Sunday, August 27, 2006

Clearing the List... Oh, Wait, I Guess Not

Okay, I admit it. I’ve become a bit obsessive about the blog. Not that you’d know that from where you’re sitting, relaxing in your tolerably assembled IKEA chair and staring at the screen with that skeptical look on your face. Oh yes, I see you there, thinking smugly about your own blog (or lack thereof) and wondering how, based on my posts, I could justify being obsessive about mine.

Agreed, it seems strange. Clearly I’m not obsessive about posting regularly – anyone looking back over even just a week or two would find enough evidence to render that theory preposterous. I tried to stick to a schedule – really, I did! – but it was just too hard to do. I think I’ve done okay, though, right? At least there have been no breaks between posts of more than a week. I think that’s pretty darn good… well, relative to the old blog, anyway.

So about what am I obsessive? (Based on the wording of that sentence, I think we can safely assume grammar, at the very least. I bet you would have written, “So what am I obsessive about?” Go on, admit it – you’d have left that preposition dangling at the end of the phrase. Heathen.) I’m perhaps approaching obsessive about the writing itself. Trying to write well is kind of all-or-nothing in some ways. Once it’s clear that I’m trying to be a good writer, all the crap sticks out a lot more – all the inadequacies become a lot more obvious. Back in the old blog, I didn’t really think about what people thought of my writing; it was easy enough to ignore it because even if they were judging it, I knew they were judging something into which I’d put no effort. (Did you see how I skillfully avoided yet another dangling preposition? I’m a master, I tell you.) At any rate, because I’m actually putting effort into my writing these days, I’m a lot more nervous about the finished product. Drafting posts takes a lot longer now than it used to, and I spend a lot more time proofing and editing and revising and generally fretting over whether it’s good enough to publish or not. Like I said – it’s approaching obsessive.

But approaching obsessive isn’t actually obsessive. It wouldn’t be so bad if it were the writing that I was obsessing about, because at least that’s understandable; it makes sense that I would put some extra effort into the writing style of my blog, and if that effort starts to become a little extreme, well, some people would call that dedication (only crazy people would call it obsessive). What I’ve become obsessive about is so much worse, because it makes so much less sense: I have become obsessive about the organization of the content of my blog.

You misunderstand already, I can see it. You think I mean that I’m obsessing about how to present the content in my posts, and the ways in which I choose to organize said content. But see, that would fall into the realm of writing, and I’ve already said that’s not the problem. No, the problem is on my own computer, long before the words ever reach the web. See, in the old blog, when the time came to post – when I felt I just couldn’t put it off anymore or people would begin to wonder if I’d died – I would sit, think for about a nanosecond, then write whatever I’d done most recently just to have something to post. But these days, I think in terms of what would be most interesting to post – interesting to me, as something to work on and think about and craft into a written product, and interesting to the readers as well. Because of this, I tend to think of blog posts at random times and in random places. Something will strike me during a class, or a conversation I have with a friend will stick in my mind, or someone I pass on the street will prompt some introspection. To help make sure I didn’t lose any potential blogging gems, I began to keep a list of potential topics – these random things I’d thought about and considered as interesting posts. I began a simple text document on my computer, just a list of notes meant to remind me of my ideas. This, my friends, is where the trouble began.

You see, this simple idea has created a mess from which I cannot escape. Oh, it began innocently enough, just the list of notes. But soon, it began to grow. The first problem was when one of the note entries had so many details, it had to include a list of bullet points. This looked strange, next to all the other, simpler notes. So I did what seemed perfectly reasonable at the time but was, in fact, the step that sealed my doom: I made a Word document. The text document was just for notes, but the Word document was for actual drafts of entries. It seemed so practical – Blogger has been known to create all sorts of problems at times by losing posts when they are *this* close to being done. Not being a person who likes to repeat myself, I’ve always hated this sort of completely inopportune mishap. I do not like repeating myself. Repeating myself – well, I just don’t like it. So drafting the posts in a Word doc seemed like a good way to ensure this couldn’t happen. Plus, it’s easier to manipulate the posts in a word processor than in the little box in Blogger. And with notes that included many details, I could leave the note in the text document fairly vague and include the more detailed notes at the top of the draft. That’s right, I said include the detailed notes at the top of the draft. Because that’s what I started doing – I would sit down to write a draft and I would make an outline. I would make a list of points to cover, questions to answer, ideas to present, etc. My drafts were no longer drafts – they were full pre-writes, drafts, and revisions (because again, manipulating in Word was easier than manipulating on Blogger). Soon, Blogger was really just for the editing and publishing stages (why yes, I am an English major – was it the writing process that gave me away?) – everything else happened in Word.

Not a big deal, right? So I created a document for blog drafts – so what? It would just be temporary storage anyway; it would just hold the draft long enough for me to make sure it got up on the blog, then I would delete it when I drafted the next post. Except… When I went to do that, it seemed so… wrong. Just deleting my work like that, even knowing it was published somewhere else, seemed wrong. So I figured I would just leave it, mark the divider between entries, and start a new draft. SUCH a bad idea. Once I started doing that, I had to do it every time. So now every post has to be included in the Word document, even the ones that weren’t actually drafted here. That’s right – I have actually been known to copy and paste a post from the blog itself into the Word document that was created to draft the posts for the blog. Are you getting this? Are you fully comprehending the insanity of my obsession? Once I started the document, it had to be complete – no holes allowed. And then, of course, it had to be standardized – the outlines, draft set-up, divisions, dating, etc. all had to be standardized. Can you imagine the chaos?

