Blogging: My cure for brainstipation

Louise Fitzhugh
“I’m taking notes on all those people who are sitting over there.”
“Because I’ve seen them and I want to remember them!”

I learned a lot from the recent hiatus of Contentious. Mostly I learned that I really do need to have this blog. It’s not just my voice, and a key source of my sense of connection.

It helps me think. I mean that quite literally.

I didn’t plan to put Contentious on hiatus. It happened because switching hosts and upgrading to the latest WordPress caused a lot of technical glitches. I had good help fixing many of them, but some of them would take more time and effort than I had available. I felt overwhelmed, and was embarrassed to blog when the site was having problems. I felt like I “should” fix those problems first, and then start blogging again.

Bad, bad strategy. Basically, this led to the accumulation of a lot of guilt, shame, and frustration. So even though I wasn’t posting and I was avoiding fixing the tech glitches, I was thinking about Contentious every day — and seeing it as a problem, not an outlet or resource.

When you start seeing your blog as a problem, that’s a big problem. It means it’s time to either change what you’re doing, or stop. I knew I didn’t want to stop, I just couldn’t find the motivation to keep going in the face of shame and guilt. Finally, with encouragement from some smart women at BlogHer, I decided to just keep going.

All of this reminded me of Harriet the Spy…

As is the case for many female journalists, I’ve learned, as a kid Harriet the Spy was one of my favorite books. I loved her attitude, and especially her habit of recording everything in a notebook. It wasn’t just a diary, it was her way of making sense of the world, of processing what she saw and experienced.

There was a point in the book when Harriet’s notebook got confiscated. Here’s what that felt like:

“[At school], Harriet did her work. She didn’t care anymore about signing her name, and she got no pleasure from the work she did, but she did it. Everything bored her. She found that when she didn’t have a notebook it was hard for her to think. The thoughts came slowly, as though they had to squeeze through a tiny door to get to her, whereas when she wrote, they flowed out faster than she could put them down. She sat very stupidly with a blank mind until finally ‘I feel different’ came slowly into her head. She sat digesting the thought like a Thanksgiving dinner.”

Yep, that’s what my brain was like without Contentious — different. Mostly constipated, on a day-to-day basis. It sucked royally. Sure, I still have other blogs, especially Poynter’s E-Media Tidbits (a group weblog for news pros that I edit and must feed five days a week). And I do find a measure of creativity and energy for those. But somehow on my wetware backend, in a way I don’t quite understand, Contentious is my key to deeper energy and creativity. I’ve learned that the hard way, and not for the first time.

Most of my other blogs are project-oriented, or for clients. Those I can generally keep going with not too much trouble. And I have a purely personal blog, Carless in Boulder, that I use sporadically but feel no particular guilt or obligation over.

So here’s the deal: I’m not saying I won’t ever go on hiatus with Contentious again. Life, work, and technology occasionally intervene. But I will say that if I find myself dropping off here and consequently suffering in other ways because I deprive myself from this valuable connection, I will try to be more honest about it — with myself and my readers. I’ve learned that honesty is the fastest way to cut through guilt and shame, and move back toward action.

I don’t know if any of this makes sense. I’m still thinking it through. It took me a while to get to this point. I’m sure I’ll have more to say about it later.

Does anyone else develop brainstipation when they aren’t posting to a particular blog or forum? Is this just my problem? Please comment below.

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