Thursday, November 1, 2007

Leaving on a jet plane

Sitting at the Little Rock airport, marveling at the free wireless and convenient laptop recharge stations, and looking forward to a non-stop flight to Denver leaving in a few hours -- it's the perfect time to embark upon NaBloPoMo '07.

I first heard about National Blog Posting Month last year*, when some students of mine were eagerly taking on the challenge of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Now I've known for many years -- since junior high -- that I cannot write fiction. I'm helpless at characterization and flummoxed by dialogue. My attempts all come out like earnest monologues, because the characters aren't just sides of me -- every one of them is all of me, so they're all the same, just having schizophrenic Socratic pseudo-conversations with themselves. NaBloPoMo seemed like an act of solidarity with my fiction-enabled students that didn't require me to formulate plot, something I'd have no more idea how to do than disarm a nuclear bomb (and which would produce almost as much stress).

I found out along the way that I didn't have nearly as much understanding of how to blog as I thought I did. But doing it helped to me learn. When I finished the month of daily posting, I decided to keep going. And I haven't stopped since.

I guess that means that technically, I'm doing NaBloPoMo again, since it's November and I'm still committed to blogging every day. Lately I've felt a bit under the gun in my blogging -- pressed for time, unable to think of interesting things to write about, inordinately proud of myself when I do any writing more strenuous than composing captions to pictures of my kids. (See: previous post.) So I'm hoping NaBloPoMo will provide an occasion to recommit to dailyblogging and remind myself how it's transformed me.

On the other hand (and right now I'm painfully aware that I'm committing the cardinal blogging sin of blogging about blogging), it's been depressing to cruise the NaBloPoMo board on Ravelry and see the participant's ideas of what constitutes good blogging topics. Please, no more weeks with "Friday Photos" and "Tuesday Tidbits." We all succumb to the meme temptation every once in a while -- no harm, no foul. But to post the equivalent of a meme -- an arbitrary post theme -- every day of the week seems to me to be the height of creative bankruptcy. If you must do a series or start a theme (and I've done my share, and will again), make it your own and commit to it only at your own discretion. Is it just me, folks? When I see a "Friday Photo" or a "Thursday Thoughts" post pop up on Google Reader, I can't scroll past it fast enough. It's like you've stuck your blog into a box and refuse to let it out.

Maybe it's a structure that helps give people the courage to post, so I probably shouldn't knock it for the timid dailyblogger. We all need structures to kickstart our creativity. But for me, the blog is the structure. It's not a blank page -- it's a blog. There are a limited number of uses for which it is well designed -- collections of links and commentary, personal reflection on matters of general interest, reporting on project progress, meditations on matters in one's profession, practicing writing to a broad and unknown audience. Sure, people can use blogs in innovative ways. But these are the natural genres to which the medium is suited. Isn't that enough structure to get us started? Do we really need the crutch of "I'll write about weeding my garden every Wednesday" to get words on paper? If we do, how do we expect to attract and hold the attention of readers, for whom such ticky-tacky boxes are more likely to inspire sighs of "not again" than excitement?

It's all in how it's done, that's true. I know online chat hosts and bloggers whose periodic theme days were eagerly anticipated (Carolyn Hax's wedding chats once every few months come to mind). And maybe that's another difference -- every so often rather than Every Damnable Day.

Please forgive me, fellow NaBloPoMoers, if I have just trashed the plan that got you excited about blogging every day. I would only urge you to remember your readers (you do want some, don't you?). And cut me the tiniest bit of slack for my first curmudgeonly NaBloPoMo post -- I'm heading to Denver and I already want to be on the way back.

*I've been telling people for weeks that I've been posting daily since 2005. It just doesn't seem possible that (1) I've only been dailyblogging for one year, and (2) I started knitting so soon after I started dailyblogging. But now that I think about it, there's some sense to it -- knitting gave me a few posts back in the early days when I was pretty strapped for daily ideas, until I felt guilty about it and moved it to its own blog. So take my "young whippersnappers with no idea how to dailyblog harrumph harrumph" grumbling with a touch of skepticism.


Eric Grubbs said...

NaBloPoMo - sounds like slang for "nah, blow . . . pour more." :-)

Justin Ray said...

Alas, my plans to blog daily fell by the wayside very quickly. I don't have the motivation to think up that much fresh content and would rather avoid lambasting my precious handfull or readers with barrage after barrage of memetic ejaculation...

...not that my posts are of that great a quality anyway, but I like to keep my illusions about. :)

Eric B. said...

What are you doing in Denver. I'd love to grab a coffee with you if you're in town for a few days.

the secret knitter said...

Wish I'd read this earlier in the month. The blogging cliches are definitely something I need to work on, although you will never see "Friday photos" from me.