"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.