Writing volumes

I’ve got to stop spewing.

It was just a snippet that I snuck into a blog post, but I keep thinking about it – I’ve written more than 200,000 words in the 500+ days that I’ve been doing this blog. Less than a year and a half to write the equivalent of three books.

I didn’t start out to write books in the form of a blog. I wanted just to remember my Dad, build a sculpture made of pennies, and record a tidbit about each day in the blog.

What I got instead was the habit of writing every day.

The habit has made writing a more fluid, less self-conscious act. On some days it’s even fun. Downright delicious to bite into a juicy story from real life.

Since I’m now fully committed to writing every day until I turn 100, I want to make something of it. A few weeks ago I set up new categories to match book ideas, and since then I’ve gone back and reviewed my blog posts, to see which ones needed to be re-categorized. Turns out that lots of them do.

I’ve written many posts that were straightforward narration of the day. That was cathartic, but doesn’t add up to much more than a journal.

I’m not a fan of journaling, in the style recommended by many writers and writing coaches. Journaling – or spewing, as Tom calls the type done in rapid, stream-of-consciousness style – is supposed to loosen you up, silence the critical editor, and allow themes and characters to emerge organically.

Spewing hasn’t been very productive for me. I ended up with piles of words that were self-absorbed, rambling, and made me feel worse about my writing. Re-reading the stuff, even to glean bits of material for other writing, was too nauseating. Stuck in a hall of mirrors.

As a newspaper journalist, I’ve had plenty of practice in writing rapidly while still producing content that made sense. (Most of the time.) Even better, my writing was published and distributed every day or two.

Journaling for an audience of zero seems pointless to me. I need to have an audience in mind when I’m writing. Not individuals, but the mere idea that any real people will read this thing drives me to get better every day.

You, dear patient reader, are giving me your valuable time, and you deserve something for that.

In this blog, I’ve written some posts that weren’t a whole lot better than spewing. I have always tried to tell a story or make the post entertaining, but re-reading them now, I see missed potential. Some posts would have been more coherent, or more engaging, if I’d written the topic in light of a theme. On a blog, that can be one of the seven categories of my potential books, or it can match a tag that I use.

The catch is, refining my posts takes more time.