Every Day is the Start of a New Year

2,307 days–from 8-Sep-06 to 1-Jan-13. Six years, three months, 24 days. 1,163 published posts–one post every two days (actually 1.98 days, or 47.52 hours). When I wrote that first post I had no idea how often I would post or how long I would stay with it. I planned to integrate A Foolish Consistency into my courses, without a clear vision of how that might happen. I imagined blog posts and comments extending spirited discussions outside the classroom, but I did not require students to read A Foolish Consistency. Compelled participation is low-quality participation. A few lively discussions ensued, some students used blog comments as a proxy for classroom participation (with my blessing), and some students continued to read and comment on my posts long after they left my courses.  As an extension of the classroom I give A Foolish Consistency a C grade–a 73. Just above C-.

If extending the classroom had been my only reason to write A Foolish Consistency I would have abandoned it long ago. Writing the blog helped me think through issues, indulge my sense of humor, advise prospective law students, and voice my views of matters large and small. Providing content was a chore from time to time, but every fallow period ended with a satisfying burst of posts. As a vehicle for self-expression the blog gets a solid A-. 91.

However–(you knew that was coming)–my production tailed off this fall. Teaching sixteen credits spread across six courses with five preps left little time non-course activities. I posted less often, and thought less often of posting. I was not driven to write. I was sanguine about failing to maintain my pace. I felt no expectation-driven pressure.

I’ve decided to change my relationship to A Foolish Consistency. How, I don’t know, but I want to move beyond self-imposed constraints on my voice. Knowing that students comprised most of my audience I held back, keeping distance between my posts and my self. I will no longer present this blog as an extension of the classroom. The aspect of A Foolish Consistency that I graded C- will exist no more. I don’t know what will replace it. Don’t expect an outpouring of my most private self. I’m changing the blog, but I’m not changing. I have no expectations about how often I’ll post or what voice I’ll use. But why not change? Announcing this on New Year’s Day is heavy-handed, but that’s mostly a matter of timing. Today’s the first day I’ve had time to write what I’ve been thinking about for weeks. As one of the smartest and most interesting people I met this semester wrote to me today, who says the new year is a time for resolutions anyway?  I can resolve to changing old ways whenever I want!

Happy New Year.

My Blogging Tips

Recently I was asked if I had pointers about starting a blog. Here’s what I said:

  • Have fun with it. If it’s not fun it becomes a chore and you’ll stop writing. (I wrote this point last and then realized it’s the most important thing I have to say.)
  • Should you buy a domain name and create your own site or use free a platform like Google Blogger or WordPress? I did the former. It involves more work and expense (not a lot–BlueHost, my blog’s host, is now $5.95/month) but gives you greater control. I (usually) enjoy learning the technical aspects of creating and running my sites, but not always. Blogging-specific hosts make life much easier. WordPress is the premier blogging software, which you can use without having WordPress host your blog.
  • Set realistic goals for how often you’ll post. Beginner’s enthusiasm can generate a flurry of initial posts but at some point it will fade, you’ll not post for three days in a row, and you may feel pressure to post something–anything–which can interfere with posting something good. My goal this year is 20 posts a month. If I meet that goal it will be the largest number of posts I’ve made in one calendar year. I kept the pace through August, fell behind when school began, and have started to pick it up again over the past few days. The important thing is that I only make myself a little crazy if I go 10 days without posting.
  • Understand why you are writing the blog. I created the blog because I like to write short pieces about ideas and issues that capture my attention, because writing about legal topics helps me refine my thinking, because I want to reveal how I think about these topics to students, and because there’s a never-ending conversation going on in my brain.
  • Define your blog’s focus. Will you post only about a few specific topics or will you also post about personal things–a book you enjoyed, a place you visited, whatever? How much will you reveal about yourself? It takes time to decide on a focus and settle into a voice. I post mostly about law-related topics with some personal stuff thrown in to give the blog more personality and make it more fun to write. I decided early that I would not post about really personal topics because there’s only so much of myself I’m willing to reveal to my general student readership. If I intended the blog for friends or peers its content would change dramatically. Should you ever notice that I’m posting about truly personal subjects it will be a sign either that I’m nearing the end of my teaching career or that for some other external reason I no longer care about my privacy.

Sure Beats Working

Tonight’s flurry of random posts trending towards inanity was brought to you by our sponsors: Final Exam Proctoring, Handy Internet Connection, Short Attention Span, Large Iced Espresso, and Nestle Butterfinger Bar.

Now it’s time to bid the Chelmsford campus adieu for 2011.  See you next year. Maybe.

April, the Quiet Month

Six days and only two posts into April I remember why there was a similar post paucity last April:  I am buried with papers and course work.  (I don’t expect sympathy.  I’m just reporting the facts.)  It’s like slogging uphill through waist-deep snow.   You have to make a certain amount of progress every day or you are gone.  I’m as on top of everything academically as I am capable of being, at the price of the musing time that results in more numerous posts.

More coffee.  That’s the answer.

Two Years

A Foolish Consistency’s first post–about net neutrality–appeared on September 8, 2006.  This post, two years later, is the 402nd I’ve published on A Foolish Consistency, slightly more than one post every other day.  Not prolific output but not bad either, given the number of blogs that come and go and the ease with which I can be distracted.