Daily Writing vs Daily Blogging: Slice of Life #sol18 26/31

In December, I challenged myself to better my mornings and, perhaps, my whole day. Instead of opening my laptop and starting the mindless scroll of social media over coffee every morning, I wondered if starting the day with quiet writing and reading time would feel restorative and centering. The short answer: yes. YES.

This month, it’s been instructive to consider the differences between that daily writing challenge and the Slice daily blogging challenge. I end up writing about many of the same topics, sitting in the same place, using the same materials. But I feel like daily blogging pushes me to grow as a writer in ways that daily writing in the notebook simply doesn’t.

It keeps me in my chair with the notebook open. For my daily notebook challenge, I set a minimum goal of five minutes of writing, figuring I would usually be engaged in a piece and want to keep writing for much longer. But it turns out that it’s easy to meet low expectations and rise no further. I rarely got so engaged in a piece that I stopped clock-watching. And even when I was engaged with an idea, it was easy to set it aside when the five minutes were up, knowing I could return to it and write a few more lines tomorrow. With a daily blogging challenge, I know I’m there for the long haul–until the piece is finished and ready to post.

It yields better ideas. I’m sure this is because there is an audience and I’m conscious of trying to write something that will be worth the time my readers spend visiting my blog. I’m not going to waste other people’s time on my daily to-do lists or on many of the things I will spend time writing about in my notebooks—negative thinking, ennui, crankiness. Maybe there’s something therapeutic in working through some of that in a notebook, but maybe I’m wasting my own time as well. I always say that daily writing is what leads us to that feeling of being present and attentive, looking for and finding stuff to write about in our daily routines and lives. But now I wonder if it’s actually the pressure of a daily publishing challenge that turns the material of our lives into something golden to write about.

It pushes me to go deeper and grapple with an idea. I just knew that my daily writing challenge would uncover so many interesting pieces to work through and write on. But here again, low expectations didn’t give me much room to grow. At the end of five minutes, I was rarely writing anything with much depth or interest. No wonder it was so easy to close the notebook and move on! With a daily blogging challenge, I need a “so what?” I need to figure out why I’m truly interested in the thing I’m writing about and why someone else might be interested too. When I have to publish daily, I stick with a piece long enough to discover something new about what I think.

I pay more attention to craft. When I reread my notebook from my daily writing challenge, there’s not a lot of voice or craft in evidence. It’s more like a diary than the kind of notebook work I meant to be practicing. There’s nothing wrong with keeping a diary or a journal, of course. But for me, journal writing rarely yields pieces I want to keep working on or pieces that show any kind of attention to craft. When I reread what I’ve written since March, every single piece is an attempt towards writing with voice and attention to craft. Lots of it doesn’t work, of course; lots of it is play towards something. But it’s clear that it’s the work of someone who is trying to improve as a writer.

My biggest takeaway? Without a clear purpose and audience, I struggle to write anything that really matters to me. I haven’t changed my belief that a daily writing practice is incredibly beneficial. But I realize that I do better thinking and writing when more of my work is going to be shared with an audience.

And now I’m wondering if any of these observations about myself and my writing has implications for my writing classroom. For example, I have noticed in my developmental writing course this semester, my students are all eager to share their writing every single day. And they are writing FAR better pieces on the fly than I typically see in any of my freshmen writing courses. They aren’t only writing for themselves. They are writing for how the words sound on the page and how they will sound read out loud. They dive right into thoughtful, intentionally crafted pieces. I had been thinking they were just a special group (and I’m sure they are!), but I wonder, too, if the quality of their writing has something to do with the fact that their daily writing happened to become a daily publishing challenge.

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15 thoughts on “Daily Writing vs Daily Blogging: Slice of Life #sol18 26/31

  1. Interesting noticings and I like your reflection on the connections to your classroom too! I think I would benefit from an extra hour in my day for slicing, but since that is not going to happen I need to make my writing better by working on my posts more…

  2. Much of what you say here resonates with me. I cannot believe what a difference it has made for me to publish something daily. I’m impressed that you have been writing daily since December; I’d given it up until this month because I was bored of myself. All four of your takeaways are true for me, too: I write longer, I write about more interesting and varied topics, I spend more time grappling with my ideas, and I definitely think more about craft. I have learned more than I ever imagined I would this month. I’m excited to hear that your class that is sharing writing daily is doing better work because I’m actively thinking about how to incorporate the idea of audience into my classroom. We already write on The New York Times Learning Network once a week, but I want more… We’ll see what happens!

