About Routine and the Commitment to Write

When I started blogging I pondered the frequency of my postings. At the time, many of the subjects I wanted to address were clearly formulated in my mind, and several prospective blogs were already written in draft form in my journal. I never thought I might exhaust my bag of ideas, and stare helplessly at a blank screen.

The question of frequency appeared theoretical, strategic. What do experts advise? What frequency is ideal to establish a rhythm and attract readership? Maximize it? How does one switch from one subject to the next without coming across as disorganized and haphazard, and how to put emphasis on what really interests me, which is literature? How to interact with those who share my passion?

I settled on publishing once a week, every Monday at 8 AM, EST (even the day of the week and the time of the posting were debated, some of my friends arguing that most people read blogs over the weekend); but I stuck to Mondays and for fourteen months (fifty-eight weeks) I kept my commitment.

As I blogged, I learned a few tricks of the trade: the optimum length of the piece, the clarity of the message, the catch in the title and opening paragraph, the value of humor, the value of pictures (my wife, an avid photographer, helped a lot). I learned that few people are interested in reading short stories, and most want simple, relevant commentary that is personal and authentic. With a few exceptions, I steered clear of politics.

Time flew. A year went by, and then two more months, and my bag of ideas grew emptier. Last week I took a break. It was my first, and I had a good excuse. It was Christmas week and my family was in town. They stayed in my house, my children and grandchildren. We played games. We had guests. We celebrated, and drank. I couldn’t have stepped away and locked myself in my study to write for a few hours. My mind was on other things. So I paused. I stayed happy and busy. And yet, it felt strange. I thought about the blog almost every day, when I went to bed, when I woke up, and on my multiple trips to the supermarket.

I didn’t share my feelings with anybody. Why would I? In fact, nothing happened. I had no obligation, no contract, no money coming in, and no newspaper or TV show depending on me to complain about my inaction. One reader, only one of my followers asked me what was the matter. The others didn’t appear to notice. I guess most people don’t read blogs on Christmas Day.

On the other hand, — and I don’t want to be tragic here, or trivial — it felt like an empty seat at our table, a dear guest who did not show up. It was the promise I had made to myself that I had broken. Temporarily and deliberately, indeed, but still, it did matter. Fulfilling it was a matter of pride, as well as an illusion of permanence, and of a self-imposed rhythm. Did I run out of time, or ideas? Where was my strength? My imagination? I could have written the blog ahead of time, planned better for the hectic holidays. How do other people succeed in writing regularly for long periods of time (the late night comics, the journalists, or Andy Rooney)?

I write the blog because I love doing it. It is a marketing tool, for sure, but the marketing is secondary. What I like is uncovering a topic of my choosing, writing to a deadline within a certain structure, and receiving feedback. This helps me. This fulfills me as a writer. And what kind of a writer would I be, if I couldn’t come up with something great when I have nothing to start from but a random idea?

Please comment, recommend and share.