So, this post is a bit of a tangent to the previous ones, which had been making their way towards me documenting my thoughts around, and processes associated with, building strategic communication plans for a range of different contexts.
However, while starting to write about the next brick in that wall, or journey, or some other mixed metaphor, I found myself genuinely surprised, and a bit impressed, that I’ve gotten as far as writing six of these posts.
And (for reasons below) you’ll read that I’m getting quite a lot out of doing this – not least in my projects to prepare several strategic communication plans, and I’d like that to continue (i.e. that I keep writing more blog posts).
And I’m the kinda person who benefits from understanding the things that are helping motivate me to do a thing – I can then aim to maintain those things, emphasise them more, to keep my motivation up, and thus make it more likely I’ll keep doing that thing.
Taking a moment to reflect…
Yeah, I know, I do that a lot… so perhaps no surprise I’m doing it again!?
Wow. A sixth post! I didn’t expect I’d get this far when I posted my first more than a month ago?!
Maybe it sounds like I’m getting ahead of myself, that I’m reflecting after only six posts, and…? five weeks…? that I’m still writing posts?
But, I really am very surprised I got this far – I’ve set up maybe six different WordPress.com sites before, and a Jeykll site hosted by Ueberspace, but I don’t think I ever used them to write any blog posts. To be fair, several of those sites I set up in the context of collecting feedback associated with specific events, so weren’t really intended for Blogging. Or I had intended them more as online repositories of "How-to" notes. However a couple of them I did think, at least a few times, of using for blogging.
So as I sit here, at Heidelberg-Altstadt train station, waiting for my train home, I found myself wondering – why have I gotten this far?
Reasons why I think I’m still blogging
My guess is that several things are playing a role here…
1. I’m kinda enjoying the writing
Yeah, so, I find that writing things down, without making an effort to shape their style, without worrying much about how easy they are to read, or about their reception – I kinda enjoy it. The act of coming up with the words, transcribing my not-particularly-shaped thoughts onto paper (well, into "TextEdit on a MacBook Pro…) is fun – I enjoy the creativity, I enjoy playing a bit with my words, my wording, of doing something that feels very authentically "me".
2. I’m not trying (at least least not very much) to make it useful for others
Yeah, and, so, this is part of the first point – I can get pretty self-conscious about my word choice, about how my words make others think about me, and this is just on the "written page" – if this were me actually speaking to you, I’d be aware of my accent too, and that’s also something that I can find stressful.
But here I’m not conscious of trying to shape it for an audience – it feels like, mostly, I’m just doing this for myself. So a bunch of pressure is off, and I can relax – making it much easier to enjoy.
3. Support from friends
No one is pushing me hard to do this, but several friends often frequent words of support and encouragement, and even tell me they enjoy reading what I’ve been writing – this certainly is encouraging, adds some extra pleasure to the experience. Thanks, everyone, for your support! I won’t name names here (’cause then I’ll forget someone – and I’d rather not leave anyone feeling left out…), but, yes, thank you!
4. Providing a context to order my thoughts – around topics I find interesting and care about
Writing has been a pretty major part of my work for many years ago: writing grant applications, web texts, reports, publicity texts, meeting minutes, publicity texts, training material, research articles, and (I suspect) a fair few other things that don’t come to mind at the moment.
I don’t particularly love writing – but, you know, it’s pretty important for communication and collaboration, so I do it, and do it well (effectively and efficiently) enough for it to be useful.
Recently – and I think in no small part to writing these posts – I’ve noticed how extremely useful for me it is to commit my thoughts to "paper" like this. When I talk, I use lots of sub-clauses, often interrupt myself as something new occurs to me in the middle of a sentence, and then can struggle sometimes to be clear to myself, and others, what I’m trying to get at with my discussion and reasoning.
By writing things down, I can see the order more clearly, can structure and re-structure my reasoning, keep track of points I’ve already recorded – and this often helps me reach conclusions about what I want to do next, much more quickly, than if I weren’t writing them down.
So the fact that I’m using the blog to order my thoughts, around a collection of topics that I care about, means that I can feel it helping me to reach decisions about "What to do next" that are actually rather valuable to me.
5. On a previous blogging attempt I’d found a solution I liked for keeping local and remote versions of the content
I often work offline. And when I’m offline, I want to be able to still get access to all the content I’ve created and put online.
Once I got it working, I really loved using Jekyll so that I could write files locally in markdown and, I think by running git to update them remotely on the Ueberspace server where I have some space, get them automagically turned into HTML.
But I struggled to keep that setup running (I’m not very techy), and I missed some of the more interactive and social features you get from posting on a "social" site such as WordPress.com (I really like being able to link to and share and see other people’s blogs on that site).
I had heard that WordPress.com was now able to work by uploading markdown directly into the online editor – however I never got this working.
However, what I do now is write my text locally in markdown, run pandoc to convert it to html, and copy the html into the html editor on the WordPress.com site.
This gives me a local copy of my text, and it’s simple enough such that if I want to make an edit to the text, I can make it locally, re-run pandoc, and re-paste the HTML to WordPress.com, so what I have locally is always (well, OK, I’m human… so probably not actually always?!) the same as what’s on the WordPress.com site where you’re presumably reading this now.
I haven’t tried putting any pictures in my posts yet – I expect I’ll encounter problems then (i.e. finding a way to be able to put them together locally and easily reflect/mirror them up onto the WordPress.com site) – but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it…
6. I can feel it’s helping me learn, and make records about, useful things around topics I care about
This is linked to the point above, about writing the blog helping me clarify my thoughts and reasoning around topics I’m interested in and care about.
When reading into and around a new topic – something that happens reasonably often in my work – I sometimes get overwhelmed by all the different possible sources of information that are available. Particularly when the topic is so new to me, that I’m don’t feel I have any understanding of which sources are more, or less, reliable or trustworthy.
And the other thing I often struggle with is that I read something, find it useful, but don’t keep good enough records of it so that I CAN’T FIND IT AGAIN.
So I find that writing blog posts around these kinds of topics (communication planning, for example) does a good job at helping me structure and keep track of my reading. I can feel this happening as I write it, so this is a direct motivation for me to continue to do it.
Other benefits of the blog
There are other things I get out of the blogging – however I don’t think they act as particularly strong motivators for me to start up and write the next post. These include:
- just generally giving me more writing experience
- giving me experience writing for the web
- giving me experience using WordPress.com
hopefully all the above will contribute to making the thing I’m getting more experience in something I can do more effectively and efficiently in the future.
In addition, writing the blog provides evidence to others of my writing "abilities" (ahem) and interests – perhaps useful in the future if I apply for positions for which this is relevant.
So, in summary…
I’m glad I’m still writing posts on this site. And I suspect that outlining to myself the reasons why I’m still doing it, is going to make it more likely that I continue. So, that’s nice.
Interested to hear via Twitter, or in the comments below, about your experiences with writing blogs, and why you think you continue doing so.
Given that I get about 10 hits to each blog I guess no one’s gonna do that – but, hey, as they say "doesn’t hurt to ask!" 🙂
Hope to be back again with another post soon!