Fear and Anger in DigiWriMo

Posted on by Brooke Lester

Remember when we all used to apologize for "not blogging lately"? In those days, readers would have to click all the way over to your blog (uphill both ways, in the snow) in order to see whether you had posted anything new. So, we felt guilty if there wasn't always something waiting for them, to justify the trip. I think that, by now, we all know about "readers" and RSS feeds: as long as someone still kicks out a blog post from time to time, we can keep their feed in our reader of choice, and it doesn't matter if a few weeks pass between posts.

So this isn't an apology. What it is, is an observation, or a pair of them. This month is Digital Writing Month, and I am doing my poor best to write 1,667 digital words each day. (I won't get to the whole 50k-in-the-month: if I don't manage the quota for a given day, then I start fresh the next day without trying to make it all up.)

A lot of days this month, I don't succeed. One of the reasons I already knew about, but it's worth holding up for attention during Digital Writing Month. The other, I guess I knew that too.

Observation 1: If I do not write, it is often because so many other people have control over my calendar.

This is what Merlin Mann would describe as the bigger-picture "In box" problem: an In-box is anything in your life (not just email) where people can drop stuff that thereby becomes your problem. For contingent and junior faculty, it can be super frightening to say No to anything. When you're afraid, your whole life is an In-box: an ever-increasing list of items that are "unknown, ambiguous, or incomplete."

Observation 2: If I do not publish, it may be because I am angry.

There's a reason that so many bloggers in academia are pseudonymous. They are in a position to write freely, in a semi-ranting mode (or even full-tilt), about things that are happening now in their courses, or among their faculty colleagues, or in their administration, or among their institution's partners. We "nymous" bloggers aren't so free. For the most part, when something gets right under our skin, we need to process on it a while, to detach, before being able to write on it publicly. And anger doesn't compartmentalize: when I'm well ticked off about one thing, it colors the way I write about anything. Fortunately, I consider unpublished ranting Drafts to count toward my Digital Writing Month total.

I consider these reflections to be a mark of how good Digital Writing Month has been for me so far this November. We're all so busy, it's not easy to stop and pay attention. I've got some decisions to make about this In-box business and the things that bother me, and Digital Writing Month helps me see them more clearly every day, both on "good writing days" and on the other days as well.

Is there anything that Digital Writing Month is helping you to see more clearly?

[Fear and Anger in DigiWriMo was written by G. Brooke Lester for and was originally posted on 2012/11/14. Except as noted, it is © 2012 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]