This got me thinking about three things:
- My old blog, which was started for a very similar reason. I was thinking about doing a communication PhD at some point, and knew I was roughly interested in the ideas of technology's interaction with communication, and creativity, so while I was working on my MA in English, the blog was a place to capture my reflections on the subject so I could figure out what I was really interested in about the subject.
It helped a lot--I can't imagine having to write my admissions essays for PhD programs without that resource to paw through and figure out what I was most interested in. Of course, now that I've been taking courses and getting a chance to think about it all the time, and am writing full papers on the subject, I find I have no desire to continue. For me, then, it was a starting point--a place to capture ideas where others could see them and comment on them before I dug into the main task. Now it served its purpose, and so I was happy to move on to this blog, which I expect will help me and others in different ways.
- The public-private tension with blogs.There's something about the liminality of cyberspace that makes it easy to disclose things, and yet stuff posted on blogs is a publication that anyone can see and respond to. This makes a blog a good place to capture ideas you want to write for an audience and polish a bit, but aren't quite as fully formed as you would make them for an article or a book you were writing.
The liminality (or unfinished nature, as it were) of the blogosphere helps with this stage of the writing (helps one to get around the coherence and relevance censor in one's head), and its public nature helps both with finding people to give feedback and with keeping one accountable for writing the "islands you can see." It also helps to be able to "think things through out loud with others" when those interested in the topic don't happen to be geographically convenient.
- It would not work for me for fiction. This kind of process, about "writing the islands" you can already see in hopes that the water of the rest of the work will surround them, only works for me in academic prose and other creative non-fiction. It works quite well there, in fact, but my fiction-writing only works if it's linear.
My fiction research is about collecting islands of material, but the novel-writing process for me has to be done in order in the first draft--I can think ahead to the next parts and take notes, but, partly because I'm a "light of the headlights" style fiction writer who doesn't know the end until I see it slightly ahead of the characters, I can't write a new chapter until I'm done with a draft of the last one. I can write a few independent scenes to learn my characters, but they never end up in the draft. I find it fascinating, these differences between the two kinds of processes.
One final thing: writers wonder how to find time to blog when they have so many other things they want to write. It's, I think, at least partly about finding a way to fit it into your current process, and finding the right topic that feeds into your writing--the right topic that both energizes you to write and serves multiple purposes--and then letting yourself see the blogging as a legitimate priority within the writing domain. It's also important to remember, though, I think, that it's there for a specific purpose and therefore that it's okay to move on once it's done that.
I also think it's okay to let it lie fallow for a time or to be willing to shift its purpose if another project if another project comes to the forefront. There's a time when every good topic-based blog, like most TV series, may come to an end, despite its seemingly never-ending nature, because the writer must shift their attention to other projects.
Of course, if one can find a way to make a broadly-enough themed blog to capture one's ideas on many of one's projects, that would work too. One of the reasons I switched to a broader theme for this current blog is to make the blog more sustainable, as it were. In my other blog, I found that having a narrower topic helped me focus, but also was inhibiting at times when I wanted to use the blog for bordering topics.
Any thoughts from you bloggers out there on the ebbs and flows and purposes of blogging?