Sigh. Again with the words.
I’ve got a directory in my Writing folder titled Drafts and Ideas. It’s got almost eighty different files, all blog posts that I thought would be interesting. Eighty times I said, “That would be a good blog post,” or “That’s pretty interesting. I wonder if I could get a blog post out of that.”
And I don’t want to write any of them right now.
The ideas are all over the place. Just look at the titles: “Bad Reporting” was going to talk about how an article can shape your reaction to a topic. “Church is failing divorcing couples” is one I started last summer when I was probably too close to the issue. “The Other Victims of Suicide” was going to highlight the people affected by public suicides, like train engineers or truck and bus drivers. I haven’t come up with a good angle on that though; I don’t think I can write it yet without coming across as ghoulish in my research.
Some are too whiny and judgmental, like “What Christians Get Wrong, and Why It Matters.” That one is probably better suited to a long note on my personal Facebook page if I write it at all.
So why don’t I write more blog posts?
First of all, it’s not writer’s block. More and more I’m realizing that’s not really a thing, or at least shouldn’t be. There are a ton of good articles out there supporting that position, too. Here’s one favorite. Here’s another good one that addresses what could really be causing you to be blocked.
So if it’s not writer’s block, what is it?
I call myself a writer, so I should be able to put my butt in the chair and get to it, right? Three years ago, I even sat down and created a list of 28 anniversaries in 2015 that could have become blog posts. These were all big anniversaries too, that interested me enough to at least list. Things like the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Lusitania, or the 25th anniversary of the invasion of Kuwait, which touched off Desert Storm/Desert Shield, and led to a 40+ year U.S. military presence in the Middle East. 2015 marked 25 years since the reunification of Germany, 70 years since the end of World War 2, and the 80th and 70th birthdays of Julie Andrews and Tom Selleck, respectively.
Out of that list of 28, I didn’t write one blog post.
In the first half of 2015, I only wrote nine posts. Once I found out about #MondayBlogs, I quadrupled my output, coming in at 45 posts for the year.
You’d think that as much as I enjoy researching and learning, finding good topics for blog posts would be a piece of cake. I’m not a subject-matter expert in any field, really, so I have to take the time to do the research before I write about a topic. And I love to research topics. I could wander through YouTube and blogs and Wikipedia for hours.
I’m just not as capable as I’d like to be about writing about the things I’ve learned.
Actually, that’s not really true. I can organize an essay or news story pretty well. I think the bigger issue I have is figuring out why anyone else would want to read about a particular subject that interests me.
When Ben Montgomery was asked if he was going to write a book about what he’d uncovered during his investigation of the Dozier School in Florida, he asked his agent about it. She asked him if he would buy the book for himself, and he said yes. “Would you buy it for someone else, as a gift?” she asked. He had to admit that he wouldn’t, and that’s what convinced him not to write that book.
I run into that same thing when I’m plunging down a rabbit hole after an interesting fact catches my attention. I learn something that I think is amazing about a topic that fascinates me, and I want to share it with everyone. But not everyone wants to read it. Not everyone will find that as fascinating as I do.
That’s part of the reason I’ve styled myself as “Writer | Unfocused.” The last time I redesigned the blog, I specifically looked for a domain name that would explain that wasn’t focused on a particular topic. After some input from the folks at LatinDiscussion.com, I settled on “Indefixa,” which is pseudo-Latin for “unfocused things, thoughts or words.”
I’ve never really been well-focused on a single topic here. I wrote a couple of years ago about establishing my voice topics, because writing about my outrage-du-jour was making it too hard for me to write effectively. Instead of doing a nice broad-featured blog with lots of content, I tended to not write much at all, because there was so much to write about that I couldn’t choose a topic for a post. I’ve tried (not very hard) in the past to come up with something of an editorial calendar, and I think it might help me in the long run. I probably need to give that another look. I tend though to not do well in establishing good work habits. (Side note: why is so much easier to establish bad habits than good habits?)
So do I keep writing here about human trafficking, wrongful convictions, cold cases, and police misconduct? Or do I shift this to more of a “here’s who I am” blog, talking about the mundane parts of this writer’s life? I’m not sure at the moment. I still want to write about my voice topics, but the more I think about it, the more I think I might move those to another platform like Medium. I already have something of a presence there, and their new Partner Program might make it worthwhile for me to bump that presence up. We’ll see.
Remember when I said I was going to map out my work week a while back?
I said several years ago that I needed to read more, for a number of reasons. All of those reasons are still valid, but I’m finally figuring out at the age of plenty-two that if I don’t plan time to do something, I likely won’t get around to doing it.
My wife blocks out her week with morning, afternoon, and evening blocks each day. One block might be for sermon prep. She uses another for work involving our burgeoning real estate business. I decided after watching her do this for a couple of years now that she might be on to something, so I’ve set up the same thing. Since I need to block out time for things that are important to me, I’ve blocked out Friday evenings for reading.
Even better: I made it to the library for new books! This month I read Lie to Me by J. T. Ellison and Killer Harvest by Paul Cleave.
Lie to Me is a tremendously well-done noir thriller about a writer couple and what may or may not be the end of their marriage. Is it the end of their marriage, or is one of them a murderer? Ellison does a terrific job of weaving three separate narrators into a twisting, churning tale where you’re never quite sure who the bad guy is right up to the end. This is one I’d like to read again to see what I might have missed the first time. I’m also going to check out more of Ellison’s works. Five stars.
Cleave’s Killer Harvest is an interesting take on the transplant trope made popular in Body Parts, The Hands of Orlac, Hands of a Stranger, and The Eye. I enjoyed it, especially the twist on organ procurement (which also made me think of The Undertaker. A couple of things pulled me out of the story, like the total lack of donor compatibility testing, and the speed with which the recipients were released from the hospital after surgery. But it was a good story with a young protagonist who I think Cleave did a great job of portraying. Four stars.
I’m in good shape after the first month of the year. I clocked 18 days writing fiction or blog posts out of 31 days in the month. Total word count was 34,274, including 2,232 fiction and 3,158 in the blog. That also includes 4,121 words of non-fiction, which is mostly genealogy-related, where I’m keeping research logs on the family lines as I research them.
That’s is just 192 words off last January’s total, putting me on track to make 98% of my end-of-year goal of about 408,000 words. It’s a good start. Can I maintain that momentum?
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