February Blog Chain Entry: On Balance

This is my entry for the February Blog Chain. Our theme is BALANCE, and each blogger in the chain will incorporate into his or entry an element from the previous blog post in the chain. I’m first this time.

I’ve been practicing law for almost 13 years now, and by last year, I had allowed all of my other interests to fall by the wayside. We dropped our theater subscription when Junior (our second child) was born, and around the same time I dropped off the board of the small theater company I had been involved with. I haven’t taken a French class since 1997. By the fall of 2006, I had even stopped watching television. When Mrs. Unfocused had trouble sleeping, I would tell her about my day. I had conversations at parties and bored myself.

Great — now I sound like Rodney Dangerfield.

The point is, I had gotten into a mental rut. During the week, I went to work, came home, had dinner with the family if I got home early enough, helped put the kids to bed, then worked for another three hours. I might go for a run or go to the gym, but that was about it. Finally, I got to the end of the year and found that I had the luxury of taking some time at home; I would still have to work a few hours each day, but I could manage it so that I wouldn’t have to come in at all.

I took the opportunity, and in that time I started this blog. It was partly the result of a November visit from an old college friend, who suggested that the Mrs. and I start a blog together (we’re still talking about a joint blog, but she has had other projects on her mind), partly the Mrs. telling me to just go ahead and do it, and partly my own attempt to start writing again for pleasure. I needed to engage the creative part of my brain again, if only to convince myself that I was not as dull as I was beginning to think I was.

Creating the blog was relatively easy, and I found that I was perfectly happy to blather on ad nauseum. Lucky you, reader. More importantly, I felt the beginning of that balance I had been looking for, between solving other people’s problems at work and thinking through situations on my own, for no better reason than that I found them interesting.

Then on January 2, after my first day back at work since before Christmas, over a glass of wine with Mrs. Unfocused after the kids had gone to bed, I rattled off a complete synopsis of Meet the Larssons. I started knocking out some notes on the computer, and ending up spending the next several hours writing down the idea, ending up with four or five pages of typed notes and a hand-drawn organizational chart for the structure of the business discussed in the novel.

Since then, I have let the novel and the blog take over whatever free mental space I had. For a while, it was the novel. For the last week or two, the honeymoon has been over for the novel (I’m not done yet? What the hell!), and I’m more obsessed with the blog: how many hits today? any new comments? why is my Technorati authority stuck at 4? I’m sleeping less than I was when all I did was work, because when it was just work, I wanted to put it down and go to sleep. Now, it takes a real effort of will to close the laptop.

As I write this, I can see why it is so easy to get sucked in by the blog, and comparatively hard to work on the novel. It isn’t that the novel is harder to write; on the contrary, the novel is much easier to write than these blog posts. I know where the novel is going and largely how to get there; on the blog, it’s a different topic every day, and most of the time I have no idea what I’m going to write about until I sit down and start typing. No, the reason why the blog is so hard to resist and the novel is so easy to put down is that there is no feedback on the novel. I keep checking my word count (I hit 30K on Friday, on the train home from work) and updating it on the little graphic on the sidebar, because that’s the only way I have to keep score, and frankly, it’s pretty damn unsatisfying. With the blog, I have page views. Comments. Mrs. Unfocused even reads it, and I can ask her to give me comments on posts before I publish them, which is handy. But I would be uncomfortable showing anyone the incomplete pile of mush that Meet the Larssons is now. So there’s no feedback, no reward. My little lizard brain likes rewards, and it doesn’t think very far ahead. Maybe I need to promise myself a new toy when I hit 50K words, just to give myself something to work towards.

Don’t get me wrong: between the blogging and the novel, as well as the time I’ve taken just to spend with the Mrs. and the Unfocused offspring, the last seven weeks have been terrific. I’m going to spend a little less time on the blog this week in order to spend more time on the novel, but I doubt I’ll get any more sleep. And I’ll still keep checking those page views and comments, just to keep score.

Up next in the chain is Auria Cortes; remember to check out her blog over the next few days to see what she makes of this topic.

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19 responses to “February Blog Chain Entry: On Balance

  1. You have it lucky with Technorati. It refuses to see my blog posts at all, or give me any rank/authority. It knows people are linking to me, but it merrily ignores that. I think it’s bias against snails. Not that I keep obsessively checking Technorati to see if it’s updated…

    Time balance is a good thing. You need free time to spend with your fish after all.

  2. Hi man. :)

    Ah, the writing bug. And then, the blogging bug. I guess I’m lucky in that I know I can’t publish, so I feel less guilty about spending my time working along to pro blogger level.

    Stats are important, yes…. what do you use to track? Mostly I use them to locate navigational bottlenecks, and whether people return or not. Always lots of lurkers.

