Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Good News / Bad News

On August 1 I made a commitment to cut my television watching to one hour per day and to write at least 100 words every day for my blog for the entire month. It was a pretty lofty goal for someone that had never written more than five days in a row in my life and has at some points in my life had three Tivos recording shows at the same time. Here it is August 31 and it’s time to see what happened.

Let’s start with the bad news. For the first 12 days of August, I was well under 12 hours of television for the month. I was cruising. Feeling cocky. I started to wonder if I would even be able to go back to watching TV regularly in September. Then I headed to Atlanta. After leaving San Diego at 2 pm EDT, I arrived in Atlanta after 11 pm. I was wound up, in a city I’d never been in before and alone in a beautiful house in a VERY quiet neighborhood. All that combined with jet lag led to about two hours of sleep that night, which led to me feeling super exhausted the next day. After going out into the humidity for coffee, I came back to my friend’s house, lay down on the bed and watched 12 consecutive episodes of Samantha Who?, which I had downloaded in July.

At first I tried to rationalize that since I was watching on my laptop – not on TV – and that I was out of town it didn’t really count against my one hour per day. Unfortunately, being sober really screws up your ability to comfortably lie to yourself. I realized pretty quickly that thinking like that could result in me drinking a 12-pack of beer in Las Vegas and saying I was still sober. So, the TV watching portion of the experiment was pretty much an abject failure. Once I got back to San Diego, I barely even tried to curb my television watching the rest of the month.

I will allow myself this one rationalization – the one-hour limit on television was implemented solely as a means of giving me fewer excuses for not sitting down at the keyboard. So if I achieved the writing goal, then really the entire experiment could be called a rousing success.

A cursory glance of my blog will show that I have indeed posted something every day this month – at least once I wrote two posts in one day. In this regard, I can’t even imagine how it could have gone better. Even on my long travel day, I spent my layover time banging out a post (heheh he said layover and banging).

Moreover, there were a host of unforeseen benefits to writing / posting every day. In no particular order:

OK, this one I should have foreseen (except that I was certain I was going to fail) – I discovered I can write every day. There were at least a half-dozen days I expected to be the day I didn’t make it. Either I was out of the house all day, out of time, out of energy or out of ideas. But every day (or night), whether I knew what I was going to write about or not, I sat down and started typing. And I always finished (although one night in Atlanta I hit the post button at 11:59 pm). Change Is Hard …, Do You Remember When…, Insomno-maniac and The Spirit of the Yankees Saves New York are posts that weren’t in any way formed in my head until I started typing. So, the big discovery here was that I’m a writer. I have always known I write well; I have not really ever believed I was a good writer. Managing to scratch out coherent thoughts on paper every day makes it difficult to deny at least a modicum of talent. HUGE benefit here.

Something I really didn’t see coming, but am delighted about, is that writing every day got people more engaged in reading the blog. I half-expected that blog fatigue would set in around day ten and the hits and pageviews would drop precipitously. That’s not what happened. There was a lull mid-month where it seemed like people were p²’d out, but then in the last 7-10 days the number on just about every blog post that had been poorly read shot up.

I keep an eye on the stats not ONLY because I’m obsessive compulsive and have to know what’s going on every second of the day (that’s a lot of it), but also because I’m curious about what people read on the blog and when they read it. Until this month, if people didn’t read a post within the first 2-3 days of it being put up, they generally didn’t read it. The number of views would increase steadily for 72 hours, then flat-line and stay there (with very slight fluctuation). This month, I would look at the stats and notice that posts from a week ago or more had 8-10 more views than the last time I looked at it. I’m not sure it’s obvious to everyone why this is so cool, so I’ll explain for those who might not get it. When people read the post in the first 2-3 days, it’s a direct result of my badgering everyone via Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and email. When they read it after day three, it means that people are browsing the website and finding something on their own that they want to read. That is soooo cool. And I don’t mean that in an ego-maniacal way.

I’ve been writing this blog for the last two years and I was totally happy with the way things were. I’ve been trying to become a better writer and I knew that this blog was a really good way to do that. Writing more (for me) means writing better. It also gives me a chance to try different things that I wouldn’t be able to do if I were just trying to write to get paid. And seeing how people have responded to and interacted with the posts has been a big part of that learning experience. Rather than getting bored with the blog, it seems like more content means more interest. Who knew?

One totally stunning discovery I made this month is that while I don’t particularly love writing every day (it’s stressful), I definitely enjoy the writing more when I’m doing it more often. I’ve never really pushed myself to write more because I figured that if I really tortured myself about sitting down to write, then the writing itself would be torture. Not the case at all. There were only a couple of times during the month that I was just happy the post was written (rather than being happy I wrote it).

So what does all this mean for my writing going forward? I haven’t a clue. I still have the ambition of taking the journey of p² and turning it into a book. The biggest problem with that is that I have no idea how to write a book. And that would be the first time I’ve ever admitted that out loud. No idea where or how to begin. Whatever happens, though, I’m pretty sure the blog will survive. I wondered when I re-started it if I’d be able to sustain it. After this month, that doubt has been pretty much obliterated.

P.S. According to the website, X Factor begins in 21 days, 2 hours and 45 minutes (at the time I’m writing this). That’s apparently EDT so on the west coast tack on an extra three hours.


  1. Well, I must say that, although I rarely comment, I thoroughly enjoy reading the blog! I hope you keep posting frequently. :)

  2. petr, i enjoy reading your blog, so please keep it up. you make me laugh, cry, and think.

    and don't beat yourself up about the TV watching; no normal human being can limit themselves to one hour per day ;-)

  3. Well, I read at least half of them and I'm not a reader. ;)

  4. I remember when you started a different blog and I told you, as a matter of fact, that you would get better and better the more you do it. You took that to mean that I said what you were doing wasn't any good. It's not that I have to be right all the time, but I'm glad to know that you now get what I was telling you before. The reality is that there is always room for improvement and you can never practice enough of something that you want to master.

    I long thread between the two of us ensued and you were just certain that I was trying to shit all over your parade when I really was trying to be encouraging. I still have that thread and have read it a few times over the years. I know now why you reacted the way you did; or at least I think I know. I think it had a lot to do with drug use.

    I will never ask for an apology, but I'm glad that you get it now.

  5. You are an inspiration to me Petr. You have helped me to put some fire under my ass and get moving on some more writing. I will be starting my 4th step soon, so that should provide for some good writing material. :P