Some Blaugust (After)Thoughts – Lessons Learned Week – #Blaugust2021

Now that Belghast has posted the official Blaugust 2021 wrap-up, I wanted to tidy up some of my thoughts on Blaugust in general, and talk about my experience with this year in particular. I reluctantly made the decision before the beginning of August that daily posting was probably not something I was going to be able to attain this year, and attempted to adjust my expectations accordingly. I hate backing down from any sort of challenge, and Blaugust is precisely the type of challenge that works well for me.

But I had to balance my desire for productivity and shiny internet awards with the knowledge of the toll that productivity can take on me. I set my sights on achieving silver, and managed to – just barely – eke into the next category up, hence the lovely gold Blaugust 2021 award.

I also made the choice to focus more on keeping up with my gaming interests than keeping up with the community, and in retrospect, I think that was not the best choice to have made. I made this years festival about me, and I’m not even sure that I can say it made blogging easier. Over the course of August, I spent almost 90 hours gaming, and as a result, managed to make posts about eight different games over the course of the month.

However, since I didn’t dedicate a whole lot of time to reading other blogs, and interacting with other bloggers much past dropping the occasional like on a post here and there, I definitely feel like I missed out on a significant part of what makes Blaugust so great. I didn’t even realize this until I read Pete’s final #Blaugust2021 post. Despite there being so many more blog posts to read, I read less in August than any other month in recent memory. Because of this, I missed out on being able to build posts of my own on the back of posts from other Blaugust participants.

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the interactions I get from blogging and social media and Discord with like-minded folks, but I don’t need it. It’s not a goal for me. Getting my thoughts down and sending them out into the world like baby birds is the goal; everything else is just gravy. I forget that for many bloggers, connection is the whole point, and I did not give back this past month the way I would have liked to do.

Community is the point of Blaugust after all, and this year, I just completely missed the point.

However, in my own way, this month was a huge success for me. I managed to carve out space for myself in my life, and that’s something I am forever struggling with. I didn’t waste gobs of time unable to decide what comes next. I (mostly) proceeded cleanly from idea to execution. I made time, and then I made damn good use of that time, and as ridiculous as it sounds, that’s huge for me. Even though I think I didn’t necessary succeed at Blaugust in its own intention, I needed this as a kick in the pants to remember why I do this, and why I love doing this.

I feel like this has been an issue in my life for a long time now – balancing the things I do for my own edification, joy, and recharging my batteries with the mundane life stuff that needs to be kept up with, and the things I do because other people need or want me to to do them. Living with a basically completely unmanaged (and therefore unmitigated) chronic illness, both mental and physical energy feel like scarce resources, and I don’t always use those resources in the best way. No matter what I decide, I almost always am looking back and worrying about missed opportunity costs.

I won’t try to say there weren’t a couple of times over the last four weeks where I pushed when I should have rested, or when I wasted time I could have manifested just a bit more energy and made better use of. Overall, I did pretty okay finding the balance, and I’m counting that as a win.

Blaugust Lessons Learned – Don’t Let Perfect Be the Enemy of Done

I wasn’t entirely sure what (if anything) I wanted to bring to Lessons Learned week for Blaugust 2021, but then this tweet came across my timeline this morning, and it was like I got hit over the head with a giant lightbulb. Please excuse the mixed metaphor, but the takeaway here is huge as a blogger, especially as a hobbyist blogger (as opposed to one who is trying to make a revenue stream happen).

Don’t let perfect be the enemy of done.

It’s a funny sentence, in it’s own way, but I think it’s a conflict that just about every type of creative faces at some point. Everything you have ever done? Probably could have been done better. But how much better and what would it have cost you?

Sometimes, I have the barest glimmer of an idea, and I think, man, I need to ruminate on that. Or I just push it aside because I don’t trust my ability to make that idea into a compelling post. I think it’ll be too short, or worse, far too long. I have no graphics. I’m not ready to write it.

And that, friends, is why I have so many months where I post less than half a dozen times. I don’t want to put in the effort unless I think it’s going to be perfect.

But you know what? Perfect never happens, and done can be immensely satisfying.

I identify far too strongly with this Hiraffe from Alekon.

