for you, I actually need it in a good way, I came to depend on it as a creative outlet and a way to work things through. I have been long toying with the idea to have a regular posting schedule, but just don't have the courage to commit; perhaps it's for the best, because I don't want blogging to be another chore. So I try to post with a certain frequency in mind, but then if things slip they slip.

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  3. One other practical tip that I find sometimes works--if you want to blog, do that BEFORE you fall down a rabbit hole of reading other things on the internet. I find that sometimes the time I've set aside for blogging gets eaten up by reading other blogs/articles/FB/etc. & by the time I'm "done" all my writing mojo is gone.

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  4. Recently I've been struggling with this, even though I've been blogging regularly for several years. And, it's not just finding time to write on my own blog, but to keep up with the many, many blogs that I read. Right now I'm just going with the flow and squeezing things in when I can, but I actually find it stressful at this point - so that means something needs to change. Right now, I'm just hoping that life will settle down a bit again so that I can go back to how things were before.

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  5. Haven't been doing it too long, but I realized that if I have an idea I want to write about that comes across at random times, I put it in the Blogger app and save a draft with the general idea. Then I work on it whenever there's time (hello, airports). I usually read periodically throughout the day when there's time. Or sometimes I'll work on this stuff during meetings......

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  6. I just count it as work time. Personal brand building -- which often leads to paying things, even if the blog itself doesn't pay.

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  7. I agree that it's important to figure out the purpose and benefits you get from blogging to decide whether it actually should be a priority. Maybe a personal journal would serve the same purpose and be less pressure since no one else is reading.

    There are a lot of people who lament "being behind" on scrapbooking, baby books, etc. which to me makes an enjoyable hobby into something stressful. I feel the same way about blogging. I know there's pressure to write every day, but if you're not using it as your main source of income, then find a way to just write when you feel like it and enjoy it.

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  8. I write on a couple of blogs. I have one for my kids (let's think of it as an online baby book). That one's only photos and a caption or two here and there, and gets updated usually on the last day of the month when I look at my goals list :)

    I then write on my personal blog every day (therapy, working out things, processing, sharing the way I see the world, lots of photos) and I have a blog for my "business" which is my coaching that I do besides my full-time job, husband and kids.

    So I'd say I'm busy but I fully believe you make time for things you prioritise.

    The "business" blog is on a schedule (M W F) but no-one but me notices when I don't post 3 times a week, which I don't when I'm busy or on holiday.

    The personal blog has provided some of the best support to me in the world during my infertility, newborn twin days and beyond.... and now, in a crappy job :(

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