    Someday you will need someone to beta your draft. Then you get the feedback. Until then… well, what I do is read up on the craft of writing and then review my work. My mind can be fairly analytical at times; it helps to realize I’ve been doing something right. Or, alternatively, if I’ve been doing something questionable. But that can freeze someone up as well.

    You can also post up snippets of work to Share Your Work in the AbsoluteWrite forum. Your stuff is gonna need to get shared at some point.

    BTW, can you ask people to post the list of folks in their blog posts? That’s what will help the technorati ratings rise. Otherwise we stay at 4, 6, 12, etc despite the blog chain.

    Polenth, probably you didn’t put in your technorati claim right, or you didn’t have technorati ping your blog after your claim, or sommat. Contact me (MySpace or whatnot) and we’ll see if we can get it all worked out.

    Then you can be properly obsessed on other things like the rest of us. Muhahahahaha.

  3. Pingback: AURIA CORTES » Sweet Dreams

  4. I can understand life taking over, but giving up your theatre subscription is over the top.

    Technorati? Okay, I have to sign up for that. Off I go..

  5. I thought I did ask the chain members to post the list. I just haven’t circulated the code yet to everybody. I’ll put the link up in the forum.

  6. Just visiting from AW. I wanted to see how this whole blog chain thing works. I think I like it better than “memes.” I tend to get resentful of the person bullying me into doing them…ha. Peer pressure is bad for 40 year olds and there are no lectures at school on how to deal with it. Start a chain in March and I’ll join. In the meantime, I’ll lurk around your chain. ~Karen

  7. Good luck with the book . . .enjoying the blog!

    Jenn, aka Mrs. Everything Under the Sun

  8. I think Mr. Spy felt similarly about his blog vs. his “real” writing (which is, of course, his job). He found the daily tasks of blog writing to be more than he wanted to deal with. Of course, for him, it was part of his profession and his real name was on it, so the stakes were higher for his blog. Ultimately he decided to pull the plug. I went into blogging seeking balance — and I found it. Sort of. Blogging brings with it its own lack of balance. But I like that I feel obligated to write. I’ve been having a serious dry spell lately — I’m forcing myself to write. But I still write just about every day. It may not be exciting to read, but repetition of the habit has proved in valuable to me for a number of reason. Now that I’ve been at this for almost five years, I think my reasons for the endeavor have changed. But I’ll have to think more about just how. But there’s no question in my mind that it’s been good for me and good for my writing.

  9. Silly man,

    Balance and Fiction writing have nothing to do with each other. Anyone committed to writing a book is unbalanced by definition. :)

    But, goals are the key, IMHO. “I will get X pages/words/scenes written this week.” “I will edit X pages this month.” Which, of course, leads to “I will query X qualified agents this month.”

    Congrats on the blog. Good luck on the book. And I bet you miss the theatre as much as I do.

  10. Congratulations to you for returning to writing. I understand the difference between blogging and novel writing, I feel the same way many days. Now, I’d love to write more but I 20:44-20:56 is scheduled for obsessing over my blog stats!

  11. Yeah, I’m very new to this and obsessed with my statmeter. Where did they come from. What’d they look at? How long? Why haven’t they been back?

    And Technorati? I’m one link into the C list. Yeeeehaw!

    I’m about 5 chapters from running out of chapters that I’m just editing and updating and I swear to God I’m gonna pick up the ball and start writing new ones if it kills me.

    BTW, I’m also one of those who thought the Chain entries sounded like a great idea but wanted to see one in action before trying to participate. If you guys do it again, I’ll probably want to try.

  12. Nice blog you have. It may be true that writing the novel might not bring feedback as immediate as writing the blog, but that doesn’t make me any less passionate about writing my novel. Actually, I didn’t start doing a blog until after I finished the first draft, so maybe it’s a little different situation. Working on a first draft at the same time as a blog would be hard!

  13. I am very one-track minded…when I’m into the novel, I’m into it…then if I get out of it, it takes me a while to get back on track. In other words, I have no balance. At all.

  14. I’m glad you’re discovering a balance between writing and blogging. I still haven’t figured that one out. When I get deep into a project, everything else (especially my blog) goes out the window. Bad Kelly!

    Good luck with the rest of the novel. :)

  15. With blog posts, the whole world can come visiting and see the last time you posted. I find that creates a pressure to blog. It feels as if there is an expectation from the audience (even if that audience is only three or four people!).

    The good news is that I’m starting to get freelance work, and I attribute that directly to the work I’ve done on my personal blog. At least I’m able to pay some bills while I work on my fiction novel. LOL

    Best of luck to you! I really enjoy the voice of your writing. Fun to read.

  16. Pingback: AURIA CORTES » February’s Blog Chain Comes to an End

  17. Late (very) at commenting. As you now know, the work/family/creativity balance is one of my biggest issues these days. Good luck with your novel!

  18. Pingback: Food History » Blog Archive » AW blogchain - eating your pets

  19. Pingback: Blade off the Feather : Spontaneous Derivation

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