I continue to be grateful to Belghast and the Blaugust community because revisiting blogging at the start of a blogging marathon meant that, if I wanted to win, I didn’t have time to get bogged down in the details. I didn’t spend months looking through layouts, trying to find something that was just right. I picked something that I didn’t find visually offensive, slapped a name on it, and got down to doing what I was there to do, which was writing.

And it’s stuck for over two years now. Sure, there have been fallow times, but I’ve – more or less – kept up with my oh-so-meager planned posts. I’ve tried a lot of things I otherwise wouldn’t have, and I’m getting words onto the screen and sending them out into the world.

It’s not perfect, and it hasn’t transitioned into other projects in the way I had hoped, but man, it feels good every time I hit publish on a new post.

Identifying Your Stumbling Blocks – Staying Motivated Week (#Blaugust2021)

I’m going to make a bold statement here: every person who has ever started a project of moderate to large magnitude has hit a stumbling block at some point in time. They may not have realized it at the time. They may have simply decided the project was no longer worth pursuing and quit. Or they may have gone full out steam-roller mode and just plowed through regardless. Maybe it slowed them down a lot, maybe it only stopped them for a second, but we’ve all been there. We’ve all done it. We may have kicked a pebble or ran face-first into a brick wall, but every one who has done anything worth doing since the beginning of time has most definitely stumbled.

I stumble a lot. Too much maybe. But I think it’s more about what you do when you stumble than the actual stumble itself. And for me, identifying my stumbling block is the first step in getting back on track. Now, when I sit down to blog and I feel like I cannot possibly get myself to write a single word, I look to see if I’m struggling with one of the following issues.

I have absolutely nothing to talk about.

This happens to me most frequently when I’m struggling with things outside of the nerdisphere. Either I’ve been too busy and haven’t touched a game in days, or I’ve been feeling poorly (either physically or mentally) for a prolonged period of time, which wreaks havoc on my ability to concentrate. Sometimes, this feeling also comes from a bit of imposter syndrome, when I cannot fathom why anyone would care about my thoughts on any given subject.

Honestly, this is probably my least favorite stumbling block, and the one I come up against most often.

Normally, my way of dealing with this is to close up WordPress, open up Steam, and just start downloading anything that looks intriguing. One of the benefits of having a large library spanning many genres is that something, eventually, will catch my interest, and although it might take a few days to get back to my blog, at least I stop worrying about it for a little bit.

Alternatively, I go seek out what others are doing for inspiration. Sometimes that means reading other blogs, or creeping my activity feed on Steam to see what my friends are playing. Sometimes, that takes me to Discord or to Twitch or to Reddit. I seek out people actively pursuing the hobby that I’m struggling with. Sooner or later, something will pique my interest, and before I know it, I’ll be back in the game, both figuratively and literally.

I have no visuals to support my content.

More than once, I’ve been tempted to write about something I played on the Switch, but I still haven’t bothered to figure out how to get screenshots from that machine to my PC, and that’d only be helpful if I had remembered to take any in the first place. Or I get deep into a game and sit down to write some first impressions and realize that the only screenshot I took was the title screen. Oops.

Of course, those are irritating, but easily remedied with a little extra time investment. Worse, for me, is when I want to write something that’s not specific to a certain title, and I get nervous because I tend to ramble on, and no one likes a giant wall of text. Do I spend the time creating custom graphics? Do I go hunting through PixaBay for something that kind of sort of fits what I want to talk about?

(The answer to that one is almost always yes, by the way. PixaBay is a gift.)

The irony of me getting caught up here so often is that, mostly, I don’t care if there are images throughout the blogs that I read. I’m holding myself to a standard that I’m not entirely sure even exists. Obviously, having relevant pictures is great, but I’m not sure it’s really required. There’s also no reason I cannot add images after doing the writing work, but … I don’t actually ever do that. I always feel like I need to have all my ducks in a row before I sit down to actually write, so when this one hits, I go find some ducks before I can proceed.

I have no idea why I’m bothering with this blog anyway.

Oof. This is the doozy. This is the one that hurts when I run into it.

Naithan of Time to Loot did a great post that sticks with me about finding one’s motivation to blog. Now I want to stress the importance of reminding yourself of that motivation when you feel like your struggling. Maybe the writing you’re doing (or trying to do) is no longer serving your purpose. Maybe your interests have changed, which has turned keeping your blog into a chore. Maybe the schedule you set for yourself is too limiting, or not structured enough to really work any more.

