On Blogging: Questions, caramels and developing daily discipline

Forrest Gump If “life is like a box of chocolates,” as his mama told Forrest Gump, blogging about the contents of the box is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle.

For the past several months, I have sat down here at least five, if not six or seven, days each week with one goal: Taking a jumble of thoughts, experiences and memories and creating something that is clear, concise, accurate, interesting and fair. To make it challenging, I do this in the sleepy hour or two before heading off to my day job.

When I see them somewhere in our town on the Mississippi River, friends who read these ramblings often ask varying themes on two questions:

  • What is Brome Hill? (And, FYI, it’s pronounced like Rome, only with a B at the beginning.)
  • Why do you do this? You’re not making any money doing this, are you?

Both questions prove the wisdom of the late Mike “Augie” Augspurger, one of the editors who influenced me early in my reporting days at the Ottumwa Courier.

Mike Augspurger
Mike Augspurger

Imagine that someone from Mars stops in Ottumwa tomorrow and reads this, Augie would say as we debated, line by line, every change he made in one of my stories.

It may have been the 73rd time I’d written about the pending demolition of Ottumwa’s few remaining abandoned John Morrell and Co. buildings, which were razed in 1991,  but Augie insisted each story have just enough background for anyone who would be reading about it for the first time.

So, back to that first question. It’s an easy one and I’ve blogged about it before, but not for a while.

The second one was asked again just Tuesday by a friend I saw at the local coffee shop.  I had no more than sat down when this friend walked in followed by her husband. After they joined me, he said he liked that day’s blog post, setting up her question about why I do something for which I don’t get paid.

It forced me to think about it, which prompted today’s jigsaw. The pieces I’m trying to place in the proper spot, include the following thoughts, experiences and memories.

I spent nearly 25 years as a reporter, learning how to write. It’s a skill worth keeping developed even though I no longer work as a reporter or editor.

In my job now, I raise money for — and awareness of — MCSA, the nonprofit organization that runs the homeless and domestic violence shelters in my town. At a workshop a few weeks ago on successful philanthropic fundraising, the presenters stressed the importance of developing relationships with donors and potential donors. If done well, this blog can be just another way for people learn a bit more about me and my passions, including MCSA. (Anyone who reads this and feels compelled to make a donation to MCSA, may do so here. 🙂 Please indicate you are doing so because of this blog post.)

Finally, John Grisham often occupies a corner of my mind when I get up every morning. It’s been reported many times how Grisham, who was a lawyer and Mississippi state legislator before he became rich and famous, wrote his first novel in between meetings and court hearings.

I can’t afford to quit working in order to write The Great American Novel. So I started this blog, hoping to develop the discipline of writing at least 500 words early in the morning before I go to work each day. My long-term goal is to use that discipline someday to write a book while I continue to earn a living.

So, for now, at least, my friend is correct. I do this even though I don’t get paid. There are, however, many reasons for plugging away at Brome Hill. And who knows? Maybe some of those reasons someday will have monetary value.

But until then, I’ll just keep on plunking away, one word — or one chocolate — at a time.