Structured vs. Unstructured

It’s been about three months since I instituted the new format here at Ben Trube, Writer and generally speaking I think it’s going pretty well. Having theme days on Tuesday (Technology), Wednesday (Writing), Friday (Book Reviews) and every other Thursday (The Sky Below), means I really only have to generate topics for 1-2 posts a week. If I work on The Sky Below during the week, it tends to give me something to think about writing which helps the Wednesday post. My job and my interests mean that the tech posts usually write themselves, and all the reading in my leisure time makes selecting books for review more a matter of constructing the week’s theme than trying to cram to finish something.

Part of the reason for the theme was to give people some predictable features they could come back to each week, trying to serve all of the various audiences that come to this blog. I’ve seen a noticeable bump in traffic when I keep the structure going, and just as noticeable a dip if I take a day or two off. But the primary reason for the change was to help me know what to write about.

There’s only one small problem with this scheme, Mondays.

For some silly reason I thought it would be a good idea to start my writing week with a post that could be about anything. It’s pretty easy to keep writing on something you’ve started, or that you have a pretty good idea of how to write, but the blank page is the bane and frustration of every writer, and I decided that’s how I should start my week.

That means that often I’m coming up with the idea for this post as I’m driving in early to work, tossing ideas around in the gelatin of my head which is reeling from being up two hours earlier than it has been the last few days (maybe four hours earlier). Sometimes, if I’ve had an eventful weekend of writing, I can write about that, figuring that by Wednesday I’ll have a new topic. Occasionally I can write my musings on a current issue (though the truth is that I generally don’t like to comment on the widely discussed current events of the day, and would rather write about something a little more obscure or less discussed).

But on mornings like this one, I almost have nothing. This is the second time I have tried to write this post. The first was on Saturday sitting in NTB waiting for an oil change which involved the literal staring at a blank screen for 20 minutes before finally giving up and reading comic books.

Here’s the theoretical benefit of unstructured days like this one. If all I ever do is write about the same things week to week than I may be very productive, but my brain will be a little less creative. Sure it is very possible to be creative within a set of rules, and generally speaking it’s actually a lot easier. But sometimes you’ve got to push your brain to do something it doesn’t normally do in the hope that there might be something to discover.

In practice what I seem to produce are rants or ramblings like this one, but I’m still new at this. Like a lot of things with writing, and new ideas in general, you need longer than you think to evaluate if they’re going well. Maybe in a year I’ll decide that Mondays should be Manga Mondays or Meta-Mondays but in the meantime I guess I’ll stick with trying to shake the cobwebs loose.

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