Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Bored with Blogging? Kinda.

So, last night I was in a funk. I almost blogged about it, actually, but it was a funk of such boring proportions that I ended up deleting the opening paragraph of the post I began and then retiring to bed to wallow in irritation and self-pity until FB called me and listened to me rave for a bit, and then made me watch this AWESOME thing that I'd not heard about because I was out of the country and FB was right that it did totally improve my mood and make me into a shiny happy person like my normal non-disgruntled self. But anyway, so what does all of this have to do with blogging? One of the things that I raved about to FB was blogging, actually. I'm not even sure of what I was raving on about, but he immediately cut in with the following:

"Crazy, the problem is you're bored. With blogging. Your blog is long overdue for a shift of some kind, or something. This has been true for months."

I found this insight, well, shocking. Because the thing is, he's kind of right. Which, of course, was mildly annoying, and it meant I had to interrogate him about how long he knew these things and demand why he'd not mentioned them to me sooner, so I didn't get to think at length about the actual content of his insight, for it was time to go to bed after we got off the phone. But here's an overview of what I briefly mused about once the interrogation and wild demands were taken care of:

  • When I began blogging, I began it as a writing experiment, and the whole "community" aspect of things really wasn't primary to me. As I've continued with the blog, the writing experiment has fallen by the wayside in favor of the "community" part. In some ways this is great. In others - like in terms of the actual content of what ends up on the blog - it's less so. See, the writing changes when you feel like you're updating people who know you about your life, etc., and I think it necessarily does become a bit boring. That's not necessarily bad, but it does mean that the blog no longer works as a terribly interesting medium within which I play with my writing.
  • Part of my boredom with blogging isn't so much about my blog but about the fact that my plate is pretty much clear of writing projects. Yep, that's right. Clear. The book is to come out in a couple of months, I've got no articles I'm working on, no conferences in the pipeline, nothing. So what is my next project? And how do I write an academic blog that's interesting when I've not really got any new ideas at the moment and when I'm teaching stuff I've pretty much taught before except for the one class that I'm only teaching because I don't care about it and it means less time in the real-life classroom?
  • Part of my feeling... hemmed in by blogging as a genre has to do with.... Ok, I'm not sure of the word to use here. Competitiveness? No, that's not right. Envy? Not really. Something in that area of words, though. See, there's something about the fact that I feel like many of the people I read are having these big life changes (career changes, babies, marriages, major moves, etc.) and I... well, I feel like my stupid life just doesn't really measure up. And that sucks, because one of the reasons that I started this blog in the first place was because I felt like lives like mine and voices like mine were drowned out by the voices of parents and people with two-body problems, etc., and I was sick of feeling like my concerns didn't "count" as worthy of discussion. But now, even in the blogosphere I feel like everybody is singing those same songs, and the fact is, I don't want to write about that stuff even if I am experiencing it because I feel like we've heard it all before. But let me say that when I write this, this is really about my own writing preferences and issues with voice and it's not meant to be mean to any of you who do write about these things. It's just that I chafe against the feeling that if I'm not writing about that stuff that I'm not... something. Again, I don't even know what words really apply to this vague sense of dissatisfaction and inadequacy.
  • Then I wonder whether some of my chafing against blogging and the genre isn't just my typical back-to-school feeling of being in limbo and vaguely disgruntled - looking forward to having things going on again while at the same time resenting that I'll have things going on again. Blogging since 2004, I've got to say, I know that I go through these phases. It's not that I want to stop blogging - not an option I'm considering at all - but I do want to be interesting again. And I just don't feel like I've been interesting here in quite some time. Dude, I feel like my most interesting posts are the ones that I write in the voices of my cats. And that's just pathetic.
But so, what? I'm not really sure. I like Reassigned Time and the voice that I've developed here and the friends I've made through the blog and the fact that the blog really is integrated into my life now in a way it wasn't when I started. I have no interest in closing up shop or in moving or in reconfiguring what I do here, not really. But I do need something else to get the juices flowing, because the blog really isn't serving that purpose for me right now. I don't think - as FB suggested - that blogging itself has become lame, that as a genre it's run its course. I think it's especially valuable in an academic context that people can use blogs to get insight into the profession, into the way lives look at different kinds of institutions and at different points in the career and hierarchy. I also think that this space - and this community - serve for me as a great place to think things through and to work out things related to the job - whether problems with teaching or whatever - and I wouldn't want to give that up.

