Getting past the blog-block, part one: in which I explain how by silencing the blog voices in my browser I silenced myself

Blogging about blogging always seems like some kind of strange navel-gazing to me, so I’m hesitant to take a minute to talk about why I haven’t been blogging of late. But, during a conversation with Gardner yeterday, I realized that perhaps writing about my blog-block would help me to move past it.

I was going to take this post to write about all the possible reasons I’ve been blocked lately, but the post was getting pretty long. So, I’ll just delve into one reason here, and cover the next three or four in subsequent posts. It’ll be my first post series. Cool!

(Of course, this means extended navel-gazing, so apologies ahead of time.)

At the beginning of last semester I took a chopping knife to my Bloglines account. Actually, I didn’t really eliminate any feeds, I just placed a large number of them in a folder called “On Hiatus.” I decided to take this step because I was feeling completely overwhelmed by what I was trying to absorb through Bloglines. In a weird way, I was feeling kind of guilty too. I enjoy reading the blogs I subscribe to — reading them doesn’t feel like work at all. It’s still hard for me to accept that it’s okay for work not to feel like work sometimes.

But, really, on another level I was just trying to simplify my blog exposure.

I created a handful of (smaller) groups of blogs as “regular” ones that I would read on an ongoing basis. One group was comprised of the blogs of my colleagues in DTLT. Another group was filled with blogs of instructional technology people whom I’ve grown to admire and respect (mostly through reading their blogs). A third group I labelled “Smart People” (who were not in my department or working in instructional technology — obviously all of those people are smart). I was cutthroat about who made it into Smart People, and, although I didn’t do this deliberately at the time, I ended up with people who tended to be a little less prolific. In generally, these people tend to write regularly but not abundantly.

Almost immediately, it seems like I stopped getting inspired as much by my blog reading. I’m sort of hesitant to say that because it’s not meant to reflect poorly on any of the blogs I was reading (from my collegues, other instructional technologists, or other “Smart People”). Rather, it seems to me that what I did was jettison the large number of prolific bloggers that I read who don’t necessarily work in my field. True, they often wrote about things that were completely unrelated to what I do. But, at the same time, I often found in those posts a nugget or a perspective that completely changed the way I was thinking about what I was doing or reading in other blogs. It’s like I had eliminated this larger context to my reading, and suddenly my blog reading wasn’t as rich or nuanced. It felt watered down.

Another way of saying this is that the blogs I was reading were still inspiring, but it was like I was only tuning into half of the conversation I had been listening to before.

So, my challenge now is to figure out how to tune that conversation back in without getting overwhelmed. I’m open to suggestions.

One other nuance to this dilemma arose during that conversation yesterday with Gardner. I mentioned to him that I almost never read blogs “in situ.” I read them directly in my Bloglines account, very rarely jumping off into the blog itself. As a result, I probably miss all kinds of other “stuff” that appears in the blog. I miss conversations because I don’t have a way in Bloglines to easily check on comments. I miss sidebar content: delicious links, Flickr images, asides. And I miss the bloggers choice of self-presentation. If you redesign your blog and don’t mention it in a post, I’ll probably never know it happened.

That’s really weird for me because I’m kind of nuts about working on the presentation and experince of my blog. A few weeks (months?) ago, I upgraded to WP 2.0, and I didn’t have a chance at the time to re-install my customized theme. The Fish Wrapper languished in “Classic Theme” until last night. (I jumped into Canvas last night–thanks for the inspiration Andy!) Every time I came here and thought about posting I was completely put off by the design. I kept thinking I didn’t want to do any work here until I had gotten it to look the way I wanted it to look.

If I’m going to place so much value on the experience of my own blog, I should darn well start to value the work everyone else does.

So, as of today, I’ve turned off full content in Bloglines. I’ll just be perusing titles of posts, and if I see something that strikes my fancy, I’ll link off and see where it takes me.