What I care about vs. what I write about

I’m disappointed with the misalignment between what’s important to me and what I write about here.  Here, I acknowledge and explore that.

What I care about: meaningful, exciting, or useful ideas

I have a list of substantial, interesting topics I’ve meant to write about.  Some are still relevant, others have drifted behind me as missed opportunities (e.g., I meant to discuss the August 2018 Ann Arbor Democratic primary elections).  Some are years old, others freshly sparked from recently conversations.

Some of these topics are explored in abandoned drafts.  Others manifest on paper as just a single bullet point, albeit with hours of associated reflection and many references ready to go in my head.

These more meaningful topics demand focus and time, which I have in only limited supply.  Such posts are also probably better when well-researched, which requires more time – though I’m growing suspicious that the burden of assembling links may not be worth it if it paralyzes me.  And I question whether it’s my place to write on them. Is my opinion valid? Do I know what I’m talking about?

What I then write about: trivial, dull matters.

Meanwhile, as these ideas languish, look at some of the blog posts I did manage to write in 2018.  I ranted against the TrailKeg, a thneed.  I wondered if old yard sign frames could be welded into a Papasan chair.  I wrote a how-to based on what I learned when configuring a specific model of solar panel monitoring gateway.

It’s not that I regret what I said in those posts.  But I am frustrated to have found the energy to write those, and not write up ideas that call to me, that I feel passionately about, that might change things.  Or, for more mundane topics,  posts that would at least be of wide use.  It’s not grand, but I am pleased to have collected the internet’s scattered guidance into a single how-to on stabilizing cider for backsweetening.  It gets steady use (and I have referred back to it myself).

I have meant for years to write a practical guide to treating iron-heavy, bicarbonate-heavy well water for homebrewing.  Fellow brewers have requested several times that I put my advice into writing.  But that remains a set of notes, unpublished, and in the meantime I wrote an utterly unwanted and trivial guide to troubleshooting an old piece of solar array equipment.

So why the misalignment?

It’s easier to bang out those little posts in the moment, when I have the flight of fancy.  The more thorough posts take longer; to finish them in one sitting requires a longer block of time than I can take on a lunch break.  And in my head, I subconsciously believe those more meaningful posts to take even longer than they do.

It’s not all bad

I am proud of some of the posts I wrote in 2018:

The North Maple Cycle Track – this took maybe 3-4 hours to write.  It came together one afternoon when my in-laws were playing with my kids (thank you!).  I used my own photography, took Google Maps screenshots, and added references like NACTO.  This one sat in my drafts for about six months and it felt great to finally publish.

  • You can tell how long I mulled this over by the fact that I took relevant photos in both NYC and Chicago in the year before I wrote this.
  • And just a month after I published it, the city actually implemented (half) of what I wrote about!  If I’d waited just a little longer to finish, it would have been useless.

The Cargo Bike Changed My Life – 1-2 hours to write.  I have already started linking back to this in chats and emails when I would otherwise begin this rant anew.

Should I Stop Flying? – 1-2 hours.  My favorite thing I wrote last year.  I synthesized disconnected sources and shared what I’m wondering.  I hope to write more like this in 2019.

How to write about what I care about

One of my all-time favorite local blog posts is the Arbor Guru post, The Visionary’s Case for a Depot Street Station.  It belongs in the local policy blogging Hall of Fame.  No one else had made the argument like this and it changed the dialogue (and changed my own opinion about where a new Ann Arbor train station might go).  It was an inspiration for my post about a cycle track on Maple Road.

I enjoyed reading it and am impressed by the images, the writing, and the sheer length.  But I also notice that, two years later, it’s the only Arbor Guru blog post. I don’t know what other ideas are percolating in Prashanth’s head, but I would trade a gold standard post like this for a half-dozen shorter, B+ posts from him.

My dad is not the archetypal father, but he is a classic dad in his deployment of aphorisms.  (the rest of us call them “dadages”, from the English “dad” + “adage”). One he enjoys is, “Perfect is the enemy of good enough.”

Remembering that might help me write the things I want in 2019.  It irks me that I have ideas I’ve been unable to write out.  As it seems too daunting to find the time to write them up, perhaps I should set the bar lower to make it easier for them to crawl into the world and be engaged with.

Let’s see what I write this year!

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