  3. I appreciate your digging here; truly probing for ideas to be found beneath the surface. This post is evidence of a reflective practice. You are clearly in the habit of considering your what, how and why in writing and I am certain that this plays out positively when you work with students. I affects how you are able to respond to them as writers. Practicing the things we teach makes us stronger teachers.

  4. I think you hit the nail on the head when it comes to writing: audience and purpose. Maybe we aren’t quite as careful when we write for ourselves knowing no one else will read what we wrote. However, when we are putting something out there that others will read we want to make sure it is worthy of others.

  5. Your daily notebook writing habit is admirable. I haven’t been able to establish a good journal writing routine. Your reflection shows that you know yourself as a writer very well. I agree that having an audience nudges to become a better writer.

  6. I think it is the share aspect that makes a difference with your students. I think that’s the difference you get with the quick write, instead of just writing whatever you want. Something stimulated the thought. When you sit down with the intent to “just write,” there doesn’t seem much purpose. When you are blogging daily, you know there will be feedback. It’s good to see what others say about your work.

  7. For years, I didn’t write in a paper journal because my LiveJournal was enough (plus, the audience helped). Now, I use a paper journal for word vomit and negativity, ennui, and crankiness (as you so eloquently put it). I find both helpful, but writing for publication is a different beast indeed. It’s ever so much worthwhile to write for an audience, which is why I’m building in extra credit for my students to post some of their assignments to their blogs after they submit their final drafts.

  8. Yes, I totally agree. This line is SO on point for me as a writer- “it’s actually the pressure of a daily publishing challenge that turns the material of our lives into something golden to write about.” I consciously think about craft when I know my writing will be “published” for an audience.

  9. It has been my goal for a while to write every single day. I started this as a morning practice last summer and it literally helped me navigate through my day better. I didn’t have as good of a day when I didn’t begin by writing. I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered that this month my writing has been much more focused (helping me really grow as a writer) and I really appreciate that. I tend to write about the same things too, and I guess that these are my writing territories, which is okay!

  10. I’m so glad you have put into words what I have been thinking about this daily writing challenge. My students have responded in some similar ways to yours and they are much younger. That drive to make a post good when someone else is reading is real and authentic. Not all of my students will complete the challenge since we are on break this week. When we return I want to have a conversation and reflection about what it meant to write every day and hit Publish.

  11. This: “I feel like daily blogging pushes me to grow as a writer in ways that daily writing in the notebook simply doesn’t.” I’m not good at keeping a journal. Maybe that has something to do w/ intention. Maybe something to do w/ my forgetting where I put my journal. Maybe something to do w/ not wanting to tote one around. When I blog, I have a very specific purpose and attend to the details of the post, always thinking about what I need to do to gain an audience. That said, I know I need a private writing notebook or writing platform for those private thoughts I can’t publish publicly for whatever reason. I experiment more w/ blogging and vomit words into a notebook or on scraps of paper. All this is to say, your thoughts are sisters to some I’ve had about writing this month. Again, you’ve anticipated things I’ve considered writing about.

  12. Such a great reflection on process and product. I’ve pondered the same wonderings lately myself. I’ve been slicing for a year since last years’ challenge, and I also post for Poetry Friday. There’s something about a challenge and a deadline that does really push you. I sliced about trying “Morning Pages” on Saturday, and I think some of what I wrote will ring true and familiar to you, too. https://wonderingandwondering.wordpress.com/2018/03/24/trying-out-morning-pages-solc18/

  13. Again, I’m blown away by your thinking on this topic. I think audience and purpose are everything. The first thing that comes to mind is our students at school. At this point in the year, it’s all about writing for the TEST. There is no real audience, and I think that impacts kids’ writing, especially their voices, in a really negative way. The other thing I think about is my own writing- Not sure why, whether I’m not writing as well or what, but I haven’t had as many comments this year as I have in other years, and it makes it harder to be excited about writing. Thanks for this really thoughtful post!

  14. Fascinating thoughts on audience and purpose.

    My writing actually goes a little in the other direction. On a blog, I’m very much more restrained (which can be a good thing); I feel freer to explore in my private writing, though I am rather less disciplined about that.

    I suppose that for me, part of what this challenge has been about is just gathering the courage to put myself out there… I tell myself it doesn’t matter whether or not anyone’s listening, but I’m grateful that you have been. Thank you!

  15. I think for me, blogging is the best form of daily or biweekly writing during the rest of the year. I’ve pushed my self this year to get to 500 words in and then 1 or 2 times a week push to 1000.

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