Writing Comments vs. Posts

A line in Bhagpuss’ recent post on the subject of when to comment vs. when to turn it into a post and balancing the two, finally pushed me over the edge to sitting down and writing this out. Bhagpuss had noted in passing an observation that had been building in potential significance as a potential source of deeper insight into writing and my approach to writing.

In fact, in my experiment with writing this post — an undiscussed element of what I was looking at was how to capture some of the comment writing experience. Namely, as Bhagpuss said, “It takes me about five per cent of the time to write even a lengthy comment than it would to put a full post together.”

Writing a comment tends to just flow. Even long ones pour forth from thought to virtual-page. There is no second-guessing or rewriting of whole sections. They just… go.

Nyoooom. The speed of comment writing visualised.

Contrast this with writing posts, where rewrites occur haphazardly on the fly. I can jump at random back to the opening paragraph to touch it up five paragraphs into the work. Whole sentences will be wiped and rewritten in an attempt to make them ‘better’.

Best of all is when changing the structure of a sentence and then leaving artefacts of the previous structure behind. While not the source of 100% of the grammatical issues you’ll see in my posts — it’s probably right up there at 70-80% or more. I’m making a rather conscious effort with this post not to do any of the things I’m talking about while writing it, I should add. And it’s certainly speeding up the process, but it doesn’t quite feel natural yet.

And in fact, after the completion of that paragraph? I just noticed myself pausing to read back through what I had as a whole so far. This is very likely the cause of my editing and jumping around a post on the fly, actually. ;)

Another reason — and I just did this one now too, hah — is I’m very distraction prone. A comment in Discord, a random thought to google. You name it and I can break the flow, then necessitating finding my place again.

In any case. Back on track. I wonder how one might capture some of the efficiency and speed in comment writing. I think the difference in expectations between the two is a factor. Certainly in my mind, during the act of writing a comment it seems far more transient and throwaway — even though there have been times where what I’ve liked what I’ve put into a comment more than some posts!

Something that comes to mind here is a comment from Jeromai, about appreciating the ‘rawness’ of his writing. That over-preparation can end up diminishing his overall regard for a piece of his work.

Although really — it all comes back to the same conclusion as before. I need to get better at writing out complete first drafts before worrying about anything else. Just boom. Write. Turn the editor off. Tap some keys. Make some words. Maybe allow for some critical assessment at the end.

Comment writing proves to me this is possible. It’s just a matter of putting it into practice in a different, higher pressure context.

Changing the Approach to Writing Posts

I alluded to making this post in my June Journal entry. About how I run things here. Specifically for this post — how I run through the act of constructing a post. I feel that there are some improvements I can make in this area, and I hoped to also get some input on this from you all.

How I do it at the Moment

Getting Started…

What does this have to do with the post? Nothing. I just really like itAlli did an awesome job. :D

Ideas can come from anywhere. Random thoughts. News pieces. Game happenings. Other bloggers, via conversation or their blog posts I’d like to comment on or otherwise respond to at length.

When I can, I’ll construct a draft post — generally containing just a title to prompt memory of the idea later. Very rarely I might include some bullet points of things I want to cover in the post.

Sometime after the initial ideation, magic happens. But — and this is important — the magic can only happen while I’m not at a computer. While driving, say. The post will fully form, crystalise even, in my mind — a near masterwork of engaging writing and compelling argument.

Later, back at the computer with time to write the post — I’ll start tapping away, hacking together a far lesser version of itself. Not the best post in the world, merely a tribute. ;)

Putting the Post Together

During the process of failing to translate what once seemed a perfectly clear and constructed post in my mind to actual written word, I’m prone to distractions in all forms. I don’t think that’s the cause of the translation issue, but it certainly doesn’t help either.

The main distraction comes in the form of working on the post layout while writing the first draft. By which I mean I will insert images, format them, and if I need to jump into a game to get the screenshot I want — I’ll even do that.

I’ll eventually wind up with a completed post, which I’ve put together piecemeal. Editing as I go. A final review (often far more cursory than it probably should be) and then an instant publish.

I’m not very good with being patient and scheduling posts. Once done — it needs to go right then!

The Next Experiment

What I feel I should do instead — and will be experimenting with — is getting out a full, complete draft before doing any of that. Consider that first go in the same vein as a NaNoWriMo writing sprint. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of a NaNo writing sprint — basically you write at speed for a set period of time. You completely shut down the inner-editor for the duration. Corrections of anything beyond a typo should be considered forbidden.

After the sprint is over you may consider your review process. Be that a rewrite or some intensive editing.

At first I thought my success metric was around time taken to write a post. This experiment was initially about reducing context switching between writing and formatting.

I actually don’t know that this approach is going to save me any time but perhaps it’ll result in a better quality of post with a rewrite/intensive edit phase put in. A harder metric to track meaningfully perhaps, so I’ll have to use my own satisfaction with a post when ‘done’ as a proxy.

But already I can tell making this change is going to take some very sustained and conscious effort. Cos uh… I’ll start with the next post? I did this one my ‘normal’ way. Hmm.

Anywho — as I said at the start, super curious how other bloggers out there go about constructing their own posts, and if there are any things that seem to work for you, or anything that you might consider changing. :)