Do not be afraid to change something that’s not working!!! This is double extra bonus true if your primary audience is yourself. Sure, if your blog is an important income source in your life, maybe you won’t have that freedom, but if you’re a hobbyist? You absolutely do. Embrace that. Write something totally outside your normal flow, even if you don’t actually hit the publish button. Revisit your motivation, reexamine your structure, heck, redesign your layout if you think that might help.

If it feels like work, and it’s not work, then you probably should stop treating it like work and go do something that sparks joy.

Bonus Blaugust prompt idea: Are you familiar with the common stumbling blocks you tend to run into most often? Do you have a strategy for combatting them? If you haven’t really thought about it, consider figuring out your common stumbling blocks and brainstorm the best methods for you for dealing with them.

Blog Features: What *Is* Working For Me

My last post talked about some of the things I’ve tried out on the blog that, for one reason or another, I stopped doing. In this one, I’d like to look at some of the stuff that I’m using to create structure without feeling constrained. These features have been pretty regular in one way or another for a couple of years now, and although my readers may disagree, I feel like they’re beneficial, either for the sake organization or for the content that comes out of them.

Quick Look and Game Over

My Quick Look and Game Over posts are basically the meat of this blog! Sure, I talk about my other hobbies from time to time, but mostly, I’m here to talk about games. I do some MMO content, but most of the games I play aren’t meant to be played forever. When I first start something, regardless of if I’m going to continue it or not, I like to give it a Quick Look, in which I’ll talk a little about what kind of game it is, my first impressions, and usually, whether or not I plan to continue playing.

Once I feel like I’m “done” with a game, I might write up a Game Over, although that doesn’t necessarily mean I’ve gotten to see the credits. These posts are usually written when I’ve hit my satisfaction threshold, and I really feel like I’ve spent enough time with it to give a real review.

Nerd Girl Goals and In Review

Nerd Girl Goals and In Review are my monthly bookend posts, where I look at what I plan to do in any given month, and then what I actually got done. Sometimes, they even resemble one another! Even on my worst months as far as actually writing blog posts are concerned, I don’t think I have yet to miss either of these two.

Community Game-Along

Although I don’t remember exactly how I stumbled across CapsuleJay’s Community Game-Along, I’ve been at least attempting to participate every month since January 2020. I say attempting because some of the themes just really haven’t aligned with the kinds of things I usually play. Sure, it feels a little awkward sometimes, because I think I might be the only regular participant for whom blogging is my primary medium – most of the gamers seem to be more focused on streaming, video, and podcasts.

I’m keeping up with it despite frequently feeling a little bit adrift because it’s both encouraging me to play games I might never have gotten around to otherwise, and because it gives me at least one thing I feel like I need to do in the sphere of gaming each and every month.

Steam Sale Analysis

This is probably my least successful regular feature, but full disclosure? I do this one for me. I like to have a record of what I was considering, what I bought, and how much I spent. I absolutely treat the two major sales (Summer and Winter) as their own games, and even when they’re not that exciting, I still have a good time. I love looking for deals, finding hidden gems, and creeping on my friends list to see what everyone else is buying.

As much as I love the interaction that tends to go a little crazy around Blaugust every year, there’s 11 other months every year, and during those? I realize I’m writing this more for me than for any potential audience. It’s great to get feedback and spark discussions, but I realized pretty early on that I would probably keep doing this if no one else ever read another word. I love having a record of what I’ve played, what I passed on, what upcoming titles sparked my interest, and what I thought about all things nerdy. I don’t intend for Nerd Girl Thoughts to ever be profitable, or even popular, and for me, that’s super freeing.

I would absolutely considering adding more regular features, if I felt they’d be enjoyable or otherwise beneficial.

Bonus Blaugust prompt idea: What types of blog posts do you feel are integral to the experience of your blog? What are you favorite posts to write? Are you writing for an audience, and if so, who do you feel that audience is? How does your blogging benefit you (or how would you like to see it benefit you in the future)? Is blogging your only / preferred medium of content creation, or is your blog part of a larger package?

Blog Ideas That Got Left Behind

… this one too was loosely inspired by Naithin!

