Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Announcement announcement!

So here's my deal:  I'm really wordy. I have a lot of thoughts in my head and I'm a fast typist, and I end up writing quite a lot.

I write quite a few blog posts.  You wouldn't know it from looking at this site, but I do write a lot of them.  Most of them don't get published.  Why not?  First line, second sentence.  I'm a wordy guy.  Shouldn't that work for my post count, not against?  Well, in theory...

I sit down to write a quick post. It ends up being many, many thousands of words long.  It rambles.  It becomes muddled.  I've ended up saying everything I wanted to say and then some, which is at least three times more than what I actually needed to say.  There are many digressions along the way.  Usually I finish a post, go back to re-read it and realize it needs a lot of work...realizing that I don't really have the time for it.  On top of that, by this point I've gotten it all out.  Kind of like that whole, "Write a letter and don't send it" thing, I already feel better for having written it.

I'd like to post it and share my thoughts, sure, but having written it was ultimately the point.  Even if it did come out muddled, even if I originally intended it to be a public blog post.  By the end of that first draft I've made my point, or supported my point, or completely disproved my point.  In the process I got what I really wanted out of it.  Understanding?  Analysis?  Self-coddling?  I don't know, whatever it is, it's usually enough.

Before I publish a blog post, I do a lot of revisions.  A lot of self-editing.  That's for everything I write though. Emails to friends and family, a quick handwritten note to my boss before leaving work.  Everything I write usually gets at least two or three revisions before I let it go.  Even text messages to anybody about anything are read and re-read.  I hesitate to use the term "agonized over"--there is no agony, I do it because I want to, because I enjoy the process.  "Analyzed" is a much better term.

For instance, even now I'm mulling over part of a sentence a from a few paragraphs ago:
...realizing that I don't really have the time for it.
As opposed to the alternate:
...realizing that I really don't have the time for it.
I could spend an entire blog post on similar differences.  In short (hah!), the first instance says that I could make time if I needed to, but I choose not to.  The use of "really" weakens the phrase.  In the second sentence, "really" is an emphasis.  No, I'm not joking here, I really don't have the time for this.  Of course, there's always:
...realizing that I don't have the time for it.
 No "really" in this sentence at all.  This last sentence is the rock, take it or leave it.  I don't have the time.  The first sentence is almost a plea, I don't "really" have the time.  You could argue the point, but the speaker is almost asking you not to.  The second sentence would most likely be used in the middle of an argument, or right away if the speaker suspects an argument is coming and acts to head it off.  I "really" don't have the time.  Don't even start.


If I do so much re-reading and revising, why then do my blogs, emails, texts, etc., still have typos and grammatical errors?  One, I'm not perfect.  I may have thought I phrased or spelled something correctly even if it's wrong.  More likely though, it's because I do all this in a short span.  You write a text and then you send it that minute.  You write a blog post and it should probably go out that day, because things of that nature quickly become irrelevant.  I know from working on more serious writings that any editing done immediately will always miss something.  The mind doesn't fret over things it perceives as familiar or known.  It knows these words--it just produced them after all--so it just skims them.

Three ways to get past this problem:
  1. Change the formatting.  Change the font type, size, column width, whatever.  An easy way to do this in Blogger is to preview the article.  Proofread the preview, switching tabs to change any errors you find. 
  2. Read it slowly, word-by-word, aloud.  Actually aloud, and very slowly.  Force yourself break your natural rhythm, and examine each and every word.
  3.  Set aside your writing for a while.  Ideally long enough to forget about it as much as possible.
These techniques are usually too much work for a simple blog post, text, or email.  There's a fourth and easier option:  Have someone else proofread it, though it would be a hassle for someone else to proofread everything, even if you only limit it to blog posts.

It's all more trouble than it's really worth, because there will always be mistakes if you don't have a lot of time or a dedicated editor.  I accept that.  I just hope for a good level of clarity to come through where I've left neither brevity nor immaculance.  I'm pretty sure immaculance isn't a real word, but I'll live with it.  Immaculateness?  Hey, the spellchecker says immaculateness is the right word, but I like immaculance better, so there.

