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Blog Struggles: It’s The Rituals That Help Us Focus

Blog Struggles Article SeriesI travel. A lot. As I type this, I’ve just flown back from Israel, over 24 hours on planes disconnected from my computer and the Internet and my life after two weeks in one of my favorite places, where every day brought new meetings, interviews, explaining blogging, talking WordPress, meeting old friends, making new friends, some exploring, shopping, and too much to do in too little time. Slightly jet lagged, I stand in my small motor home after getting off the plane, taking a nap, and driving 6 hours north to Seattle to speak at another conference, then falling down to finally sleep…which brings me to this moment, back in front of my laptop, connected once more to the Internet, and you.

After working out this morning, I turned on the laptop, a long tedious ordeal of loading wait as all the bits and bytes that I need for my business and life are processed.

I reach over for my Grundig shortwave radio and turn on or (if I can get it) and the world news comes to me.

My tea pot and tea mug in my motor home, photograph copyright Lorelle VanFossenI go over to the stove. I pour water into a small silver pot I brought back from Israel years ago, typically used for making Turkish coffee, to boil two cups of water for my tea. I light the stove and place the pot on the burner.

I reach into a basket near the sink for some green tea. Hmm, today I feel like…something stronger. The green box of my favorite Gun Powder Green Tea calls to me. I scoop a spoonful into my small traveling tea strainer over one of my favorite tea mugs, a red and white plastic cheap cup from a collection given to me several years ago by two of my dearest friends.

I smile as I look at the black logo with a touch of orange on a field of white that reads “Parts + Plus: Not Just Parts…Parts Plus.” My friend’s husband spent decades working in the auto parts industry and this was one of his product promotions. They’d helped me almost two years ago when I’d “kidnapped” my father for a warm winter along the Gulf Coast of the US. The motor home over-cab nose had collapsed, the window sagged and open to the weather and rain. We rebuilt the whole nose in four days. They also helped outfit the motor home for us to travel, giving me four of these plastic cups. My father and I drank many a cup of tea during our four months of cross country traveling. Now, I’ve inherited the motor home and these cups bring back those memories.

I sigh and think of home, over 400 miles away, where my husband is still sleeping for another thirty minutes. If I were home, I know the routine. The alarm would go off and he’d roll over and hit the snooze for another 8 minutes, and then again, and again, unable to get out of bed in time because I’m not there to push him out. I muse he’ll be late to work again.

On my desk at home, hand made of mahogany and red oak by my husband specifically for my computer and working needs, sits my other tea mug. It’s covered with kitties, two of which match my own, another gift from my same friends. It feels circular, and makes me smile more.

Waiting for the computer and water to boil, I reach into the barely working refrigerator and curse the fact that I haven’t had time to replace it, a daily mantra in the old motor home, and pull out salat arahkoat, also known as the Israeli Salad, Arab Salad, or Turkish Salad, depending upon where I am in the world. It consists of finely chopped vegetables with a dash of lemon juice and other spices, depending upon your taste. It usually includes cucumbers, tomatoes, onion (green or otherwise), then others add radish, kohlrabi, lettuce, peppers, mint, parsley, zataar, and whatever else catches my eye and taste buds. My favorite is simple, restrained to cucumbers, tomatoes, onion, and kohlrabi, with maybe some mint leaves and peppers.

This is my breakfast, a breakfast typical of much of Europe and the Middle East, a breakfast frowned and gagged over by many Americans who believe bacon and eggs, hash browns, and grease or “enriched” cereals coated in sugar to get them going in the morning. Because of this, when I’m traveling in the United States, I often breakfast alone which serves me much better as the morning is often my most productive time.

The tea boils and my computer sings it’s welcoming “I’m starting” song at the same time, a funny coincidence. I pour the hot water over the tea and scoop into my small bowl of salad, enjoying the lemon and mint spark among the crisp vegetables. I rinse the bowl in the sink and then take my Parts Plus mug to the table where I stand before my laptop which now tells me I’m online, connected to a free WIFI connection within the neighborhood I’m staying in on this trip.

I silently thank all who provide free access to their WIFI Internet system as my fingers move over the keyboard and mouse to open , , and , my main tools for work.

Thus begins my day of work blogging.

I begin with checking comments on all my different blogs, responding, editing, deleting, and marking as spam the comments that accumulated. As I read through the comments, pausing to sip my green tea, thoughts come to mind for articles, which I quickly note in NoteTab, my text editor, so I don’t lose them later as I move through the comments on each blog.

At some point, my actions move from automatic to concentrated creativity, and my hand strays to the radio to turn off the outside world so I can focus.

My morning ritual is complete. Now, I’m focused on my work, ready to respond and write.

Blogging Rituals

Our lives are filled with rituals, the habits and consistent behaviors we repeat which bring us comfort and propel us through our day. You might be unaware of them, or take them for granted, but you have them.

We all do. We create them and maintain them as they bring us comfort and familiarity. Moments repeated that bring us a sense of sameness, consistency, and something to anticipate and rely upon.

I find comfort in my morning cup of green tea and salad before I plunge my brain into the Internet. No matter how nuts my day will become, I have this quite moment before it begins and the world rushes in to disrupt it.

When I don’t have this moment, my day quickly turns to mush and time gets away from me. Things pile up. Everything is disrupted. I can’t focus. Things get done but there is no sense of accomplishment. I feel scattered.

