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Musing: Order, Chaos, and Writing
I have a natural aptitude for math and a love of words, a somewhat unusual combination. While that gives me many advantages, it carries with it a natural conflict. Math is about creating order. Language—at least the story-telling part of it—is often about chaos.
To live with this mental dichotomy, I must maintain a delicate balance. Some times, I allow my imagination to flow freely, weaving stories of conflict and mystery. Other times, I release the part of me that thrives on patterns, rhythms, and a steady beat.
For many years, I spent my days in a finance career and kept my creative side muffled by writing only at night and not publishing. I’ve broken that paradigm, but my need to bring order to chaos still interferes with the value chaos brings to my writing.
For example, I label these essays as Musings. To muse is to become absorbed in thought, to ruminate, to contemplate, to reflect, to meditate. Boundaries, such as time, hinder the natural process and it works best without them..
Yet, I call them “Monday” Musings, not “Random: Musings. Why? Because my natural inclination for order created a need to publish the Musing every week. By itself, that isn’t bad, at least not as long as the order doesn’t overpower the chaos.
But, I realize it has.
The part of me that dusts the cobwebs, straightens the shelves, and tracks data on everything brought it to my attention. In my handy-dandy bullet journal, my organized brain tracks my average daily word count by project. Another tracker reflects how I spend my time each day.
Stop grimacing. I warned you I like math.
I strive hard to maintain a healthy balance between personal time and work time. After years of business travel, I cherish time at home with my Ever Patient Partner in Life. We savor the simple pleasures like walking the dogs, cooking, and going to the gym. My balance and priorities are spot on there.
But, when I examined the time dedicated to work, a mismatch came into focus. In the first half of August, I produced a monthly newsletter, a couple Monday Musings, a dozen or so dog blog anecdotes, and various social media posts.
I didn’t, however, focus much attention on my next novel. Too much weekly and daily focus, and not enough long-term.
Not to pick on these Monday Musings, but they are a perfect example. They range from 1500 to 2000 words a week. In a year, that’s 80,000 to 100,000 words, the equivalent of a novel. Plus, of course, the promotion time of social media, newsletters, etc., to bring the Musings to your attention.
Now here’s the problem with organized brain. It sees the data and shouts, “Stop the Musings!”
But that’s not right either.
Chaos brain likes the Musings as a creative outlet. They are an extension of my journaling practice—the part I feel comfortable sharing publicly.
Let’s not discuss the shadowy sections of journaling. I don’t want those men in white coats showing up at my doorstep suggesting it’s time for a “little vacation.”
So my organized brain and my chaotic brain proposed a negotiation. Organized brain crafted a PowerPoint presentation and an eighty-three page business proposal. Chaotic brain showed up an hour late with half a box of crayons and some cans of spray paint. They hammered out a compromise after much yelling, screaming, and a mysterious fire which destroyed the organized brain’s briefcase.
Oops, that last paragraph might summon those white coats.
In short, I need less schedule and order, but more creative time dedicated to longer projects. And, Dear Reader, that affects you.
Monday Random Musings
Foreshadowing is a literary device to hint to the reader of something coming later in the story. How many of you noticed the title card said Random, and not Monday, Musing?
The change is simple enough. When I have something to say, something I think might interest you, I will post a Musing. Maybe it’s a time or two a month. A week might come along when I post two (I doubt it). Some months might not see one at all.
Without a schedule, how will you know I published a new one?
Same way you found them in the first place. I’ll share on social media and send out an email to those who want to be notified. If you haven’t signed up for the Musing newsletter before, this would be a good time to do so.
Video and Podcast of the Musings
One of the wonderful parts of the creative life is trying something new. The bad side is sometimes things fail miserably.
When I considered recording the Musings, one of the statistics organized brain latched onto was the average podcast didn’t make it past seven episodes. I scoffed and thought anyone should be able to trip over such a low hurdle.
I didn’t make it that far. Let’s let organized brain explain why by sharing a graph of listeners / viewers by week.
Chaotic brain couldn’t resist, so added a little graphic to explain the projections.
Considering recording, editing, and publishing takes three or four hours each week, this decision became a no-brainer. No video and podcast of the Musings. My apologies to the few—very few—of you who liked them.
Organized brain wins this one. On the first Wednesday of every month, I will continue to email the monthly newsletter.
Chaotic brain, though, pointed out the newsletter has become too much of a recap of everything posted on my website. I will focus on the original content of the newsletter to make it more exclusive to subscribers.
I’ve already been paring my use of social media. Most everything is concentrated on Facebook. The good news here is Facebook has improved the usability of Facebook Pages. I’ve found sharing micro-short stories and photographs like our recent visit to the restaurant at the Mt Pisgah Inn resonates well. Plus, social media is one of the few places where it’s easy to interact via the comments. Follow the Facebook Page if you haven’t already.
The Thundering Herd
Of all the changes, this is the one I agonized the most about. In fact, I’ve been thinking about this for a few years.
I recently celebrated the 5,000th post over on the dogs’ website. That is an accomplishment, but I’ve long worried the daily posts were well past their prime.
In its heyday, The Thundering Herd shared the chaos of six Siberian Huskies and the amazing adventures we took. Our life with fewer canines and less adventure are quite happy and fun, but doesn’t lend itself to many exciting tales.
It’s not like their fans haven’t noticed. Readership on the website and the dogs’ social media pages, as well as the subscriber count for their newsletter, has been declining for several years.
But, sometimes, funny things happen that are worth sharing. Recently, I posted two short tales on my Facebook page—Landon and the bear and Typhoon and the disturbing morning noise. Each of those posts received more readers than any of the daily posts I’ve shared about the dogs.
So this is the hardest change to make, but the answer is obvious. When something funny, memorable, or newsworthy happens with the dogs, I’ll share it on their website and social media, but I will not worry about a schedule.
For fans of the dogs, let me offer a consolation prize. For years, a book about life with The Herd has bounced around in my head. The title came to me when we were living in Murrells Inlet. Stopping the daily posting will free up time to work on that book.
Novels, Novellas, and Short Stories
Which is a perfect segue to the important part. Organized brain struggles not to focus on schedules for Musings, dog stories, and more, but accepts my writing time should be focused on novels, novellas, and short stories. Chaotic brain is happy to be loosed to play in the happy fields of fiction.
So, patience, Dear Reader, but I think you will like the results.
Let me know what you think. Now pardon me while I release chaotic brain from its shackles. I have books to write.
Enjoy the Story? Try a Novel
If you enjoyed today’s musing, please consider reading one of my novels. Each standalone book tells the story of big lives in a small town, ordinary people facing extraordinary challenges.
September 2023 Reader Survey Question
Gratuitous Dog Photo: A Thoughtful Boom
One of those moments when we catch Boom Boom not Boom Booming. Don’t worry. It didn’t last long before he was off and running again.
Thank You For Reading
Keep that happy balance between order and chaos.
If you have questions or thoughts, drop them in the comments below.
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