As I got into the habit of blogging on a regular — nay, frequent — basis, I began to notice a major problem: It was gobbling up a lot of my time. It was interfering with my writing for publication, which is something that I care passionately about. (At this stage in my life, if somebody were to set up a fund to allow me to survive without teaching, I would seriously consider becoming a full-time writer. Anybody out there? I have lots and lots and lots of projects in mind, but little disposable time in which to do them. And I hear the clock ticking.)
So I began to consider giving blogging altogether up or, at a minimum, cutting way back on it. (It’s not lucrative enough for the money to be a serious inducement.) However, for various reasons, I didn’t.
And then, two or three months ago, I received a request from my “line authority” at Patheos. As I well knew, Patheos depends upon advertising revenue in order to support itself. But Google — I believe it was Google — had informed Patheos management that it would not advertise on blog entries below 300-400 words.
This had implications for me. I had developed a practice of posting frequently but, often, very briefly. Would I, the Patheos official asked, be willing to write longer posts? I replied that I would certainly be willing, but that they would need to be not only longer but less frequent. I simply couldn’t spend any more time on blogging than I already was. Quite the opposite, in fact.
So, I asked myself, how was I to do this?
Another idea had been rolling around in my mind: How could I make the blog an ally of my for-publication writing projects, rather than their time-consuming rival? Could I combine the two?
And that’s what I’ve decided to try.
Accordingly, in many cases (though not in all), I’ve chosen to blog things that I’m working on. In effect, to make the blog something of a public workshop.
Thus, with regard to one of the Islam-oriented books that I’m currently trying to move toward publication, I’ve been posting snippets from it. Typically about 800-1100 words long, they allow me to go through them, making modifications, and then, after I’ve reworked them to my satisfaction, to copy and paste the now-blogged-and-revised passage back into the main book file. Thus, I’m progressing through the projected book at the rate of, on average, about a thousand words per day.
My science-related and Mormonism-related files aren’t nearly as far along as that one. And they’ve been lying fallow for quite a while — in some cases, for years. They consist of notes to myself, copied quotations, brief preliminary passages or even summaries inspired by things that I’ve read, and so forth. They’re very rough. They’re ordered in only the roughest way. They scarcely resemble what I envision the final products to be.
But, by going through them for the blog, I remember what I have, where it needs to be smoothed out or reorganized or supplemented or reinforced or fleshed out or modified in some other way. And I get to watch reader reactions. Substantive criticisms are very helpful for this kind of thing. (Personal attacks and insults, of course, quite a bit less so.)
And one of the things that I’ve been doing is to copy into the blog quotations that I’ve marked in books that I’ve read. That way, they’re typed out and can then simply be copied into my computerized note files. And, that way too, I’ve already shared something with my readers that I’ve found interesting. Otherwise, I’ve long been wondering when I would get the time to go through all of the books and articles that I’ve read and marked up. And the blog was eating up available time. Now, though, it’s giving me an incentive and an opportunity to extract those notes, which will substantially help the book projects along.
On the whole, I’m pleased with the experiment thus far. And, in any event, my previous practice was unsustainable. I enjoy blogging. I like to spout off on all sorts of subjects. But the books are the projects that I really care about, that I consider of fundamental importance — alongside, of course, one other Big Project that is in its beginning stages. (On which, more when the time is right.)