Tuesday, December 15, 2015
So, Roger Green asked:
“Something more prosaic: when and where do you blog? What conditions do you need to write? (Quiet? Music? No people around? A bottle of rum?)? ”
There are many people who, like me, are curious about the spaces where creative people work—a sculptor’s studio, for example, a novelist’s office. I’m also interested in how they do what they do: Is it a full working day, or only a few hours? And, as in Roger’s question, the conditions they need to create.
However, I’d never thought about any of that as it applies to myself, probably because I don’t think of myself in the same way as those other people. So, this question actually took a bit of thought.
I can, technically, write a blog post anywhere, anytime. There have been times I was away working somewhere, had a dead spot with absolutely nothing to do, and worked on a blog post. At least it made me look busy.
However, almost all of my posts have been written on whatever computer I had at the time, though I wrote a couple quick posts on smart devices. The first-ever non-computer post was one I wrote on my old iPod Touch back in 2009. As far as I can remember, the only other post I wrote like that was in July of last year. I know it was written on my iPhone, but no one else would: As is my usual practice, if I’m away from home, I never mention that fact and refer to it only once we’re back. To me, this is more prudence rather than paranoia.
There are two reasons I write posts on a computer. First, I like to edit extensively (though it may not seem like it…), and I usually include links to other things, and that’s something that’s a lot harder to do, I think, on mobile devices. A third reason would be that I keep text copies of all my posts, and that’s more easily done on my computer, but I can always add those later.
A few times, especially before I had smart devices or access to a computer while away, I wrote posts by hand (!) and then typed them up when I got back to the computer. If I searched through the archives, I’d probably be able to work out which old posts those were, but it’s not necessarily easy: I usually re-wrote them, at least in part.
I don’t necessarily need quiet, but I can’t listen to any spoken-word things—podcasts, TV, etc.—and sometimes I even find songs annoying. For many (most?) posts I get into a sort of zone in which the rest of the world disappears. If I hear speaking or singing, it can jolt me back to the everyday world, and that annoys me because it brings me out of that zone. Actually, it happens when the dogs bark, too. However, if there are other people in the house watching TV, I do often play music to help me drown out the dialogue on the TV.
Which bings me to people: When I record a podcast, I don’t want anyone else in the house, but I can write a blog post with a whole household of people—with one major exception, of course, and that’s the next point.
The only absolutely non-negotiable thing is that no one can be behind me, watching, as I write. This is true for pretty much anything I’m doing, like working on a page layout or other graphic design, for example, but it’s strongest when I’m creating something of my own—writing (anything), recording a podcast, or editing a YouTube video. It’s also something that has always been true, even before I had a computer.
The reason for this is mainly that when I’m working on something, including blog posts, it’s never done until it’s done, and until that time I may try things—phrases, arguments, whatever—that I ultimately abandon. I don’t like anyone else to intrude into that experimental space because I need to feel free to utterly fail (as I often do—which probably explains why my “drafts” folder of unused blog posts is so full at the end of every year). I feel vulnerable in those early stages of creating, but not at all once I publish, because at that moment I’m done with it, emotionally disengaged, and ready to move on.
Having said all that, a typical blog post is made by me, sitting alone at my desk, often a dog is sleeping under it or nearby, and I tap away on my Mac’s keyboard, with no music playing, a cup of coffee (or other non-rum drink) nearby.
Now, if I could just do something about making sure all that happens on a regular schedule so I don’t have a mad dash to catch-up in December…
That concludes this year’s series of Ask Arthur posts. Thanks to Roger Green for providing the questions. While this particular series is over, I’m always willing to answer questions. In fact, over the years several blog posts have been based on questions people have asked me.