Over the past couple of years, I’ve tried out a handful of regular blog posts or personal challenge ideas that have just … fizzled out. Mostly, they weren’t anything I deliberately abandoned, rather things that just fell by the wayside or that weren’t working out for me. In fact, other than the updates around the change of the month (which seem to have settled comfortably into a review post and a goals post), there’s very little that hasn’t changed from the start of the blog.

So what ideas seemed like they were great, but just didn’t work out for me?

What I’m Playing Wednesday

Man, I thought this was such a great idea. Pick one day a week where I would talk about the game that was currently taking up the majority of my game time. Except I didn’t think about what would happen when I was deep into a game for multiple weeks in a row. Or when I was between games. Or when I was playing five different things, but none of them for long enough to have even formed a cohesive opinion. What I’m Playing Wednesday didn’t really make it out of 2019 (although I brought it back for one post in 2020 when I wanted to write about a bunch of games I’d been dabbling in, but had no idea what to call it and it just happened to be a Wednesday).

The Nope List

Initially, The Nope List was a post made up of bite-sized summaries of games I had failed to actually get into in any given month. Then I folded that into my In Review posts, which wasn’t really working for me either because those could sometime get unwieldy due to tossing so many things into a somewhat disorganized format. Starting in March 2020, I did away with The Nope List entirely as a regular feature, although it did pop up again as a convenient way to divide the demos I played during the first big Steam Games Festival into multiple posts.

Ten Games to Tackle in 2020

This category and the next one are kind of intrinsically linked. Going into 2020, I had some big plans mostly centered around really working my way through my library instead of chasing after something shiny and new. Over the years, I’d acquired some games which, if I were to play them to completion, would represent a very hefty time investment, and because of that, they weren’t getting played. They were intimidating. I was starting to wonder if I’d ever actually dive into them.

So I made a list of some of these beefy games, planning to make a dent in them. Another cool concept that just didn’t work for me. I played only one of the ten games for a fairly significant amount of time. I tried out another four, but just long enough to bounce off of them (and if I’m being really honest, only one of those did I dedicate a fair amount of time to before walking away). Which means half the games I selected, I never even loaded up. Sure, 2020 was an unusual year for all of us, but I think the real reason this one didn’t work out for me is that I chose games I felt like I should play rather than ones I really was excited about.

And that loops right into…

Low Spend 2020

Out of all of these, this one is the one that kind of hurt to have had to throw out, and the only one I think was well thought out and could have worked in any other year. I made the rules in such a way that I completely set myself up for success; I allowed for Humble Choice purchases, for subscription game services, for MMO expansions, and to continue being the Steam Sale Santa.

What I didn’t count on was that my non-nerdgirl plans were going to be completely derailed by a global pandemic, leaving me in a kind of dark place, where I would really need the serotonin hits from buying stuff I didn’t need. By the end of April, I was desperate to spend some senseless money. I revised the rules. I gave myself $100 to play with. I thought I could salvage the plan.

And then, I just … kind of forgot about it. I started to have computer issues, and was finding most of the games I wanted to play wouldn’t run. In May, I was still tracking what I bought, but June brought the Bundle for Racial Justice & Equality, and then the Steam Summer Sale, and I formally decided in my July Goal Post to throw in the towel.

In retrospect, I realize that was also about the time I was entering a bit of a mental health crisis, alongside people everywhere who were watching COVID spiral out of control and realizing that this wasn’t going to be over anytime soon. I realize that just buying stuff willy-nilly doesn’t actually fix anything, but I was able to have some experiences in 2020 that I would not have had if I had continued arbitrarily restricting my spending.

Instead, I bought some things I really enjoyed, and some things I almost immediately forgot about. I threw money at cool sounding Kickstarters. I picked up early access titles that I really wanted to support. I grabbed a couple games I probably never would have bought, but my friends were playing them, and we played together. When I look at the big picture, I really have no regrets.

This is a project I might revisit again, but probably not for an entire year, and probably not until the world around us settles a little bit, if it ever does. I do think it was moderately successful, as I’ve been much more conscientious about where my money goes, and I have been looking at alternate ways to get value from my library long after the happy chemicals have faded from the purchases.

Bonus Blaugust prompt idea: Have you tried out any type of regular posts that just haven’t worked out for you? Was it because you changed your focus, your circumstances changed, or perhaps you just jumped into an idea with both feet before really thinking it through? Are there any types of posts you’ve gotten away from that you would like to revisit in the future? What would you do differently if so?