It gets worse. Remember that oh-so-innocent text document? The one with all the notes? Well, the list started to get long. Really long. And because I didn’t want to just delete ideas once I’d drafted them (even though I knew I had the idea both on the blog itself and in the Word document), I started to just put the date I posted it in parentheses beside the note. But then one day, looking at the list, I couldn’t take the sloppy organization anymore. Entries were completely randomly ordered – based only on when I’d made the note – and looking through to find the ones I’d already written as opposed to the ones I hadn’t was far too difficult. Not to mention that I had two major categories of post notes – categorized in my head as “longish” or “shortish” – and I had to figure out how to make this distinction visible as well. So I organized the text file, too. Now, it has a section entitled “Blog Entries” followed by a list of all entries starting at the beginning of the blog (June 26), which was long before I started keeping this list – I actually went back and looked up all the previous entries and inserted them into the text file. Entries are listed by date, categorization (L or S), post title, and brief description of content. This way, I can look back at any point and see what my posting schedule has been like, how many long vs. short posts I’ve done, and what my general content has looked like. Below the “Blog Entries” are the two lists of future, potential topics – one “longish” list, and one “shortish” list. It’s much tidier now, and easier to sort through when the time comes to either add an entry or write a post.

Yes, I’m crazy. Completely and totally insane. OBSESSIVE. And the worst part is that this is not at all what I intended to write about today. I intended to use this post to check off multiple potential posts in one fell swoop (basically make an L post out of multiple S post ideas). I wanted the list to get smaller, but it just keeps getting bigger! But it didn’t seem fair to just jump into those things without some explanation of where they came from. The explanation, however, has taken an entire post all on its own.

I beseech you not to leave me, faithful readers – my insanity isn’t contagious (I don’t think), and sometimes it lends itself to some pretty phenomenal posts. Just enjoy the madness vicariously. Or, even better, share your own obsessive madness in the judgment-free sanctuary of the comment box. Tell me I’m not alone…


Mazurka said...

I'd say your obsession isn't overwhelming yet. I was afraid you were going to say you organized your ideas list into a spreadsheet.

Lady M said...

I completely don't see what is obsessive about your process. It makes perfect sense to me. SwingDaddy is laughing at us both.

I have a Word doc of each month's posts - both completed and draft pieces. As you said, it's much easier to edit a long post in Word. And yes, I also cut and paste posts I wrote in Blogger back into Word to spell check before publishing. It seems perfectly reasonable to me.

One difference - I rarely outline anymore, but instead keep lists of bullet points. Too many years of marketing writing, I think.

Draft pieces and edits that don't make the cut within a month get spun into a separate doc by date. I keep these both as digital files and hardcopy, because I like having a physical book to scan when I'm looking for ideas. Essays that I think are too personal to post also get printed to the book instead.

I'm sure that my notes don't help your case in anyway. SwingDaddy thinks we're both obsessive.

Lady M said...

Next time we chat, I'll tell you what the professional bloggers describing their processes at the BlogHer conference had to say.

tpiglette said...

"Repeating myself – well, I just don’t like it." Hahahahaha.

I'm not obsessive about my blog in particular but I am definitely like that about other things. For example, I have been known to spend hours renaming files on my computer because once I change one part of my naming system, I absolutely cannot stand having the other files renamed in the old way, or worse, in some random incomplete way. You should have seen me go to town on the Tmony webspace folders. Arghghgh!

So I definitely share in the obsessive madness. I would be more specific except I don't have the time right now. This is what has made these past few weeks so paralyzing!!!

Anonymous said...

Have you considered running Oracle Enterprise Manager 10g on an IBM System z9 Business Class mainframe? All your organization problems will disappear.

Lara said...

mazurka - i've taken the spreadsheet idea into consideration. i'll let you know how that works out.

lady m - as i told you, i don't really have draft pieces. or, rather, i didn't as of yesterday, but last night i actually drafted a couple with the intention of posting them later. so it looks like i'll need a new category soon. separating them into files based on month is a good idea, though. i'll have to rethink my system.

and hearing about the pros sounds good. like i said, i totally want to go to blogher next year. :-P

tpiglette - glad you liked the "repeating myself" bit. :) and yeah, that sounds like you. but again, who am i to judge obsessive behavior? i'm all for anything that creates better organization. tmony needed our help in that respect... ;)

anon - i have no idea what half those words mean, but thanks for the tip!

anyone else want to share their obsessiveness?

Anonymous said...

"But it didn’t seem fair to just jump into those things without some explanation of where they came from."

ends with a preposition...

tsk tsk

Lara said...

anon - yeah, i know. i left a couple others in there, too. i guess maybe i'm not obsessive about grammar after all. ;)

aMom2E said...

I started a word document with possible blog topics. I am hoping it will keep me "in" the blogsphere so I don't disappear again. Thanks for the idea!