less writing, more reading… meta-blog part two

Woah, I started this be really short and it turned out pretty long. I’m posting it more as a curiosity than anything.

THE GIST: the blog has served and outlived its purpose of getting me to write more, and I plan to stop posting rough drafts and thoughts about stuff, but might still use it for research notes and links or might just fold that into email or the “drunken notes.”

LONG SELF-CENTERED RAMBLE ABOUT FIRST-WORLD PROBLEMS

I started this blog for the purpose of getting back into the habit of writing, by having a place where I could post unpublished/semi-public rough drafts, notes and observations of stuff that I’d potentially want to develop more, or just to help me think. I’ve never found that writing specifically helps me think, even though I’ve heard many others say that, and this has been confirmed by the blog. If anything I find more distracting than helpful, because it involves a certain of mental investment into crafting a piece that’s meant to be readable. The best function I’ve gotten from the blog has been a place to post tons of links to things I’ve read and want to go back to, or haven’t read yet and don’t want to forget about. At the same its become a sort of bad habit that when I’m bored, I look for something to write about on here instead of doing more serious reading or writing, because it involves less mental strain to post some long-winded ramble about whatever than to either read a book or write a well-crafted article.

The problem with the more distracting aspect is that I’ve gotten into a habit writing too much, writing lots of random stuff that hypothetically could be developed more, but most of which I haven’t gone back to. And after posting it, despite the fact that hardly anyone is gonna read it, I still feel self-conscious and dissatisfied about the low-to-mediocre quality (stylistically and content-wise), in my opinion, of most of what I’ve posted on here. I’ve heard many times over the years from different people, that supposedly you should write stuff even if it isn’t that good because it will “help you think” or “create discussion” or whatever, and I’ve occasionally given the same advice to people. While this might be acceptable advice to give to someone who has done almost no public writing, as a way to get them started, (although I’m doubtful even then, because after all publishing a piece and then feeling self-conscious about it or being criticized by others, is the surest way to dissuade someone from ever writing publicly again), I guess I’ve written enough articles – some good, some bad – that that function is mostly irrelevant to me. I did have a long spell of writing almost nothing publicly (just emails), but to be honest I think the emails have had more use for me than most of these blog posts. Probably the only posts that I’m definitely gonna edit and publish elsewhere are the Hoffa/King one and the “Army of What-tion?” one, and I plan to keep doing stuff with the various articles I’ve posted here for reference, but haven’t written anything yet.

As far as the “it will help you think” claim, I’ve never bought and I still don’t, after several months of this little experiment. I’ve never, at any time in my life, kept a private journal. I was once told to as a kid, started it, and gave up right right away. I tried again awhile later and again, gave up. It doesn’t help me think at all, it’s distracting. I have a brain, that’s where I do my thinking, not on paper. Sometimes in discussions I’ll write thinking-out-loud/questioning/self-doubtful comments or whatever, in hopes of getting responses from people. The writing only helps me to structure and skim down the thought process by forcing me to put what thoughts I have into a readable format that I hope people will understand and have something to say about. And being somewhat egotistical, and simultaneous perfectionist and self-conscious about things like writing, I’m also hoping to have a good piece not so much for a pat on the back but more so that I hope it will actually provoke some thoughts and discussion (incl disagreements… strong disagreements always flatter me for some reason, almost more than praise, not sure if that’s just a healthy debate instinct or an argumentative streak left over from a bygone era when I used to get in long message board debates; and I also tend to find disagreements/criticisms more “useful” as far as forcing me to think harder, do my research, and express myself clearly).

So I’m gonna definitely be posting a lot less “thoughts about [blank]” type posts from now on, because I don’t find it very useful to me. I’m happier with my more traditional method of either keeping my thoughts to myself of carefully filtering it in the form of emails, thread comments and published final pieces. I’m happier with the product and it’s a more helpful thought process for me, and less work, which allows me more time to focus on more disciplined writing efforts which I’ve pretty much neglected. I think the getting-into-the-habit aspect of this has played itself and done about as much use as it will, which has been some use but not a huge amount.

The aspect I’m happier about is that it has been a place to post sparser research notes and references for my own use, which I like and plan to keep, either here or folded into the “drunken notes” format. And a place to post stuff that I’ve already published.

At the moment I now want to shift gears and get back into a habit of more disciplined reading. I like reading a lot and, when I make myself, I always enjoy reading books, but I’ve become less and less disciplined over the past few years to the point that I almost never sit down and read a book straight through from cover to cover. I spend a lot of reading articles, skimming books online, reading chapter or doing index searches, and browsing through internet archives, and augmenting that with Wikipedia (which despite its limitations, is a really awesome resource, in my opinion). While I love doing this and I’m happy with the results in terms of how much information I’m able to absorb and, sometimes, I’m able to obsessively latch onto specific topics and learn a ton of stuff about them in a short amount of time that would’ve never been possible in past periods… problem is I’ve completely lost any self-discipline when it comes to making myself do research that I want to do. I’m a very impulsive reader, which lends itself to obsessively researching a topic but it can really make it hard to sit down and read a full-length book.

The blog has added to that by making me also a more impulsive writer, which is a little less natural to me because I don’t tend to write a lot, so that will be an easier habit to break. This post itself is exactly the kind of thing that I never would’ve written at any time in the past, not even a a year ago, not even immediately prior to when I started the blog. So in that respect the blog has done its job of getting me to write me. (Part of it also might that my email reading-and-writing load has gone down significantly in the last few months.) I just have to force myself to now do less writing and put more of my time into reading and get more disciplined about the writing I do.

A last kind of strange thing. I notice that I both like the sense of unaccountability or “refuge” that the blog offers as opposed to a more public venue, because I feel less self-conscious about it, and at the same time I keep checking my stats page and always instinctively like/hope for higher viewer rates, and the few times when views have spiked for whatever reason, have tended to make we want to write more on the blog. But then after a day or two I get more self-conscious again and want to delete the whole blog. Weird I guess.

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