Lessons Learned from 30 Days of Blogging

Last month, I decided to blog every day. As I explained earlier:

For whatever reason, I’ve found writing hard to do the past few years, and this year has been the hardest. I’ve also been disinclined to think out loud, even though I’ve had a lot I’ve wanted to say and share, both personally and professionally.

Mid-way through the experiment, I reported:

What it’s been doing is helping unlock whatever has been inside of me. I’ve been precious about sharing what I’ve been thinking, not wanting to say them unless I can say them well and feeling paralyzed as a result. I’ve also found it overwhelming at times to try to blog. I guess things are crazy in the world right now, and it’s not only affecting my mental health, it’s hard for me to make sense of it all.

Blogging as a practice has reminded me not to be too precious. The less I try to say, the less overwhelming I feel. The more frequently I share, the less I have to worry about saying it all in one piece, which makes it much easier to write. Plus, even though I don’t think I’ve shown it yet, I’m starting to remember what it feels like to write well. I’m rounding into shape again, which always feels good.

The biggest surprise has been that sharing regularly has helped me re-engage with my broader community. I didn’t think anyone really followed this blog anymore, and because I’m rarely on social media anymore, the algorithms seem to have decided I’m not worthy of most people’s feeds. Still, some people are paying attention to what I’m saying, and getting to hear from them has been a treat and is also motivating me to write more.

After having finished the experiment, I’m not sure I have anything different to report, other than to say that I don’t think I had any breakthroughs after 30 days, and I want to keep exercising this muscle. I thought seriously about extending my project through the end of the year, but I opted against it for a few reasons. Even though it wasn’t particularly stressful, it wasn’t stress-free either, and I don’t need the added pressure this month. It also tires out muscles that I’m using for work right now. I can focus on developing these muscles more when work settles down.

In the meantime, I think the exercise still is helping me share more than I was before. This is my third blog post in December. I think a good pace for me is to be blogging about once a week, especially when those posts are more or less organic.

Maybe the most interesting thing for me was seeing what I chose to blog about. This wasn’t just a writing exercise, it was a sharing exercise. I aggregated all of the tags from those 30 days of blog posts and ran them through WordClouds.com to see if I could detect any patterns.

Not surprisingly, I wrote a lot about COVID-19 and the elections. It was nice to see that I wrote quite a bit about collaboration. This wasn’t my goal, but I admit I was curious to see how often I felt compelled to write about “work stuff” — the original purpose of this blog — especially when I had so many other things on my mind. I loved that I wrote about a lot about making — food and art and photography and stories in general.

Finally, I was curious about the people and places I wrote about. Here were people I knew whom I mentioned in various posts (not including my partner and sister, whom I mentioned often and didn’t bother tagging):

I loved seeing this list. My interactions with others play such a huge role in what I think about and how I feel, and I love being able to share this space with the people in my life.

People I mentioned whom I don’t know:

Places I mentioned:

  • Africa
    • Nigeria
  • Alaska
  • California
    • Bay Area
      • Colma
      • Oakland
        • Joaquin Miller Park
        • Mountain View Cemetery
      • San Francisco
        • Fort Point
        • Golden Gate Bridge
    • Los Angeles
      • Forest Lawn
  • Cincinnati
  • Santa Fe
    • Ghost Ranch

Making Meaning of a Death Count by Walking in a Cemetery

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my attempts to make sense of death counts. Yesterday, my friend, Joe Mathews, wrote about his own brilliantly simple way to do the same: he took a walk in a cemetery.

Joe chose to walk in the original Forest Lawn in Los Angeles. As he explains:

Since Forest Lawn opened here 114 years ago, in 1906, it has interred 340,000 souls on this property. Under current projections, the United States will experience 340,000 COVID deaths by sometime in January, 10 months after the March lockdowns began.

Such statistics are sobering and tragic. They also reflect a fundamental human failure: We experience individual death intensely, but struggle to recognize death in the aggregate. That’s why we can more forcefully rally together in response to one death—like the police killing of George Floyd—than in response to escalating numbers of COVID deaths scrolling across our screens.

Our myopia is why we need cemeteries right now, and not just as places to bury our dead.

Read the whole piece. There’s lots of good stuff about the history of Forest Lawn and of some of the folks who are buried there. And go take a walk through a cemetery. I’ve never walked any of the cemeteries in Colma, as Joe suggested for Bay Area folks, but the Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland is a peaceful place to walk and think.

Baseball Fan Group Dynamics

Watching sports live is one of the best places to observe group dynamics. I’m not talking about watching the actual teams play, although that’s great too. I’m talking about watching the fans. Baseball, in particular, is great for this, because there’s a lot of downtime between plays.

The richest experiences come from watching teams with great fans. Oakland fans are some of the very best in sports, bar none. Warriors fans are widely acknowledged as the best in the NBA, and A’s fans are right up there. I don’t even have to mention Raiders fans.

I went to the A’s game yesterday, and I got some video clips of fan dynamics and collective leadership in action. This guy consistently got the crowd going, simply by standing up and clapping loudly, rhythmically, and enthusiastically. But this doesn’t work unless you have the right fan culture. I’ve been to many games on the other side of the Bay where these types of efforts are met with uncomfortable passivity.

I’ve been to a lot of baseball games in my life, but somehow, I’ve never seen this before: fans taunting the opposing relief pitchers warming up in a very creative way. I wasn’t sure what would happen with a second relief pitcher, but when it happened, the fans didn’t miss a beat. I was literally rolling around in my seat laughing.

This video shows the fan ritual whenever closer Grant Balfour comes into the game. It’s known as “Balfour rage” in honor of the closer’s legendary volatile temper, and the history of its evolution is fascinating.

My only regret was that there were no waves. Watching a wave form is a fascinating study in group dynamics.