I took a break from the blog for the last month as I completed the recent edits for my new book, Writing Well and Being Well for your PhD and the Rest of your Life. I was trying to live the advice I give in the book, and paying attention to my energy, my time, and the wellbeing of my eyes and back.
But the book is now in with the series editor and going out to reviewers (2 weeks late, but also 2 weeks before the deadline I had written on my otherwise trusty whiteboard… a story for a later post!!). So in this little writing block I had in my day—too small for getting back into another big project—I thought I’d warm up the blog machine.
I was blogging weekly through September, but for the last 6 weeks I’ve only posted once. I’ve always seen this blog as a generous space—a space where I get to think out loud, where we can think together; but also a gift from me to readers. So my content delivery strategy doesn’t really exist—I just pour out ideas as they come to me, which might be weekly, fortnightly, or infrequently.
This, by the way, baffles the PR content-farmers constantly in my inbox reaching out for ‘partnerships’. The blog isn’t a funnel for my business, my blog is just me doing my work in public and for free. If you want the personalised or polished versions of this work, then there are workshops and books—but many of you just drop in for the one post you need right now and that’s what the blog is here for.
And I find writing in public, writing alongside readers, writing in small blog-length chunks, is motivating and helpful as I start the first draft of a new book. In Writing Well and Being Well, I’ve linked back to the blog post where I first had a go at that technique or approach, less as a citational practice of attribution and more as a trail so the reader can trace the development of my writing and thinking. You almost never get to read other people’s early drafts—that’s how you see how the writing gets made.
The end of a book is a moment for reflection. The return to a regular writing practice after a break (even only after a month) is also a moment for reflection. The blog is about to turn 10, too, which is a long time on the internet (some of the early posts are… from another time). We are well past our 250th post and turning the corner towards our dodranstricentennial post (that’s 275th). At the end of each chapter in the new book, I had some reflection questions, and I’m still trying to take my own advice.
And of course I’m writing this in the middle of whatever is happening at Twitter. Twitter has been where the conversation has been. I got into blogging because of people I read on Twitter. Twitter has been consistently the biggest referrer to this blog, for years. (Beaten only by google search, with people mostly coming for the concise writing post, and the ‘scout’s pace‘ post. The internet is weird.) A while ago, after I was finding I couldn’t moderate the comments on my blog enough, I moved the conversation over to Twitter. I’m so tired at the thought I’ll have to turn back on comments and deal with all the spam again.
It’s been strange to put a pause on thinking while I focus on edits. I want to return to the ideas about generous reading and gift writing, as well as writing up some of the techniques I used to get this manuscript into shape that might be helpful for other writers—like editing backwards and line edits.
The ‘polishing’ edits stage of a book manuscript is when you should absolutely not have any new ideas. There were so many things I couldn’t put in the book, so many things I had to cut to keep it at the word limit. I am exploring thinking about editing and polishing as acts of generosity towards our readers, and so even though I love the generous and generative kinds of writing I get to do on the blog, sometimes it is more generous to set and respect boundaries. To stick to your word count. To take extraneous things out, rather than eternally add more content, more words, more stuff.
As always, thank you for reading. Thank you for making this a place for me to write. I hope it helps you to write too. Write well. Be well. It’s nice to be back here.