What I Learnt From Blogging (Almost) Every Day For a Month

Jackie Kelly 

So, this is it. The end of Blogtober. It’s been emotional. I didn’t quite manage to blog every day, but I’ve been more prolific than I have in years. I’ll be taking a little break from blogging so frequently whilst I attempt to undertake #NaNoWriMo and give this blog a little bit of a refresh, but I’m not going anywhere, really.

The Best Laid Plans Go Awry… 

I worked really hard to blog every day, but I wasn’t always as prepared as I wanted to be and as a result I couldn’t finish the challenge completely. I was a bridesmaid this past weekend, which took up two full days, and I have a friend who’s having a hard time who I spent good chunks of the previous afternoons before that talking with. Not to mention my ongoing childcare responsibilities. Obviously, I wouldn’t change any of those things – I will always prioritise my offline life, which is probably why I’ll never be a pro-blogger, but they did put a spanner in the works a little when it came to Blogtober.

I also planned to use this time to work on my photography, but with the pressure to get a post out every day meant that I cut corners where I could, and relied on Unsplash more than I would have liked. If I did it all again, I would try to do more in advance so that when things do go a little off the rails I have a back up. 

I Prefer Creating to Consuming

There are only just so many hours in the day and a lot of mine are now spent tending to my tiny little terrorist (a.k.a. Benjamin), so my time for blogging and reading blogs is limited. With Blogtober looming over me, those limited snippets of time had to be used for creation rather than for consuming other people’s content, which is my usual form of procrastination. It’s no surprise, really, but I definitely feel better at the end of the day if I have spent more time creating than I have consuming. I will never abandon reading other blogs completely, but keeping the balance in favour of creation is going to be key. 

Blogging Is Not Just About Writing

In days gone by, a blog was mostly about the words. Now that’s simply not true, but I’ve not really kept up. Photography, video, graphic design – all of that stuff is more out of my comfort zone and it’s the first to go when I am under pressure. I would much rather type out hundreds of words than take one or two photos. I’m not really a visual person, but if I want to improve then I’m going to have to work on that element of blogging and get uncomfortable. 

Good Content Takes Time

Churning out almost 30 blog posts in one month proved to me more than ever that good content takes time. I enjoyed the challenge of coming up with ideas and making them work immediately, but having a bit more time to edit, add photos, reword or just think about the topic would definitely have improved a lot of my blog posts from this month. Even a short blog post can take a few hours from start to finish, so I need to make the time. My next aim is to juggle quantity with quality so I can blog regularly and be proud of every single post. 

The Doing of the Thing Is The Thing

It’s all well and good talking about something, but as Amy Poehler says, the talking about the thing is not the thing. The doing of the thing is the thing. You are not a blogger if you never blog. You are not a writer if you never write. You are not a painter if you never paint. So you must do the thing. And the thing can seem scary, but it will never come to fruition if you don’t get started. Every time I force myself to do something that I say I’m going to do, I remember that it is in the doing that the thing comes alive. 

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Learning to Finish What I Start

Neven Krcmarek

I am full of ideas. A week doesn’t go by that I don’t dream up a new creative project or business venture, and I often have my fingers in many pies (both literally and figuratively, if you’re talking about the time when I decided I wanted to open a pie shop…). There are not enough hours in the day for all of the things that I want to do, experience and learn. But, despite being full to the brim with plans, goals and dreams, I rarely execute them – and when I do, I rarely finish what I start. I have a whole box full of half-finished knitting projects, a Google Drive full of sentences and plots from stories and blog posts that never got written and a never ending to do list with items that have never gotten off the ground. I have talked about starting a podcast and a supper club, new blogs and websites, and all sorts of other things – but before I start anything I have to learn to finish. 

I think my problems with finishing my projects are many; for starters, I am a perfectionist so I am often afraid to start or get too caught up in the middle of the project when it’s not going exactly how I imagined. In my head, my supper club is a triumph, my podcast a raging success and my craft projects perfectly executed. Of course, you can’t get to success if you don’t start in the first place or if you give up halfway through. Logically, I know that, but I get stuck in my own head at the crucial moment and bottle it, once again.

I also have a short attention span, and I always find that creativity begets more creativity so it is when I am in the middle of a project or venture that I have even *more* ideas and the new ideas are so shiny and exciting that the current one gets abandoned in favour of pastures new. So I never give myself the opportunity to really grow and improve, or the satisfaction of a final product. I have a tendency to take too much onto my plate, so each thing doesn’t get the attention it deserves and so takes much longer than it needs to, which doesn’t help with that short attention span. I get greedy, imagining myself fulfilled by a plethora of creative pursuits, surrounded by the fruits of my labour (most of which are praise-based, I won’t lie to you…), when it would be far more sensible to take on one thing at a time and really master it before moving on. 

Over the past month, I have thought about giving up this blogging challenge on many occasions. Blogging is probably the only thing I have really stuck at for any length of time; I am a blogger right down to my bones and it comes naturally to me to type out a few hundred words on whatever I’m thinking or doing at that moment. It is a quick endeavour, when done imperfectly, and so it provides that satisfaction and feeling of achievement that I strive for in other pursuits. But even then, I faltered every time it became a little bit tricky – when I didn’t have a post lined up for the following day and a full roster of activities with Benjamin making it difficult to sit down and type something up. There have been moments where I’ve lacked inspiration and even more where I’ve lacked the confidence. I like to think I’m pretty good at the words part of blogging, but blogging has moved on so much from when that was the most important part and there are so many other bits where my skills or execution are lacking. I am determined, for once, however, to finish what I have started and I am learning, slowly, the benefits of doing so.

