• sallyinstpaul

Where Bloggers Live: How I Blog

Welcome back to the monthly edition of Where Bloggers Live! I am lucky to have joined a terrific group of bloggers who give a peek into the places and spaces where they spend their time.

Today's topic is How I Blog...and I am sitting down the night before this post goes live to do it. So one answer to the question "How do I blog?" is right up to the deadline!

This past week, I was reading the Lincoln Child book Terminal Freeze and came upon the following passage:

Empty rooms or not, scientists left trails. Their minds were always busy. They kept journals. They had ideas and observations to collect, and never more so than when they were away from civilization, far from phones or research assistants. There would be notes to jot down, things to come back to later in the comfort of private labs: ideas for experiments, theories for research papers. His wife had teased him about this very thing more than once, calling him a conceptual pack rat. "Other people hoard dish towels, greeting cards, spare coasters," she'd said. "You hoard theories." The scientists here would have been no different.

And I recognized myself immediately, of course...both my previous experimental psychology grad school self and my current blogger self. Because I absolutely operate by jotting down ideas on any paper I can get my hands on. Sheet after sheet of the computer paper I keep as scrap paper that has print on one side but is clear on the other. Napkins. Envelopes. Post-it notes. Index cards. Pages torn from magazines. Large notebooks. Small notebooks. Corners torn away from other pages. Credit card bills. The margins of a print out. The back side of a check I need to cash (I think only once, but still).

Coincidentally, earlier today I was rifling through a large 3-hole notebook in which I'd taken copious notes about so many books that I'd read in grad school. A friend of a friend was looking for book recommendations in my field and I knew I had kept notes on some books that could be of interest to a general reader (along with a lot of books that would not). And I was somewhat shocked by how neatly-written and well-organized these notes were! It's interesting that these notes I took about other people's work is so methodical and organized while the ideas coming out of my own head are a whirl of colliding concepts that I can barely manage to get down on the margin of an office supply catalog or pizza delivery menu.

I keep my blogging papers collected in a brown accordion folder, and it has about 50 full size pages and a few dozen smaller pages, post-it notes, napkins, etc., full of ideas for blog posts. It's completely disorganized but at least it's all in one place, right? Oh, and I also have a gazillion web pages bookmarked under "Blog Fodder." And then there are the various hundreds of pins I've saved in my Pinterest account as potential topics. So they're all in three places.

I have other similar repositories of ideas as well. One folder for short story/novel ideas. One folder for ideas for a text-based adventure game I used to write for in the mid-90s (that I haven't been able to bring myself to purge). One folder for books I'd like to read. Wait, no, I can think of two folders for books I'd like to read. There may be more. Notebooks for jewelry-making ideas and bird trip wish lists and drawings of possible sewing projects. Small spiral notebooks with bird sighting lists interspersed with quotes, movie titles, drawings of how to rearrange some furniture, and sequences of numbers whose meanings have been lost to the mists of time. And I still come across things like the back side of a sheet of computer paper I once painted with watercolors to make stationary scribbled with phrases/word images that I thought sounded interesting for a poem stuffed into The Illustrated Guide to Cats. (Is that a really specific example? Yeah, that happened this week.)

What do I do with all these collections of ideas? Nothing, for the most part. Really! In my experience, people who don't blog or do science (or other scholarly work) or write fiction or whatever have the (in my opinion) misconception that the hard part of these endeavors is coming up with ideas. But ho-ho, the ideas are the easiest part! I have so many ideas! Some of them are even good ideas! To me, the hardest part is deciding which of the ideas to take action on.

For bloggers, there is a lot of advice out there about how to pick your topics for blog posts and write about them in such a way that they will garner you the highest number of views, the highest engagement...I admit, I don't even know what all the metrics are. I get it and, I just am not going to write to maximize <insert metric here>. Do I want people to read my posts? Yes. Will I write a decent description of the post for SEO? Yes. But I'm not willing to write blog posts I feel meh about because the algorithm wants me to. This is one of the simple joys of the hobby blogger who is not looking to monetize. I have my topics, and I write about them as I want to. I try for 3 posts a week and am really OK if I only do 2. And if I sometimes stray outside my "niche," I trust my readers will roll with it. (If you wonder what my niche is, let's just say I'm currently the #1 result if you google plus size fashion and rabbits blog. I'm cornering that market, people! Muahahahahaha.)

When I start thinking too much about what I "should" write on my blog, I feel the dark shadows of grad school pressure bearing down on me again. In my PhD program (and this was by no means unique to mine), the only ideas worth pursuing and the only research papers worth writing were those that would be published in a very limited number of top peer-reviewed journals. All other ideas, no matter how interesting or important, were a waste of time. And while it might seem like interesting and/or important ideas would naturally be a fit for those journals...well, let's just say that's not always the case and leave it at that. <forcibly pulls herself away before writing a 300 paragraph screed on this topic> I find a wonderful freedom in spending my time writing on topics that are interesting to me. And to the extent that other people find my posts interesting too, I'm very pleased. Really, I am extremely happy that you are reading this post right now (whether you find it interesting or not)!

So I blog in a rather random way, following whatever my interest is in the moment. Sometimes it'll be a reaction to another blog post I recently read. Or a reaction to a comment someone left on one of my posts. Or a blog challenge. Or a series another blogger inspired. Or a post for this series which Bettye has kindly chosen topics for. Or an idea that takes hold of me and I just can't quit. Or my current obsession. Or I'll grab an idea from that brown accordion folder and write about it!

And yes, I do hoard ideas. And scarves and rabbit photos and empty boxes. (What's with the empty boxes? You never know when you're going to need an empty box! Sigh.) The ideas are under minimal containment. The scarves are wonderfully organized with accompanying Excel spreadsheets tracking their location as well as cost and wear metrics. The rabbit photos (on my computer) started out well-organized but have devolved into disarray. And the empty boxes are tucked away haphazardly in a million places all over my apartment. (There may or may not be a tower of empty "nice" boxes in my hallway as I type this.)

Thanks for joining me as I pondered the chaos, stockpiling, and desire for freedom in my blogging life. Next month's topic is A Day in the Life. Oh the timing of that one (October 14) is going to be, uh, interesting...

In the meantime, visit these lovely bloggers as they share about how they blog today:

Bettye at Fashion Schlub

Daenel at Living Outside the Stacks

Em at Dust and Doghair

Iris at Iris’ Original Ramblings

Jodie at Jodie’s Touch of Style

Leslie at Once Upon a Time & Happily Ever After

Do you collect ideas? Do you collect other things? Are your collections disorganized or tidy? If you blog, how do you balance your own interests and preferences vs. "the algorithm"? Or do you not see a tension there?

Blogs I link up with are listed here.