A couple of weeks ago, I was having lunch with Kelly from the Honeycomb and we were talking about productivity, planners, and life, in general. She later emailed me with a question that we didn’t have time to discuss. Her question was:
Where do you draw the line between blogging and focusing on “productive” output, or, in other words, when to write publicly vs. privately (or for eventual publication)?
What a straight-shooting question!
Some backdrop: I’ve currently written 99,311 words in posts and 2,918 words in pages – so I’m up to 102,229 words total. Okay, so words don’t mean much – what does that amount to?
Writers often use 250 words as an estimate for a page, so with that number of words, I’m up to 409 written pages! I expect that my dissertation will be about 150 pages when all said and done and an average article in a philosophical journal is about 30 pages. So her question hits squarely: had I spent the time I’ve spent writing for this blog on writing for publication or research, I would be much, much further along than what I am.
(This is a bit of an oversimplification: it takes me longer to write academic philosophy than it does the stuff I do here. I doubt I would have been able to finish my dissertation and kick out a few articles, but I’m fairly confident that I could have done one or the other. Another thing that’s not considered is that it takes me about three times as long to work on the planners as it does to write, which partly explains why I’m backlogged on them right now even though I have the concept for a few new ones drafted.)
I started blogging, though, to work out problems I’d been having and generate some sort of productive motion on something. I had way too much to do in not enough time and I turned to sources that were owning up to the problem. The productivity systems, planners, and hacks all were only loosely translatable to the academic existence, and I spent a lot of time trying to make those translations work.
As I started talking to people and reading more about it, I recognized that it wasn’t just academics that had the issues – it was essentially everyone who worked outside of the corporate, time-driven structure.
A lot of what I write about here still has that nature: it’s either based on something I’ve been thinking about (extracted from my own problems) or deals with issues other people are having. This blog serves, then, as a creative outlet to talk about issues we’re having with productivity and personal development and (hopefully) come up with some strategies to help us flourish while being productive. Hence the name Productive Flourishing.
It’s also the place where I can get some things out of my head without driving Angela crazy.
That still only partly answers her question. I’ll have to reframe the question, though, as it seems to imply that what I do here is not “productive output,” or, perhaps more charitably, there’s the work that I need to do to advance my academic career and then there’s what I do here.
I now consider blogging (and my other web-ventures) as something resembling a career path. I enjoy it as if it were a hobby – and, in fact, it’s pushed out all other hobbies except for playing music – but it’s something that’s now on the chart as a life goal. It’s not something I could walk away from easily.
That said, what I do here counts as productive in the same way as writing academically – each word I write in either dimension moves me towards a meaningful life goal that I’ve set. The unfortunate fact of the matter, though, is that what I do here does not pay the bills, so, at the end of the day, if there’s a choice between doing what’s required to put food on the table and doing what I enjoy doing, I choose the former. Eating trumps playing.
There’s one last way to think about this. I’ve been “getting by” academically – were I to invest the time I spend here in that one career, I may be doing much more than getting by. I may be a much better scholar, researcher, and teacher.
But I’d be much less whole all the while. I’ve come alive in ways that I haven’t in a long time because of what I do here. This blog serves as a catalyst for creative, expressive pursuits that are not ruled by institutional guidance. The only criteria for whether doing something here is worthwhile is if I enjoy it – and that makes all the difference.
As long as Productive Flourishing contributes to my own flourishing, it’ll be something that I do. When it ceases to serve that function…well, we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.
Have any questions you’d like to ask me? Shoot me an email at charlesgilkey AT productiveflourishing DOT com or use the contact form above. It’s a free link and a question answered!
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I’ve asked myself this same question Charlie. Partly spurred on by my hubby who thought I might be heading down a money making avenue with my blog. He was very disappointed when I said I did it only for myself because he quite rightly pointed out that it sucks up a lot of my time. Not only do I write and sometimes research for it, but I’ve had to learn all the tech stuff from scratch, including putting together my basic design, and then there’s the being vague and off with the fairies while I think about writing.
So while I was on holiday I had to really think should I blog? All these hours would have my novel finished by now or I might even have sold a short story or a novella, or I could have written e-books to sell etc…
But what I have come back to is my blog provides me with a satisfaction and a sense of community that cannot easily be replaced by something else. And like your academic writing, my novel takes me longer than a blog post. Plus this way I empty out all my thoughts and I make friends (albeit online ones) and I feel connected to a whole world out there beyond my life here as a mommy and a sometime copy writer.
In other words, my blog gives me joy so I won’t be giving it up without a bloody good reason.
So, blogging is to focused output as switchbacks are to mountain climbing. It lets you think things through in a less intense fashion.
Or, creative energy is non-linear, and blogging makes all kinds of connections, internal and external, that keep the energy flowing.
On the one hand the blogging world is very appealing to me, but on the other, I’ve gotta help put food on the table and raise children, plus I hear journalists bash blogging in ways that are hard to refute — but of course, not all blogs are created equal. I need to remind myself that it’s that community-building, mutual-discovery aspect of blogging that the MSM can’t touch.
Thanks for helping some of the rest of us work through our issues.
Kellys last blog post..What She Said
@Kelly(#1): Connectedness is a huge deal when it comes to blogging. Blogging, even magazine style blogging, is so much more about dialogue and connecting with readers than other forms. To me, it’s about sharing, not about (strictly) teaching, selling, entertaining, etc.
@Kelly(#2): You’re dead on with your first two paragraphs. Angela said something out of the blue the other day that pleased me considerably – “you know, your blog really does all fit together, despite it not looking like it from day to day.” It all whirls together, though the process may seem chaotic.
The standards are lower for blogging – there’s almost no barrier to entry – but maybe that’s a good thing, as it gets people writing, thinking, and learning where they otherwise wouldn’t. I’ve done so much here through PF that I would have never considered doing if I thought I had “pass the bar.”
The process of mutual discovery, connection, and sharing is so much more powerful than solo conceptual ventures – and what’s not touted enough is the fact that the really prominent academics, writers, and artists are good precisely because they’re around others that are pushing and discovering with them.
Francis Wade says
I have the same experience writing my blog. I wonder at times if I would be better off spending the time writing a book.
However, it would have been a much weaker book, and one that would have used only the first generation of my ideas, rather than the more refined version I am now working through.
The freedom to explore with no cost involved has certainly helped me write with a feeling of freedom.
Francis Wades last blog post..Review of AgileEra’s Software — Personal Motivation Calendar