Wednesday, July 01, 2015
For some time now, I have been working on making the blogging process
more efficient and I am happy to say that my efforts have paid off
handsomely. A few months ago, I realized that, despite having an
unpredictable amount and quality of time for writing in the mornings,
I wanted to use it more productively. I had good reason to think that
this was possible, since I could sometimes spit out a blog post, from
finding something to write about, all the way to the finished product,
within thirty to forty-five minutes. Unfortunately, on many days, it
took much longer, and this wasn't usually due to the baby not sleeping
well or other external factors. Frequent crashes and freezes on
Firefox, which I used to use to follow news and to write blog posts
turned out to be fortuitous in that regard: These got me to look at
every aspect of the blogging process with an eye towards
improvement. I have found improvement in several key areas, and will
show what these are by comparing how I used to blog to how I blog
Below is my old work flow:
- Find something to write about. Usually, any of a small handful of sites would quickly lead me to a few candidates that I could then read. Other sources of material included RSS feeds, email from readers, or daily life. Quite often, I'd wake with no idea as to what I would write about. On such mornings, between browser crashes and having to read and think, this step could easily take an hour or so. Finding a better browser helped some, but finding a way to better distribute reading time away from writing time and to "dead times" at other parts of the day helped much more. (I won't be blogging about how I do that: It's neat, but it's also proprietary.)
- Think about what I wanted to say. This was often the quickest step, since I react to almost every opinion I encounter. Still, if my reaction was complicated enough or would take a great deal of effort to state, this could lengthen the writing process, result in errors from being in a hurry, or cause me to have to choose between (a) changing to a topic easier to post about, or (b) saying much less than I wanted.
- Say it. In blogging, I pretty much do this at the same time as the previous step. However, the physical act of writing merits its own step since it involves using editing software, which I have already discussed at some length.
- Publish it. I long ago quit using the Blogger editor to compose posts, and use it only for publishing and minor updates.
- Find something to write about. This can be done any time I have a few minutes to spare to scan headlines in an HTML file I automatically generate from a few web sites I used to have to visit each morning. (Or, heaven forbid, try to use on a mobile phone.) At any given moment, I can scan all the headlines from the last 24 hours or from a smaller time window of my choice. (Again. Sorry: proprietary.) Sometimes I bookmark a link, and sometimes, I compose a blog post or part of one to edit later. At worst, I already have ideas for posts when I wake. Often, I am able to schedule posts to appear in advance from previous work, as I note below. I save writing time two ways here: First, I don't have to read as much during writing time. Second, I don't have to visit the aggregator sites using a browser at all, and I use either Pale Moon or a text-only browser (e.g., w3m) to dodge protracted page loading/rendering and crashes.
- Think about what I want to say. Any time I read in advance, ideas can percolate in my mind, allowing me to have a better idea of where to go or a more economical way of getting there. At worst, I do what I used to do.
- Say it. See previous item on reading in advance and post on Emacs linked above. Note that my previous work flow included using an editor that ran within Firefox. As with hunting for blog fodder, the browser is no longer a source of delay.
- Publish it. Here, the Blogger suite actually shines. I often write two or more posts in one session and dump them into Blogger, which allows me to schedule their appearance on the blog. This means I can skip blogging entirely, sometimes for a couple of days in a row, and work on other projects. Of course, if I don't feel like blogging on a day a post is due, I usually can crank out a post and have time for something else. My improved efficiiency has also led to me building up a significant pile of "rainy day posts". My initial goal was to have ten ready for publication at any one time, but I believe I have somewhere between a dozen and fifteen. So it is that today, upon oversleeping by two and a half hours, I can still crank out an original post and schedule one for the next day, preserving that time for other things.