THIS IS SPARTA: Lessons Learned Getting to 300 Posts With Absolutely No Plan

I saw no warning sign around that pit.

A couple of years ago, I decided to start a writing blog. I still don’t remember exactly why. My mate Krys was starting hers, The Road To Ithaca, then, and maybe I caught some of her excitement. I also read a lot of blogs, so it’s possible I was inspired by something I read somewhere. Or maybe I thought, “I really feel the urge to shout and swear at strangers on the internet, but I don’t want to join Reddit. Hm.” Alas, that was before I kept personal journals with any regularity, so the motivations are lost to me.

One thing I do know, though, is that I came into this without a plan other than “write some stuff about writing and include some weird pictures and a lot of swearing”. Given that as my starting point, how the hell did I get here, to my 300th post in just under two years?

Some lessons I’ve learned along the way can just as easily be applied to your particular flavour of everyday writing. Let’s take a look:

1. Consistency. Also, consistency. I decided on three posts a week and stuck to it. I’ve missed the odd post here and there—mostly because of holidays or technical difficulties—but not many. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings are post writing; Tuesday and Thursday are post planning and research. Simple.
The best thing about the three-posts-per-week-come-hell-or-high-water strategy is that I’m always on a deadline. It gets me writing in the morning, and by the time I’m done the post, I’m usually ready to get my fiction on.

2. It’s both the size and how you use it. 300-500 words per post, mostly. Yeah, I have a few posts that run over—not many that run under—but for the most part they fall right in the sweet spot of what I can reasonably bang out in half an hour of typing time.* Keeping it to that length keeps me focused on the subject at hand. It also makes it seem more do-able. I’m far less likely to say “fuck it” and blow off 500 words than I am, say, 2000. Besides, if the ideas are too big, there’s always tomorrow’s post to get done.

3. The All-Judging Eyes of the Internet are on me. Admittedly, some times more than others. When I got Freshly Pressed a couple of months ago, there were a lot more eyes than usual. Likewise when seemingly random posts caught hold on Twitter or Facebook.  There was an audience out there, somewhere. That’s you guys, by the way.
Having people pay attention to stuff that you write is both cool and terrifying. But for the day to day writing, it means one thing: I better be damn sure of what I want to say.

4. Fuck it, ship it. Perfection is a magical unicorn that will gore you with its pearlescent horn and then stomp your perforated body into the dirt with its glittery, moon-dusted hooves if you spend too long chasing it. Getting content out on that schedule means I had no time for perfection. And so it ceased to matter. If it was good, it was good. Get it out there. No need to go unicorn hunting.

300 posts in and I’m still figuring this shit out. I can’t wait to see the updated lessons when I hit 500.
*Research and editing will add on to this, but it’s the rare and difficult post—or the particularly brain dead day—that I can’t finish in about an hour.

Licking The Internet To Claim It As Your Own

English: A woman licks a man's face.

MINE. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve been spilling my brain here for…what, a year and a half? About that. This blog had been one of my more consistent endeavors for a while now. So, why do I do it? Why take on another writing project? That’s what blogging is: another project that takes time and effort. Didn’t I have enough of those going on with the novels and short stories that are constantly clamoring for attention?

Here are three reasons why:

1) It’s a deadline. Committing to a regular posting schedule is a deadline. If I say I’m doing something Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, then by god there’s going to be a new post unless something fucked up happens. Or I’m on vacation.
Now, it’s not that I picture you lot anxiously refreshing the webpage until the new post goes up.* But there is someone, out there, who will notice if I don’t get it done. Someone besides me. So there’s a deadline.

Blogging can be a great way to get used to functioning within the constraints of other people’s time, and using it as a spur for your own shit. It’s easy to blow off a day’s writing if no one sees it except you**. It’s harder when there’s someone else watching, even if it’s someone you don’t know. Especially if it’s someone you don’t know, because your friends might forgive you. The internet will turn away in a second and forget you forever in the next ten.

2) It’s a sandbox. I write tons of stuff that’s never intended for publication. Journal entries, experimental scenes, characters that just wanted to say hi…seriously, my hard drive is full of this stuff. I have it all in a couple of giant files labelled Junk Drawer, 20XX. It’s stuff that’s fun and interesting and allows me to stretch a little.

The blog is like that. I use it as a way to sound out ideas, test theories, get my own thoughts in order about certain topics and techniques. Why did I like that first person narrator, and not this one? Why does this setting work, and that one fall flat? Why did this writing schedule work, and that one lead only to me banging my head against the keyboard in frustration? Why am I so constantly annoyed by the mewling ranks of wannabe writers who can’t muster the guts to put their words down?***

Ideas need to be tested. In an unholy gauntlet of fire and poison arrows and attack gibbons. Only then can they be useful. And even then, they might not be useful for very long. Writing about this shit forces me to test my own ideas, give them real thought, because once I hit ‘Publish’, all this shit it out there on the internet. And no one wants to look like a fool on the Internet.

3) It’s a soapbox. I love the sound of my own voice. Seriously, ask anyone.
No one wants to be a writer unless they’re at least a little bit arrogant. And I passed ‘a little bit’ a long time ago.
My words, my ideas, my story…it’s all about us. We think we have something important to say, and we’re going to do what it takes to make sure that other people hear it. Well, sometimes the stuff I have to say doesn’t fit into a story or a book. Hence this blog. It gets some of these thoughts out of my head. And it allows me to piss all over this little corner of the Internet and say, this is mine.

That’s what I got. Others, tell me: why do you blog? Or, if you don’t, what would make you consider starting?

*But if you do, then, you know, awesome.
**And, possibly, whatever NSA spy-bot is lurking in your hard drive.
***Okay, sometimes it’s an easy answer