At the same time, how many to-do lists can I reasonably expect people to read without deciding I'm the most boring person in the world? I suspect I've already hit that number and surpassed it.

And so, I think the thing that I need to force myself to think about is "what next?" Do I want to start with another scholarly book project? Do I want to write a series of articles and forgo the whole book idea for a while? Do I want to write a novel? Do I want to write a text book? What role to do I want blogging to play in my post-tenure academic life (crossing fingers about tenure this year, etc.)? I doubt I'll be able to decide this without a great deal of moaning and whinging and ruminating. But I think that these are the questions that are on the table, and that must remain on the table if I'm going to get out of my disgruntled funk.

Or maybe school just needs to start again, in which case in two weeks everything will be grand.


~profgrrrrl~ said...

This post really resonates with me -- and I'm one of those people who has all of those crazy life transition things going on right now. In fact, I've started drafting a post on my issues re: blogging right now a few times in the last week, but I've been really busy and I assume I'll have more to say once school starts up again. Or more that's interesting to say. Or ... well ... I feel oddly self-conscious about turning my blog into all wedding and baby all the time. I mean, that's what's going on with my life right now, and while it's interesting to me it's not interesting to anyone else. Or at least the parts that are interesting me right now wouldn't necessarily be interesting to others, so I've tried to restrict myself to things like going on leave, which don't seem to be discussed often and try to make the situation more about academics and less just about what's going on in my life. I'm annoyed because I feel like I've lost my voice and it's my own fault.

Sorry, don't mean to hijack comments here. This post just gave me the moment of release about this stuff.

Thinking about "what next" sounds exciting. I, for one, would be interested in reading your musings about your potential next steps.

Rokeya said...

Yes, yes, yes. The blogs that were not have turned way too hetero. I mean, they always were in some sense, but they weren't in-your-face hey folks I'm hetero with impending offspring. Ugh.

Yours isn't. That's part of the reason I still love your blog, to-do lists and all, while a few others that used to be my top faves have fallen by the wayside and only get checked every so often.

I can't speak for anyone else, but I suspect what you're feeling might just be summer doldrums plus post-book funk. But your posts continue to be interesting to me.

Maybe you need to resurrect Whore Pants. *chuckle*

PowerProf said...

I so get where you are. Lately I feel that I have to talk about is my life outside of work -- and the only transformations I'm going through are relationship ones -- largely break ups. I know I've lost readers, but this is what my life is. For the record, I'm interested in your kitty-infested life. I you keep up the blogging and don't worry so much about readers. This is your space

Earnest English said...

I read your post and the above comments and then went away from it for a while (partly because I was hungry and made something to eat, partly because I feel a bit on the spot about blogs turning from academic blogs to more personal blogs, specifically about relationships and babies -- which of course has been my dominant theme since I haven't been IN the academy in that official way). While I was away, I was thinking about this post and what I like about the blogs I read. I like not that they are academic blogs, but they are blogs by and about people in the academy. For example, though I'm pregnant and all, I find I still don't read blogs by moms who are not in the academy. But I find blogs by academics who have recently given birth to be very interesting and quite pertinent to my life, even when I disagree about certain kinds of choices. Your blogging about Fake Boyfriend, for example, shows a part of the academy that we wouldn't see if we were walking down the hall from your office: you're in a long distance relationship that feels somewhat fake to you AND instead of this being a tragedy, you also admit that maybe this relationship wouldn't work out well if you were together more traditionally.

One thing I've noticed about my own blogreading habits is that I tend not to be interested and go back often to those people who write most often in response to Chronicle or IHE columns. Now, sometimes they are fascinating. But there are plenty of academic blogs out there -- blogs that are strictly academic. I feel like if I want something strictly academic, there are plenty of places to find that -- though I admit there are particular benefits to writing an academic blog (community, dialogue, etc). But for myself at least I want to read about PEOPLE in the academy, people with full lives and cats and boyfriends and girlfriends and messes and teaching challenges and procrastination problems and writing triumphs and disasters. I want the whole megillah. So to me, Dr. Crazy, your blog is awesome, because you're not just writing about the academy, but about your life, which, let's face it, is highly shaped (though not determined) by the academy and its pressures and opportunities.

