Sunday 29 July 2018

Blaugust Reborn

It's once again coming to the traditional time of year to be dusting of the old Leaflocker and getting back on the writing horse again.

As Blaugust 2018 approaches, I look back on the last seven years of annual blogging festivals with mixed feelings. On the one hand, Augusts, even the ones that haven't gone to plan, have undoubtedly been the most productive times of the last few years both in terms of blog output as well as just in times of general creativity. Getting stuck into it is undoubtedly good for me, as it gets me up in the morning and keeps my brain firing through the day, and the desperate scramble to meet a daily deadline is something that I don't get enough of in my daily life. On the other, failing to meet those self-imposed deadlines always sends me into a creative slump that takes months to dig myself out of, and it's clear that as much as I enjoy the month, my efforts so far never result in a sustainable pattern of creative blogging going forward, which is ultimately where I'd like to end up. Maybe taking a glance at what I've been up to in previous years will help me work out what I need to do differently this time around.

Looking back at Blaugusts past:
2011: My first Blaugust was a strong success, with 27 posts over the course of the month, mostly keeping to the 5 posts per week weekly plan that I'd had at the beginning of the month. This was a great first experience of blogging regularly, and worked well primarly because each of the participants (there were four of us that year) made an effort to read each other's content and engage with what each other were doing. As I look at the posts from this period I'm struck by how much time I evidently put into researching and writing each of the posts, not something that can be said to be staple of my work in more recent years, and probably a product of the fact that at the time I was living alone and had a boring full-time job that lent well to bursts of creativity in the evenings, too. Come the end of the month I immediately crashed and the blog returned to its pre-Blaugust occasional monthly posting rate.

2012: My introduction post plans for five posts a week again, but I managed just eight posts for the month, and the quality of those was extremely uneven. I was still settling into the rhythym of living with another human and trying to keep up the blog as well as trying to be a model employee after recently being reemployed after a few months out of the workforce apparently left me struggling for content.

2013: The Leaflocker had only 3 posts in the whole of 2013, in the first three days of August. Some of my Blaugusting fellows had a bumper year, but mine never really got started. I suspect that this was mostly due to having just finished my first very stressful year as the Games Coordinator of AVCon and desperately needing some downtime after that came to a climax at the end of July. Probably even attempting to Blaug was a pretty misguided idea.

2014: I jumped back into blogging with a passion with Belghast's MMO blogging Blaugust, which I discovered just searching the hashtag in the lead up to the month, coinciding with a greater interest among our little group in writing regularly. Bel's standards were higher than ours, demanding a post every day, but once again I found that the knowledge that there were others participating in the same blogging festival and the keeping up with their daily efforts was all the encouragement that I needed to keep the blogtrain rolling (and then some, ending with 34 posts for the month). This was undoubtedly the highlight of my blogging 'career', and though not everything went to plan and I ended up doing a number of things on the fly, I had a lot of fun participating this year and it showed, and a number of the projects that I started back then are still some of my favourite and staples of the Leaflocker now. It also helped greatly with getting Mrs. Owl to put her stamp of bewildered approval on the whole thing, which really put Blaugust on our marital calendar as something that we both looked forward to.

2015: I really was too busy to be trying to blog this year, as Blaugust co-incided with the last few weeks of living in Australia, and I could definitely have spent the time that I spent blogging more productively. It's evident that I knew this at the time, too, as many of the posts have a distinct rushed feel to them, and reading them brings flashbacks to desperate nights spent desperately whacking at a keyboard, but packing up your life at least gives you plenty of ammunition that you can easily turn into blog content, which I did unashamedly. The community-interaction aspect definitely fell down, too, as I didn't have the time to devote to it, but there were a couple of highlights in amongst the chaff, too.

2016: My first Blaugust in our new home in Oxford gave me plenty to write about, as Oxford is such a curious place that it never runs out of strange things that you can't help but try to share with the world. As the month ran on, though, I found myself relying overmuch on some of the old crutches, posts that were easy but soleless, out of a need to make it to 31 posts for the month, and so I ended up not putting in the effort and disliking a lot of writing. By the end of the month I was again talking a good game about continuing to blog, but yet again I finished up on the 31st of August and dropped the blog completely for the rest of the year.

2017: The first poor year for the Leaflocker in a long time. It started as usual with the best of intentions, but sharing our house with some long term visitors (as appreicated as they were - hi mum!) and going on an extended holiday without internet in the middle of the month cut the project abruptly short and that combined with less external encouragement for the never managed to get it rolling again.

What has that whistle-stop tour taught us about the conditions that I need to try and propagate in order to have a chance of both a productive Blaugust and maybe even a habit of ongoing creativity? I ought to try to:

Have a settled routine. This one could be a problem this time around. My daily routine can currently be described as 'non-existent'. Not only am I working two jobs with inconsistent hours, I'm also moving house towards the end of the month. Oh dear.

Take Mrs. Owl along for the ride. I don't think that we'll have any trouble with this one this time around. Mrs Owl likes having a chance to read the blarg when she's procrastinating and since she's about three years into a doctorate at this point there's a lot of procrastinating to be done.

Let projects die when I get sick of them. I've let some of the old features that I'd been feeling less excited about die, which seems hopeful, but some of the things that I have pencilled in to potentially replace them are very much in the 'this could be fun' stage and that sort of thing has the tendency not to get of the ground.

Don't bite off too much. This is the one that is most likely to sink me this year, I think. In general at the moment I'm struggling to devote time to things, and some of the regular projects like the quizzes and the reading are significant timesinks. I'll need to work hard to ensure that some of the other days don't require as much planning and execution time or future Owl is going to resent my ambitions.

Have a varied calendar of regular features. As mentioned above, I have a number of ongoing projects and plans that will fill about half the week, the trick will be filling the rest of the time with interesting and diverse things that aren't too draining to produce. I have a few ideas about what some of those might be about, but between now and next week I could really do with some inspiration hitting me.

Interact with a community of other bloggers. Looking good for this year. The Blaugust discord channel is full of exciting people who're all amped up to go for the 1st of the month. Sadly, it looks like probably most of my personal friends won't be doing anything, but you never know, this post might be just the prompt that they need.

Include more pictures! The lack 0f tie-wearing Owls in this blog in the last couple of years is really hurting the brand.

All in all, I'm a little bit worried that I'm missing a lot of the groundwork that could make Blaugust 2018 a success, but with any luck just being a little more cognisant of some of these pitfalls this time around will help the situation. Just a couple more days to go and we'll find out.

Happy Blaugust to all, and to all a good write!