Monday, 18 May 2020

Reviving the blog, with a fresh start

I started writing this blog nearly 12 years ago (how the hell did that happen, by the way?), just as I was starting my MSc in Bristol.  However, I really started to make use of it after I finished that degree and was, while working 7 days a week to pay off my loan, wondering what to do with my life. I don’t have that kind of energy these days, it seems. Indeed, this blog has fallen rather derelict in recent years. However, I did end up figuring out what I wanted to do.

It’s been just over a year since I defended my PhD thesis (this also seems to have flown by…). I stopped blogging for a few reasons, I think. First, I was doing a lot of writing on the thesis and other things. Second, I suffered with some chronic carpal tunnel issues that made using a keyboard almost impossible for about a year. That ended whatever good writing habits I’d developed. However, the time that I was writing my personal blog was probably also the peak of that medium. The successful blogs of a decade or so ago have been largely hoovered up into other platforms, and the less successful ones have mostly either run out of steam or been displaced by the micro-blogging of the social industry—in particular, Twitter.

Writing this thing was hugely valuable for me. It let me hone my voice, and got me used to putting my thoughts out in public. Mostly, this led to nothing. But sometimes it made some very nice connections that would never have happened otherwise. A few times, I pissed someone off, rightly or wrongly. I learned from that, too. The blog had a reasonable readership at one point. My posts usually got a few hundred views. Again, this was probably at the height of the medium.

However, this small amount of attention came later. What was initially most valuable was just in writing regularly, and putting these words in public. Even if no sort of feedback or interaction is forthcoming, this is a very different experience to keeping a diary or private notes. But, then, the more attention the posts got, the more I felt like they had to be, you know, good. This perhaps made me write less regularly. In any case, the process of blogging helped me figure out that academic writing was something I might be good at, and that it was a career I could pursue.

Well, Phase 1 complete, then. Phase 2 is looking pretty bloody bleak right now. The academic job market has gone from a Hunger Games-style farce to a survivalist hellscape in short order. Anyway, for pretty much that exact reason, I feel that the time is right to get back to blogging. I need to get back into good writing habits, I need to think in public again, I need to do this somewhere other than Twitter, and I might also need to figure out what to do with the rest of my life, if what I’ve been doing for the last decade of it doesn’t work out.

However, I also feel like I need a fresh start. So, Circling Squares will be continuing but migrating to a new home: https://circlingsquares2.wordpress.com/. This post, then, will be the last on the present site, which will remain where it is for posterity.

I remember weighing up Blogger and Wordpress when I originally set this up. There seemed to be little to choose between them at the time. However, since then, Wordpress has come to run about a quarter of the Internet, while Blogger no longer allows things like using a desktop client to write and post posts. Annoying. I now have a personal website (https://philiprconway.net/), advertising my wares. However, writing a blog under one’s own name seems a little pretentious. So, I’ll keep the Circling Squares moniker (which was only the first thing that popped into my head when I started writing 12 years ago but continues to sum up what this is supposed to be).

This fresh start should allow me to reset some metrics that I run in my head while writing: If 100 people read what I’m writing and it takes them one hour, that is 100 hours of human existence that my words have taken up. Can I justify that? I think of this particularly when I’m writing for journals, and even more with the book(s) that I’m planning. They have to be good. As good, at least, as I am capable of. This is a heavy calculation. It makes me take what I’m doing seriously but also slows me down. At the moment, it might even be keeping me from writing at all. So, now some time after the heyday of the medium, the blog might be the place to allow myself some lighter, but still calisthenic, indulgences.

Free to ramble. To scribble irregularly. Readers or no readers. Purpose or no purpose.

6 comments:

  1. Good luck Phil. Hope next steps go well. You are a superb blogger and writer.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I have enjoyed your work and shared it with anyone I know.

    Sorry to hear about the carpel tunnel. Voice input might be an alternative. Richard Powers, the novelist who wrote about trees in The Overstory a couple of years ago, and has been working with Bruno Latour for a couple of decades, described how he writes in a NYT article.

    This was published in 2007, so his word count is much larger now


    "Except for brief moments of duress, I haven’t touched a keyboard for years. No fingers were tortured in producing these words — or the last half a million words of my published fiction. By rough count, I’ve sent 10,000 e-mail messages without typing. My primary digital prosthetic doesn’t even have keys.

    I write these words from bed, under the covers with my knees up, my head propped and my three-pound tablet PC — just a shade heavier than a hardcover — resting in my lap, almost forgettable. I speak untethered, without a headset, into the slate’s microphone array. The words appear as fast as I can speak, or they wait out my long pauses. I touch them up with a stylus, scribbling or re-speaking as needed. Whole phrases die and revive, as quickly as I could have hit the backspace. I hear every sentence as it’s made, testing what it will sound like, inside the mind’s ear."

    Essay "How to Speak a Book"

    https://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/07/books/review/Powers2.t.html


    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Don. I hadn't seen that by Powers. These days I have a good keyboard setup. Planning to do a blogpost on it at some point.

      Delete
  3. I found your account because Tim Howles has published a couple of new pieces on his blog and I looked at the list of who he follows and noticed Circling Squares which I have not visited in a long time. I didn't notice on your twitter feed that you were restarting your blog.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I'm keeping the new blog low key for now but will see how it goes! :)

      Delete