With just a few days left in October, I am looking forward to the breathing space that will allow me to see other projects through that have been hanging over me for months, if not years. I am annoyed at myself for not coming to this conclusion earlier, because I have so much less free time and opportunity to pursue my greatest plans with Benjamin needing so much of my attention, but maybe that is a good thing as it will focus my mind on those that I really want to finish and let the others fall by the wayside. Watch this space, my friends – I’ve got a few things up my sleeve… 

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Creating Not Consuming

create

[Photo by Beauty Cocktails Girltalk

I’ve been thinking a lot about the relationship between creation and consumption recently. I am a big consumer. I check my phone constantly throughout the day, I read as many articles online as I can manage. I’m easily distracted by videos, blog posts, Instagram photos. You name it, I’ve probably already seen it on Twitter. The Internet has brought so many wonderful things into my life and shaped so many of my ideas and interests. But so much consumption is getting the way of my creativity and creation. I’ve always got my head away from my own work, scouting out the competition. If comparison is the thief of joy, then consumption is the thief of time, energy and productivity. 

I’m so busy feeding my FOMO, and for what purpose? I’ve read enough of the Internet to realise that I’m not going to stumble across a think piece that’s going to change my life in any real sense. You can read as much as you like about inspiration, motivation and getting shit done but still not be able to write a bestseller or complete a creative project. I think that’s what I’m searching for with my endless scrolling of the Internet: the magical tips and tricks that will give me a better life and make my creative work better, without actually putting in the time to make it happen in reality. But I know as well as you that you have to do the work and grind out the hours to make anything of real worth. 

It’s not as if I’m neglecting my life in favour of articles about Millennial habits and Parks & Rec gifs, but my ratio between creation and consumption has been tipping too far to the latter side recently. Consumption is an important part of creativity. The inspiration and instruction you get from consuming others’ work in your field can be a vital part of the process. I am a better blogger for observing how others are doing things, and trying out ideas on my own. That’s the crux of it. I’m not a better blogger simply because of the observation, but because of the trying and the doing. And I know I have less motivation for the trying and the doing when my head is so full with others’ ideas. 

 

I’ve got a lot of projects on the back burner. I am constantly keeping lots of ideas warm. Sometimes they come to fruition. Sometimes they fall by the wayside. That’s just the creative process. But I need to make more space for actual work.I need space to let my own ideas live.  You can only find out which ideas are best through the doing, not the planning. You can only improve and create something worthwhile through doing it over and over again. Through actually creating, not just consuming. 

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Setting Goals for 2013

As a chronic over-achiever, I am terrible at setting myself goals. I have attempted it more than once, making multi-coloured lists as long as my arm of the things I was going to achieve that month. I expect a lot from myself (aren’t we all our own harshest critics?) so I would envisage a world where I was entirely fabulous and organised, super-fit and successful at work and school. In short, I imagined I was a cross between Jessica Ennis and Tavi Gevinson. It was always unrealistic, and inevitably led to failure.

Despite my inability to set them, goals are potentially a great way to motivate and inspire you; keeping you focused on the things which are important. So I am going to attempt to be better at it in 2013, if the world doesn’t end in a few days time. I have chosen to stay away from specifics, as that way failure lies, and stick to more general, over-arching goals and focuses for the year ahead at this point. I will supplement these goals with smaller, achievable goals and focuses at the beginning of each month, being mindful of my own time constraints and actual abilities.

So without much further ado, here they are!

1. Make Fitness and Health a Priority 

I have never been a sporty person, I have always eschewed exercise with a firm hand and found every excuse I can to avoid it. Although I have become better in the last year, fitness has never been top of my priority list. This year, I want to make it something which is non-optional, which I I can’t get out of and which (hopefully) I don’t want to.

Similarly, although I am better at eating healthily than I am at exercising (I cook everything from scratch and aim for at least 5 portions of fruit and veg a day), I do ‘treat’ myself too often and let myself fall into bad habits. So, again, this is going to become a priority so that I have the energy and good skin to do everything else on the list!

2. Spend Time on Creative Projects 

A wanky way of saying that I will do something that isn’t working, studying or blogging. These projects have no shape as yet, and may just be something as simple as reading a book, but I want to make time for past times which are enjoyable and fulfilling. This blog is a creative project, but it is more a record of other creative projects – photography, cooking, reading and the like. Both the content and the inspiration comes from living life and being creative outside of the Internet, so this goal will hopefully mean good things for the blog.

3. Be Present 

I forever have my head stuck in the Internet, or am pre-occupied by everything else that needs to be done, so I will focus this year on being more present in social situations. Turn my phone off when I’m with friends, not spend the whole evening on the computer and actually do the things that need doing, rather than putting them off and allowing them to fester at the back of my head. When I am somewhere, I will be there. When I am doing something, I will do it. This is perhaps the hardest one, and is more about setting up habits which will help me accomplish this ready for the years ahead.

4. Focus on Writing  

Writing has always been my passion, and although my skills at academic writing have become more than honed in the last few years, every other kind of writing has dropped by the wayside. Where once I had piles of diaries, notepads and Word documents filled with fiction and creative non-fiction, my focus has not been on writing for a long time. So I will find time for this during the coming year.

This is also a sort of career goal as well, as writing is a part of my job. I finally have a job where I not only can progress up some sort of career ladder, but actually want to – so improving my skills will only stand me in a better stead.

What are your goals for 2013? How do you go about setting your goals? 

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