And chickie, what an interesting problem! You're out of writing projects! I'm envious, and I can't wait to hear how you deal with it. Do you up your service commitments? Do you take on a hobby? What do you write next? Fun, fun, fun.

helenesch said...

I don't blog, but I've been a loyal reader here (and of profgrrrl, as well as a couple others) since right after you began. I'm still very interested in your posts (and I'm glad to hear that you're not really thinking you'll quit blogging!)

It sounds to me like part of what you're experiencing may not be about blogging but rather about actual writing. Not having a "next project" can be difficult--esp after tenure (or after knowing that the book is done and that tenure is pretty much assured). But this doesn't make you boring! And I'm sure you'll have another writing project soon. Part of the difficulty is figuring out where to go next, and that might take a while (it took me a while, anyway).

I like hearing about your cats (and hearing *from* your cats!), your relationships, and your thoughts about how all the work and non-work ("life" as they call it) stuff fits together. So I wouldn't worry about your audience--we'll still be here.

gwinne said...

Interesting. Your blog is one of only a few I read regularly. The blogs I *stopped* reading were by academic moms. What's really strange about that is that I *am* an academic mom who writes about being an academic mom! But I'm also single and tend to avoid HeteroBlogs.

Anyway, I like the to do lists and the reflection on the type and amount of work that you/we do. I like the lists more than I like the cats, though Little Gwinne really goes for that picture of Man Kitty!

Dr. Crazy said...

Thanks for the comments everyone :) I've got a lot I'm thinking about and I do want to respond... perhaps in a comment later or if not then in an actual post (for as soon as I say I'm boring, I have things to say :) )

Mel said...

so much of this post really resonated with me -- particularly since I took a leave of absence from my blog for a long while, partly for some of the kind of things you mention here. The thing is, other people's daily routine (aka boring) life is still interesting to me when my own is not. When my own feels so boring or so overwhelmingly personal as to be unwritable.

Miranda said...

Crazy, I found your old blog probably soon after you started blogging. I've always liked your "voice" and the way you always strive to be a "real" person. I've used your pedagogical approaches, modified of course, in my writing center work. I've had my fair share of FB angst. I grew up in a working class family in a Great Lakes State (different one) and have a weakness for Lebanese food and culture (although it is through friends and not family). I always loved reading your lists because the thought process behind them so often was a more evolved version of mine.

Even though my life circumstances are much different than yours (kids, divorce, just finished my BA and took a position outside the academy), I keep you on my feed reader and always read your posts. I like the way you examine your life and live outside certain gendered expectations. You remind me of my old friends from high school who lead their own lives on their own terms. I look forward to reading more about your next steps. :)

Brigindo said...

Very interesting post. It seems to have me and lots of others thinking and re-examining our own blogging. I wrote a post recently on Audience because I've notice my voice changing as I develop a few regular readers. I'm fairly new (not yet a full year) to blogging but I found myself getting bored with my blogging self this summer. I think, in part, it is summer doldrums and not having teaching/students/mentoring to do/post about. But also, as you and others have written, what I find most interesting and want to share are details of my research but that is off-limits if I want to remain pseudononymous. So this summer I've posted a lot more about my life with animals, husband and my soon-to-be away at college child. Not at all what I intended starting out.

But I agree with other comments posted here...what I'm most interested in reading is about people's lives in academia, which means their cats and dogs and children and to do lists. It means their problems and worries and joys both in and out of academia. That said there are blogs with To Do lists and cats that bore the pants off of me and others that keep me enthralled (yours definitely being in the latter category)...so maybe sometimes its really a matter of writing style/quality?

New Kid on the Hallway said...

Catching up (haven't read the comments yet), but I totally get you here. I think it's another stage in the development of blogging, where it goes in cycles, but I think I've been feeling a little competitive/envious, too - while I am undergoing one of those life transitions, I feel like what it means is that it undermines my authority to say much of anything about academia, and I don't have anything to say about anything else yet. (And even when I do start classes, I can't imagine I'm going to have much to say about law school that no one else has already said.) I guess I feel like I'm reduced to doing nothing but updating people about my life, and while I know there are readers/friends out there who like that, I'd like to do something more with my blog. (Something that does require significant work, though!)