Why I blog

Photo credit to Mary Katherine Morris Photography For the past year, I've blogged to clear out my head. Cataloging my thoughts and organizing them into an ever-evolving portfolio has landed me a couple new writing gigs and has put me in contact with some of the most interesting people I know. It constantly challenges me to interact with words and other writers, which always expands my world.

All of these things have been surprising. I resisted starting a website or blog for three years because I didn't want to be obligated to create content that might delve into my personal life. For this sometimes introvert, the idea of writing about my life was terrifying. Though I absolutely adored seeing my name in print, I could avoid including any personal details in these articles. Sharing them with my social networks gave me joy, and it was almost enough.

Starting to blog made it easier to form or re-form personal connections with others online. Sharing blog posts on social media has started conversations with old connections I'd been meaning to contact, and has proved valuable in freelancing as well.

It's also changed how I write. Nowadays, I only commit to writing for a few carefully chosen unpaid outlets. Each has been selected or recommended to break into new markets, advertise my services or to follow my passion. These pieces receive the same care and scrutiny as their paid counterparts, but they can be a drain on time and energy if they become the majority of your work.*

Despite my work schedule, blogging remains a way for me to keep up with my friends and family even when our schedules overlap so much. For me, it's also become an exercise in commitment and punctuality. It's made me more aware of deadlines and my own boundaries, and more appreciative of times I can disconnect.

More importantly, it's given me a sense of the value of my own time. I've taken that for granted in the past, and have exhausted myself. Since that point, I've put a premium on my time, and if an activity or assignment doesn't meet that threshold, I don't accept it. In conjunction with a standard for spending time with friends and loved ones, this system has done a lot of good for my sanity.  Time can't be recuperated, and I'm going to spend mine as wisely as possible.

*And you're not building your portfolio. In that case, building a library of high quality clips can be more important than pay.

You got to hold on

call me maybeOut of my ten or so 2013 New Year's resolutions, only one has been doable. I have turned off the radio. At first, it was a struggle. Top 40 pop music is not challenging. Each saccharine-sweet song follows a predictable pattern and ends within three minutes. Some songs may be catchier than others, but none are truly remarkable. It's easy.

Silence and good music aren't. Each forces the listener to confront parts of his or her life that are easily overlooked when overlaid with silly lyrics and a pounding beat. After three or four days of complete silence on my morning drive, I was more refreshed and slightly less grumpy. The drives between tutoring sessions became opportunities for reviving my energy level, not trying to keep it artificially elevated with coffee and radio programs laced with celebrity gossip.

As a music writer, finding and tracking new artists keeps your writing fresh and your friends and readers excited. Turning off the radio gave me the chance to look up bands that friends had suggested, like The Lone Bellow, or were promoting, like St. Paul and the Broken Bones. Once I started looking, I began rediscovering amazingly talented local groups and friends of friends.

On one particularly stressful afternoon, I turned to one of my Spotify playlists. Though I was stuck in traffic and already 30 minutes late for an appointment, I started to relax. By the end of the third song, I almost felt like I was sipping pinot noir in a warm bath, not zooming around from job to job.

Each day, each of us chooses what to consume. For me, music is sustenance for my spirit just as food sustains my body. Choosing quality here is necessary to my happiness, and has allowed me some space that is distinctly mine. So far, it has freed up time outside the car for me to begin to work on other resolutions that have been so easy to break. Next up, exercise.

Today's title comes from The Alabama Shakes' "Hold On."