I just finished a conference call at work about creating general interest blog posts for our website. People were suggesting topics that were not linked to technical writing or instructional design, but diverse topics like music, candy, humorous IMs, and Halloween decorating. But I kept thinking that the thematic focus should be consistent somehow with our industry. It’s the composition professor in me: I always bring a subject or argument back to a basic foundation—a big picture. So, if tech writers and designers are writing about these random things, shouldn’t they still be related to our environment somehow? If you like the Beatles, as one person enthusiastically told us, can’t that also tie to design (album covers) or sound (voiceover technology)? Candy and decorating can relate to branding color schemes and images for clients, right?
But then I started to think about how my own blogging digressions have produced some very interesting feedback. I’ve had online conversations begin with new people who suddenly drop in and respond to these added topics. I’ve found new ideas and perspectives I didn’t know I would be interested in. So, maybe going seemingly off topic will provide us with some great results. Maybe these are chances to bond with others we didn’t interact with very often.
There are a few colleagues and myself who spend the day connected via Slack. To offset stress, burnout, creative conundrums, drawing blanks, and maybe the loneliness of telecommuting, we check in with humorous gifs and observations. The hysteria often mounts and the energy increases. Our connection might be initiated by our work relationship, but the topics are often reflective of our external interests. It’s rather freeing to think of something that has no consequences, no deadlines, no evaluations or profit tied to it. A kind of tonic that invigorates and connects us rather than divides or distracts from our goals.
So, perhaps, variety in subject matter reflected in our blogs may drive more new followers to us and encourage established connections to share a wider variety of responses. At least we won’t be bored!
I just recently wrote about Colum Mcann and how his recent New Yorker article triggered my creative juices and awakened my curiosity about the world in general and the writing world in particular. As I watched an interview with David Brooks–one of my favorite essayists–on Q&A tonight, I was again charged up to get back to my keyboard and push myself out of my best intentions and actually write. One of the things he said reinvigorated my sense of belonging and self acceptance in the world of writing. Actually there were many points he made. The first was that he confirmed that writing is terrible and hard. It’s work, people. Unforgiving moody, vacillating in submission to your will, erratic, and glorious. Like some drugs. And, like coming down, you cannot be left with the illusion of greatness for long. In some moments, you come out of your reverie and find that the world is the same as you left it and the magnificence of your dreamy outpourings is full of holes and generalizations. Except in this case there is produced something concrete to review and something that maybe able to affect the future.
Brooks also stated that every writer has his word limit. Not the exact statement but I can’t remember the specifics. His point was that we have in us a natural comfort or effectiveness with specific lengths. The essence was that a writer may very well shine in a particular word count as well as genre. Eureka for me!!!!! I like my blogs. I like the short story. I’m not a verbose person much less writer. I am more comfortable working on small, separate blogs that may be related thematically and may be potentially turned into something larger or on short fictions that pinpoint a moment so profound to the characters that it is larger than those before or after.
Of course, Brooks was not saying that short works are ok to stick with if you just always run out of ideas or just don’t have much to say. A good writer has something to say and an impression to make, so let’s not cheat and say that Brooks said we don’t have to try or should be a person who simply stops writing at a number reached. Create something worth reading. It’s ALL hard if you do it right.
I prefer straight to the point, compartmentalized pieces of communication. With time and practice, I may become a more prolific writer of longer works. For now, these blasts of sharing buoy my spirit and energize me.
But what kind of writer are you? What is your comfortable word count? And is this per idea, subject, or writing session? Brooks admitted to having a time limit that he cannot pass without producing mediocre work. I think we owe it to ourselves to note our own boundaries and use them for a kind of framework in which to perfect our skills. Don’t fight it, count it.