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The long-term cycles of weblog-writing…

Writing for a weblog seems to me to go through cycles. At times, words just flow from your fingertips effortlessly. The quality of those words will generally be rather debatable, but they’ll have a fluidity to them and an honesty or playfulness that at least partly compensates for their lack of substance. Normally with me, these periods gradually bed down into highly productive periods of good writing about things that I’m thinking about in greater depth – pieces of writing that I think have some greater utility or worth about subjects that I care about. Normally I’ve been thinking around these issues for a while but not had the mental discipline to drag them into a more coherent shape. During these periods, I do my best work.

These periods – inevitably – do not last. What seems to happen is that the material I want to write gets more and more convoluted, high concept and/or involved, more necessarily rigorous in execution and generally larger in scale until such a point where the pressure to articulate an idea properly overwhelms my ability to write at all. At those points – suddenly – I find myself completely blocked and unable to produce anything. Smaller, lighter, trivial posts occasionally squeeze their way out – but for all intents and purposes, I’m just unable to write. From there it’s a short, unpleasant wait of mounting tension, frustration and irritation until the walls collapse and posts pour forth – this time with little or no discrimination in evidence, full of bad jokes, thrown together collections of links and the like. And then from there the cycle repeats itself as concepts of quality and discernment slowly start creeping back into my output.

As a matter of interest – does this pattern sound familiar to anyone else or is this simply a personal thing?

16 replies on “The long-term cycles of weblog-writing…”

Very familiar. I’ve always put it down to the cyclic nature of thought processes.
Weblogs do a very good job of highlighting the pattern because their style of creation is so instantaneous. You can feel the cycle as it’s happening, and you can also observe it later.
I suppose if you had a column in a daily newspaper, you wouldn’t fill it with the first thought that came into your head when you sat down each day to write it. You’d probably jot down ideas for future columns as you thought of them, and then expand from there later. This process would go some way towards smoothing over the boom and bust of ideas. I guess that suggests that you could apply the same thinking to writing a weblog, but does that rather defeat the object?

Tres familiar here too.
I usually fallback on various ‘cheats’ to compensate for my desire to post everyday (that’s a different discussion I think), links, referrer log discussions etc etc..

This is very familiar for me as well. When blockage happens, it seems to work pretty well to not bother about quality at all, but to just write, often about a detail of whatever idea I have in mind, and the end result often proves to be at a higher quality than I anticipated.

Me here also.
I tend to think the opposite to Peter though. Rather than just write anything, I just treat the silence in my head as, perhaps not a ‘blockage’ but more of a, processing latency.
I’d much rather say nothing at all than something not useful [at least to me].
There’s a rare day that I don’t find at least one link to post (though these rare days are becomming, less rare)

I just wanted to add that those lower-quality posts, although they might not be useful for the readers, they are useful to me and they benefit the quality of my posts in the longer term. Something happens when I express the thoughts, and for me, thereís a difference between just keeping it in the head, or writing it down, and posting it to the weblog. But I canít quite put my finger on it.

I find that this is a very familar feeling, especially when I get busy. The moment I started using drafts long term in MT things started to slip. You want to hone the piece a bit more or add in links to some other things. I’ve even started using titles as place holders for articles, mainly for travel writing.
Then I’ll come back with a burst of posts usually and sometimes this is enough or it peters out and I’m left flat and quiet again. I used to berate myself about it, now as you say Tom it is part of a cycle and I accept that I’ll write more in a while. I’ve lost the compulsion to post one a day, which was a useful crutch in the beginning.

As everyone else has said, this is utterly familiar stuff. Fret not.
A way I’ve found round this was nicked from (I think) the choreographer Frederick Ashcroft, who was trying to get some new scene together. Everyone was off doing their thing except one dancer who was stuck rooted to the spot. “I don’t know what to do?” she said. “Do *anything*!” said FA. “That way I’ve got something to change”.
Er actually, thinking about it, Brian Eno put better in his ‘oblique strategies’.
“When you don’t know where to start, start anywhere.”
Keep pushing on, doing *something* and stuff will come. Also, don’t underestimate the value of a decent gestation period. Back in my Systems Analysis days, we were told that once you’d gone and gathered all the data and written it up, you should basically come into work the next day, read it all, and then sharpen pencils and look out of the window for two days before doing *anything*. Otherwise you risk jumping to obvious, and possibly wrong, conclusions. Your brain is still thinking, just let it. Oh, and cutting decks of cards works quite well as a way of occupying the ‘blocking’ half of your brain.
And hey, never forget that an idea expressed 90% of the way is better than no idea expressed at all. Good luck!

Incredibly familiar, get the bloggle-neck blues from time to time. It makes me glad I don’t (yet) write for a living; I can’t imagine having to write something *right now* on demand and under a deadline while suffering from writer’s block.
I find it as frustrating, though, to have an excess about which to write. I might be in the thick of an inspirational book and a host of blog-worthy activities, too wrapped up or busy to take enough and adequate notes to write later on the topics. One of these days I’m going to have to develop a better personal discipline for dealing with plentitude so that blog-block doesn’t happen as often.

It’s a very familiar feeling. I’ve gotten around it with my current site by having three different weblog columns – one for long and hopefully well-written entries (called massive), one for shorter entries about observations and personal comments (called middling) and one for quick links and comments (called tiny).

Blog block: cyclical?
When I first started blogging, I thought it was just me, that I was the only one with the problem. All these thousands and thousands of bloggers appeared to be oozing with creative energy all the time, able to produce posts on demand every day. Here I …

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Very well put. It depends whom you write for. I have noticed that some bloggers alter their style to please an unseen audience, shaped by previous trends in comments they receive. It self-perpetuates and is a little scary.
I have soul-searched and realize that I write to clarify my thoughts, get it out of my system and use the diary to help my failing memory. Hopefully not a Barbieblog (wicked description) but a scrapbook. Never mind the audience.
On a more practical note: pretty please can you take the line-height parameter out of your style-sheet? It makes the lines run over each other. (As in most MT blogs).

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