Blogging Summer 2023 in Review21 Aug 2023 Posted in:
I used to blog regularly, but that publishing schedule happened roughly whenever I felt like it. During the pandemic I experienced a series of personal and professional challenges that caused me to slow things down considerably across the board. The result was that my writing schedule ceased–I simply did not have the energy to blog on top of other things. This past summer I set a goal for myself to post once per week as a means of trying to force myself back into a blogging mindset.
I managed to stick to that rough schedule, partially due to a concentrated sprint early in the summer that gave me a backlog of posts I could use downstream. Now, at the end, I am surprised to find that things cohere more than expected. As a means of putting a button on the experience, I’ll close with this post, meant to conclude the sprint but also to serve as a persistent introduction to the collection of work. In what follows I’ll introduce the collection, reflect on the process a little bit, and reorganize the various posts into a set of thematic groupings. Consider this a table of contents, introduction, and conclusion all at once.
Publishing weekly was, of course, too much. Anyone could have told me this. I even would have advised myself against it. I usually tell my students to aim for regular posts to blogs or social media on a sustainable basis, a steady trickle rather than an intermittent flood. But the crunch of this writing push was quite intentional. I’m a very process-oriented person, relying on regular daily practices as opposed to big sprints on things. I live my work life out in Pomodoros. I wrote most of my dissertation at 5:00 AM in 750-word-a-day chunks (using an online system that rewarded me with kitten photos with each milestone). This probably goes back to an old adage I heard learning music growing up: it’s better to practice every day for an hour than for seven hours once a week. My hope was that a weekly posting schedule would force me into a daily writing practice of some shape. This worked to a degree, though of course with the needs of daily life such a schedule is unsustainable. I settled into a regular practice of returning to writing in a few inconsistent and intermittent sessions per week. Perhaps most importantly, I started to divide those sessions between writing, proofing, prepping, and publishing in ways that worked well for me. I’m an endless tinkerer, and it’s easier for me to hold myself back if I know I’m not supposed to be adding new content when I sit down.
Another side effect of the sprint was that I found myself writing different kinds of things than had been my habit in recent years. I wanted to use the summer to push myself towards different scales in part to prove to myself that not everything needs to be a big Statement™. This experiment was largely successful–I found myself posting on tool tips, resources I was putting together, one-off teaching exercises, and generally just documenting a lot of approaches I take to conversations 1:1 with students. New topics also brought new lengths. I was pleased to see an estimated reading time of one minute on one post. I have always loved this about blogging–that the genre is what you make of it–but it was a lesson I had started to forget over the years. I also found myself more likely to bring in my other interests–music most often–that might otherwise get left out of DH pieces. In short, the need to publish pulled me along the path to innovation. I used to write blog posts one at a time, but I developed a habit this summer of having several posts in various stages of publication at once. Some of my writing time was spent just brainstorming a list of topics and titles for future posts, which I found useful for providing a well I could return to periodically for new ideas. This process was very different from my old approach to developing new posts, where I waited to feel like I had a complete statement before writing.
Multiple people across platforms commented on my ongoing writing with some version of “I’m enjoying this series!” Comments like that were, of course, appreciated. But they were also a little surprising. Was this a series? The conversations got me thinking about the point at which a collection coheres, when parts become a whole. I’ve had the goal of blogging my way towards a book proposal for a while, and some of the things I wrote about were in that direction. But, in other ways, the posts I wrote this summer felt like a pretty loosely associated set of topics only connected by my own interests. Does it matter if your writing coheres across pieces? Does it do so simply by virtue of occurring in the same space in a compressed span of time? Is a snapshot of writing at a particular point in time useful on its own? I took a step back and was surprised at the degree to which they do actually cohere, particularly when reorganized thematically rather than chronologically.
I’m certainly not the only one still blogging, but it’s common to hear that the field has mostly moved on from the practice, at least in the way in which the early 2010’s saw not just a network of DH blogs but also consistent engagement happening in the comments. Given this context, why do some of us still blog? Counting this piece, this summer I wrote 15 posts totaling about 17,250 words. Through it all, I found that the pieces share a core set of interests. I’ve always felt that controlling my own publishing process was a way to control my own professional narrative, to write the work into existence the way I wanted, separately from an external academic publishing pipeline. And the core goal of my work in this space, now more than ever, remains sharing as a virtue in itself. I like to think of blogging, in its purest form, as a letter to myself in the past. What do I know now that I wish I had known five years ago? What practices might I want to share back? I covered a broad array of topics here: video game writing, music, teaching, technology. But there are no descriptions of domain-specific research in progress in my posts this summer. What you find, instead, are reflections on teaching and program administration in the hope others might benefit, resources for professional development aimed towards students and early-career professionals, and more. Across the board, the aim has been to share things that might be useful to others. I found that they can be organized into four rough groupings: Meta-DH, Resources and Documentation, Professional Development, and Reflections on Writing.
I’ll be slowing down considerably after today–the weekly pace was never intended to be an ongoing thing, though I might return to it next summer given the rhythms of my work life. I’ll be hoping to find regular intervals that keep the writing alive that won’t burn me out. In the future I’m going to downgrade to probably biweekly posts at most, monthly posting more likely. I’ll be continuing to blog in the direction of larger and longer writing projects. And I’ll keep experimenting with scale and form. But this was an interesting experiment in sustained writing activity over a span of time. I’ll probably return to this format again in the future. If you’ve made it this far thanks for reading! If you’re finding your way to this little collection of work for the first time I hope there’s something in it that you will find useful.
Blogging Summer 2023 in Review
- Writing Reflections
- Professional Development
- Resources and Documentation