Blogging is Hard

A couple months back, I decided to post here weekly. I’m glad I did. It feels great to create content, and even more to look back with a sense of continuity and regularity — to see this site live. I’ve never managed it before. Even when I was active in the Mass Effect fanfiction community and posted about the new stories and chapters I’d written, I couldn’t keep up with a weekly schedule. I’ve grown more disciplined since then, but I also have less free time. It’s hard.

It’s hard for several reasons. The one that weighs heaviest on me is that it takes me so much time to write something I can post without cringing. I’ll easily spend 4-6 hours on a post such as the last week’s tips on backing up one’s manuscript. It’s not that I can’t afford the time to write. It’s that I could spend those hours writing my fiction instead. Apparently my interest in keeping this site up to date goes hand in hand with my interest in writing. After several years of total neglect, I’ve started to write again last summer and the decision to post more frequently here is obviously a side-effect of that. I want to do both things, but they compete for my time, especially for my weekends, and while I’m intrinsically more driven to write than to blog, I’m bound by a sense of duty to keep up with my self-imposed schedule.

It’s also hard on a more basic, direct level. The reason it takes me 4-6 hours (more sometimes) to write a blog-post a couple pages long is that I’m a perfectionist and I can’t stand the idea of putting up half-assed crap in a public place, let alone advertise it to my meager following on Tumblr and Twitter. It needs to reach at least 75% on the quality scale where 100% would be my absolute best. I pick a subject (that’s a pain in its own right), I give it some thought, then I outline, write and revise. Each of these phases might take an hour or more. Even so, I’m less than satisfied with most my ‘essays’ here, especially reviews. I think I’d need at least twice as much time to make a book or game review exhaustive and balanced, whereas I usually just rant about whatever bothered me and hand-wave everything else.

Perhaps my standards are too high, or maybe I just suck at essay-writing. But reviews are cheap. I’m always reading or playing something so there’s always material for a review. When I have nothing to review (or when it’s too big of a hassle, like right now), I get in trouble over what I might write about. The self-critiques are attractive, but taxing, both time-wise and in mental/emotional terms. Making tutorials, like the last week’s post, requires a bit too much responsibility for my taste. If this site had some actual readership, I’d think twice before posting any instructions for anything. The last thing I need is people complaining that I destroyed their manuscript because it didn’t occur to me to include making a backup just-in-case copy in my step-by-step. I could write short, relatively effortless science-popularization sort of things, post poetry (if I knew where to find some) or pretty pictures, as I used to in the past. But even that requires time, if not for writing, then for research.

I’ve been toying for a long time with the idea of posting a series about the data model and queries that run under the hood of Mass Effect Themed Challenges and Halls of Fame. It would be a massive undertaking, because all of the above, plus it’s my baby and I care for it deeply so the 75% wouldn’t cut it, plus it’s highly technical and I’d have to make it super-clear and document it with screenshots and what-have-you. It’d be totally worth it, and I really want to do it, but again — when it comes down to it, I prefer to spend my free time writing my fiction. In this instance, my hand might be forced in the near future, as I intend to make the data publicly available so that others might inherit the record-keeping job from me when I finally retire, and they’ll need to develop a solid understanding of everything involved. But it’s such a daunting task.

It rarely occurs to me to do what I’m doing now, and just write a sort of journal entry. Even though only a handful of people read this blog, I still feel obliged to post content that might be informative and/or useful to someone, and I don’t believe my random musings are. Perhaps that’s entirely misguided, and my readers would prefer this to other types of stuff I post. Without feedback, I’ve no way of knowing, and can only follow my own intuition. Please do take this as an invitation and let me know what type of content you like and dislike the most. While it won’t make content creation any easier, it will certainly make it much more rewarding.

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