Looking back at November 2014

In November I took up Blogging U.’s Blogging 101 course as well as NaBloPoMo in an attempt to kick-start my renewed blogging venture. Was it a success or a failure? What did I learn in the process?

As happens so frequently with new hobbies, it started out well, with lots of enthusiasm and commitment.  Then more pressing tasks like work (the kind that actually produces a pay check), household chores and year-end social functions demanded a lot of my time and distracted me.  Then I missed a day of posting and started to fall behind on assignments.  And once you lose momentum, it becomes easier to put things off until the next day, and then the day after, and the day after that…  You know how it is.

I completed about 50% of the Blogging 101 assignments.  NaBloPoMo count: 12 out of 30 days of posting.

What I’ve gained:

  • I visually improved my blog with a new header photo as well as a new background.  Some advice and suggestions from bloggers at the Blogging 101 Commons were a big help in this regard.
  • I discovered some new blogs, interacted with other bloggers more than ever before and, in the process, passed the 50 follower mark to end up with 78 followers today.
  • 167 visitors and 445 views during November.
  • I have a small collection of draft posts and outlines that will (hopefully) soon be ready for posting.

What I’ve learned:

  • Writing takes time.  You don’t always have it.  You need to put in effort to make the time you need to meet your writing goals.
  • Other aspects of blogging (reading and commenting on other blogs, fine tuning the look of your blog, finding images for your posts…) also takes time.  You don’t always have it.
  • It is hard to “write on demand”.  Sometimes you just have nothing to say.  Or at least, at that moment, you can’t think of anything.
  • Writing prompts can be very useful.  It can assist getting past the blank stare at the screen.
  • Once you have an idea in your head it is easy to start writing a post and get a decent outline or even a rough draft done.  It is not so easy to finish it and get it ready for posting.  Through November I started various posts and wrote the gist of it but quite a few of them are still sitting in drafts folders waiting to be finalised and polished.  It’s a bit like crochet: it is easy and fun to start a project and do the actual crocheting, but tying off the yarn ends, working them away and stitching together the pieces of the work is a chore that most will like to be able to avoid.

So, success or failure?  Success, I would say, or at least decent progress, despite not having completed the course assignments or published a post every day of November.

Now to tackle 2015.

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Who I am and why I’m here: An attempt at writing

Since childhood I’ve enjoyed writing.  When we were kids, a friend and I used to co-write crazy monster stories, each taking a turn with a chapter. It was always a surprise to see where the other one would take the story. The creative process fascinated me.  I even once won an essay writing competition when I was in primary school (I grew up in a small town, so it is actually a case of having been a big-ish fish in a grubby little pond, but still).

Today I read and write for a living. Although the drafting of legal opinions and contracts teaches some important lessons that can be applied to other forms of writing (do not use more words than is necessary to convey the message, set out thoughts and principles in a logical manner, etc.), it does not really stimulate your creative side.

In the last few years I have become increasingly frustrated and bored with my work.  This lead to me exploring career options outside of the legal field.  I quickly realised that a career change requiring a formal qualification like a degree will be a tough one to manage.  There are only so many degrees that one can do part-time, and if I did that I will be the proud owner of a new bachelor degree when I’m around 40 (if I’m lucky).  And then I would still need to build up an actual career in that field.  I considered starting my own business.  I’ve always wanted to open a little bistro or café.  But that is risky.  It requires significant start-up capital that will not be easy to raise and the chance of success is slim given all the competition in the area and the fickleness of restaurant goers in Johannesburg.  Maybe a change inside the legal profession is the answer?  I don’t know.  But what I do know if that I need to either change careers or get into a hobby or part-time stint that entails something creative or at least more fulfilling than my current job.

Writing is something that came up during my explorations.  It is something I enjoy and have some form of experience in. It is also something that can be done on a part-time basis.  And that is why I am here. To get into writing. Not contracts, not legal notices, not circulars and not opinions. I want to be able to share my views, express my feelings, tell you about things that I actually find interesting and, eventually, get into the really creative things like fiction.

Why a blog?  Writing something that people will actually read can be a scary thing.  I remember how long it took me to first make my blog public and publish the first few posts.  Even now with more than 20 posts behind me it is still daunting to put my writing out there for people to see.  The post is silly, badly written, not meaningful enough, not funny enough…  I tend to be my own worst critic.  And most of all, I am afraid of making a fool of myself.  A blog seemed like a good place to build up confidence in writing for public readers.  The idea is, after all, to eventually write something that someone will pay to read.

My goal with this blog is, firstly, to keep posting regularly for the next year to really get into writing as a long-term hobby.  Secondly, I would like to build up a meaningful number of followers.  Once I have achieved that, I hope to be in a position to identify a niche to focus on, maybe in a separate blog.

Maybe I have a novel or two in me, who knows? I can only find out by trying, and this blog is the beginning of just that.