As I wait for the tea and computer, munching my salad, my mind is quiet, one of the few times in the day. I stop myself anticipating what I will write today, do today, meet today, or what will slap me upside my head, disrupting my life. I don’t think about bills, or how much harder I have to work today than I did 10 years ago to make the same amount of money, or how I’m going to pay those bills. I don’t think about anything but the moment.

The news from around the world fills my head for a few minutes, one of the few times in the day I catch up on what is happening outside my small world. I rarely have access to television or time to see a movie, so the radio and Internet are my only sources of news, unless someone tells me personally that a country is blowing up or someone only slightly deserving has won some big award while the efforts of the really deserving are still unheralded.

The news pushes out my own intimate thoughts, giving my brain a respite, thinking of something that doesn’t involve blogging, WordPress, photography, writing, genealogy, and web technology. It’s like recess at school.

During the day, if I can work uninterrupted, I will get tangled up in my thoughts, as they wrap too tightly around ideas in my head, strangling the creative outlet. Again, I will move to heat more water and start another cup of tea, time for another recess, returning slightly recharged and refreshed.

My little rituals keep me going all day, be it my break for lunch, dinner, morning workouts, afternoon walks, and evening hot tub soaks. While I look forward to my working hours with joy, knowing I’m going to take a break soon also fills me with peace and anticipation, moving me through the day.

Unfortunately, with as much traveling as I do, these rituals are getting harder and harder to keep.

What Are Your Blogging Rituals?

In my travels, many bloggers have shared their blogging rituals with me. Some rush to their computers when they wake up, even before they hit the bathroom, eager to plow through their feeds. Some have to rush to work, so think about their blogs all day, pulling them through the hours until they can get home and back to their blogs and virtual “real” life on the Internet.

Some work immediately, then take their recess break mid morning, finding their energy lasts longer through the day if they take a break in the morning and another in the afternoon for their change of brain pace. In Europe and the Middle East, I found many who cannot function without their afternoon nap, be it for 20 minutes or an hour, in order to make it back to their blogs with a refreshed spirit and body.

One blogger I met told me that she can’t write unless she’s wearing her favorite sweater, a big bulky, worn knitted wonder. She calls it her blogging best friend, acknowledging the sweater as her psychological crutch.

We all have our rituals and when they are disrupted, we get anxious, nervous, headachy, and even temperamental. They keep us going through our day and our blog. What are yours?

Blog Struggles Series

This is one of an ongoing series of articles on blog struggles, the challenges of blogging as I see them from 14 years of experience.

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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen, member of the 9Rules Network, and author of Blogging Tips, What Bloggers Won't Tell You About Blogging.


  1. Posted December 20, 2007 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    Excellent article!! I found myself wanting a cup of tea, but unfortunately, I’m out!

    My blogging routine is that I don’t really have a routine. I read through my list of subscribed blogs throughout the day whenever I have time. I work full time, so I have to at least be somewhat productive in my “real” job. As inspiration hits me, I might jot down a couple notes for myself, which are e-mailed at the end of the workday to my personal e-mail account.

    When I get a quiet time in the evening, sometimes before dinner, sometimes after, I sit down with my laptop and start writing the day’s blog. Twice a week, my posts are “wordless,” and I post an image. On Sundays it is one of my photographs pulled out of my archives. On Wednesday, the picture could be anything that strikes my fantasy. Sometimes it’s one of my own, usually it’s something I ran across on the Web somewhere.

    Thanks for stirring some thought about what I do to pull together my blog.

  2. gemini1968
    Posted December 20, 2007 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

    I love this question. I’m pretty much of a planner. I jot notes during the day on the bus coming into work and while I’m @ work if an idea hits me. I always keep a notepad available because you never know when lightning will strike. I usually write at night or on the weekends if I have time. I write in long hand first. There is something about putting pen to paper that is very soothing.

    I’ll transfer to my text editor and I’ll usually write for the week, get things queued up and ready to “publish” in WordPress and that’s it. Organization of thoughts is important to me so planning out the blog a week to 2 weeks in advance is a critical part of my ritual for me.

    Thanks for sharing yours.

  3. Posted December 21, 2007 at 2:58 am | Permalink

    I love these kinds of ‘personal’ articles… Thanks for that point of view!

  4. Posted December 21, 2007 at 5:05 am | Permalink

    Welcome home, Lorelle! A 24 hour travel day is draining, isn’t it?

    My blog routine? I read *many* more blogs than I write. The first thing I do in the morning (early, early morning) is to do a quick review of the blogs on my bookmark list. I might read a paragraph or two, then make a mental note of which articles to read more fully later in the day.

    Then I wander over to the blogs that I control, check and delete all the spam from overnight (it’s funny how blog with few readers and fewer commenters always seem to be found by spammers, however!) and see if there is a comment or two that I might need to respond to.

    Pretty boring routine, no? 🙂

  5. Posted December 21, 2007 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

    I have a routine that I follow, although the timing changes. My two kids are unschoolers and home with me, so I have to be flexible. When I have my druthers, I prefer to work early in the day, break for lunch and a short nap, spend until my daughter’s bedtime with my kids and husband, then go back to the computer for a couple of hours at night.

    When I sit down at my desk, I light a stick of incense, put on my handknit woolen socks because my floor is cold, and have my notebook in front of me to jot down things I want to remember or work on next. I have a big white coffee mug but it often holds tea.

    I’ve just discovered WordPress after using blogger for my first blog for a year. I love your blog and have learned so much from you. Thank you and please keep the posts coming. I also like your salad because I hate lettuce but love tomatoes, cukes, onions and olives.

    Shine On,

12 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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