So, the reason for mistakes?  I'm proofreading myself, creating many blind spots.  I'm doing it immediately after writing it, creating even more blind spots. Last and most humorously, a lot of mistakes are inserted in the last few revisions.  For example, I decide a sentence is too long and cut it in half, and in the process I leave a duplicate of the same word, or cause another phrase that's grammatically incorrect or has a completely different meaning than what I intended.

Even so, I still do a lot of re-reading and revisions, because habits from the aforementioned more serious writing compels me to.  That's cool, I'd rather keep my good habits around, even if they cost me in time and posting frequency.  Well, no 'if' about it, they do reduce my number of posts.

Oh wait, is that what I'm supposed to be talking about? Post frequency?  Right, right.

After the first draft, if I decide to revise and actually develop it into something I will post, a lot of the time I end up wiping it clean and starting over completely.   That's because I've already got all my "and another thing"'s out of the way, and the second time I have a lot less patience for all the digressions and anecdotes.  It's still all about me telling you things, you see, but the second time around it's me, the increasingly bored writer, and not me, the attention-hungry speaker.  Hard to balance those two things, really, because they're just different concentrations of the same impulse.

Objectively I think that, while blogging, the most sense I can make with the least amount of words the better.  That almost always means removing myself from the article.  Not removing my point of view--that would be largely impossible--but removing all the bits that try to turn every blog post into another encyclopedia entry about myself.  I'm not saying there's anything wrong with a little vanity or self-explanation (I mean, look at this post), but it's almost always excessive.

If I'm writing a post about DRM, you maybe need a little background on me as a consumer.  You don't need a dozen anecdotes going back to the first video game I ever played.  Ultimately I'm going to want to cut a lot out, and unless it's a more personal post (like this one), any tangentially-related anecdotes should be the first to go.

Anyway, for a post to get published, here are the hurdles it has to leap over:
  • I have to finish a first draft.
  • I have to re-read it a half-dozen times.
  • I probably have to re-write the thing one or two more times, each time starting a new cycle of revisions.
  • I have to not have changed my mind on the issue while writing it out (which happens a lot).
  • I have to not have been interrupted by a phone call, or an email, or remembering that thing I was going to look up earlier but forgot--all of which completely distracts me from the task at hand.
  • Oh, and when I finish it, I have to read it and decide it's worth the space it takes up on my site.
I know that last one's a bit of a stretch.  This blog used to mostly house reports of how I struggled to keep my sleep schedule intact without a steady nine-to-five job to get me out of bed at the same time every morning.

It occurred to me a while ago that my biggest problem with blogging is I don't constrain myself enough.  Nine times out of ten, I need to just wrap it up. On the other hand, as this post shows, I do like to write long posts where I give myself permission to digress every few paragraphs.  I enjoy writing it, even if there's only a handful of people out there who might enjoy reading it.

I need to post more.  I have things I want to say, but I'm tying my own hands by using so many freaking words.

In short (hah! again), I'm starting a new blog.  I'm going to try and keep the posts smaller, a couple paragraphs apiece.  I hope that'll keep my frequency up.  The general ideas is that it will exist more to point at other things. Not necessarily just other blogs or websites like people tend to use tumblr, but more things in real life.  IRL. Less topical things perhaps, but things I at least find worth mentioning.

The idea came months ago when I was driving a rental car around while mine was in the shop.  The cupholders in that car fucking sucked.  I understand that it's odd for anybody to have a strong opinion of cupholders--that's just how terrible they were.  I've wanted to post about it since, but every time I start to, I see the hundreds (literally) of unfinished posts and I end up looking at them, slapping one or two of them up, but usually leaving them behind to finish at another time.  A silly little rant about bad cupholders gets shuffled to the back of the pile, even though I could probably have written and posted it in all of five minutes.

I'll be exercising my point of view at this other blog, but I'll try to leave the more personal ramblings over here.  That's right, I'm not abandoning  It'll still be here, getting the same occasional overlong posts.  My new blog will just be more of an exercise in brevity and frequency.  Hopefully.



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