Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Simplifying Complexity

I started this blog four years ago today. I had a somewhat vague idea about what a blog was, and why I wanted one, but it was only through the actual writing of posts that I discovered what this blog is about. 

I'm not going to say what that is just yet, because I've had a sense, for some time now, that the focus of the blog has been changing. It was just a vague feeling for awhile, a sense that the blog was holding me back, was no longer what I wanted to spend time on or write about. Now that I've done a bit of analysis, I can see what that feeling is due to. I can see what has changed.

Take a look at this graph. It shows the number of posts per year on topics from two broad categories: (1) complexity science (the blue bars); and (2) writing (red). The data confirm the vague sense I had that I was no longer posting much about science. I hadn't realized, though, that posts about my writing life had actually crept in to take their place. In fact, the average number of posts per year (around 40) has not changed since 2010. What has changed is the content.

Number of blog posts per year in two broad categories - science and writing

Although I have had this vague sense for quite some time that my blog's purpose and focus has changed, I didn't want to confront it. I thought I "ought to" be writing about science. After all, I'm still interested in science -- I think about it, talk about it, read about it -- I just don't do it anymore. That has been true for a long time, actually. I gave up my lab almost ten years ago, published my last science paper nearly that long ago, and made a successful transition to what I considered a "second career" in science funding administration and, then, science writing.

I find it rather ironic and maybe even a bit amusing that I've figured out what's going on by taking a look at the data and analyzing it. Maybe I'm still more of a scientist than I'm ready to admit! This is just the way I think, though, and I can't seem to stop myself from looking at the world this way.

Anyhow, the upshot of this analysis is clear: this blog is no longer primarily about science. It probably never was, actually. It has been about all those things which interest me, one of which is science. In recent years, especially the last couple, I have been much more interested in writing and publishing than I have been in science. Anybody who is around me would not be surprised to hear this -- writing is what I do now. It is my full-time "job" (the quotes mean that while I consider it my job, very few people have ever paid me to do it) and it is what's on my mind. Hence, it's what I want to write blog posts about.

So, in the new year, I'm going to be doing some updating to the blog, primarily in the tagline area and description box for the blog. You won't see a lot of changes in the posts, although I hope this attempt to simplify the complexity of my life by writing about what I'm actually thinking about, will free me up to post more often. Only time will tell, I suppose -- and next year, at this time, I'll do another analysis of the posting data and we'll all see how well I succeeded.

In the meantime, take a look at my guest post over at the #amwriting blog -- today's post is my list of recommended books for writers. If you have a writer in your life and are looking for a gift idea, consider one of these great books. And if your favorite writing book didn't make it onto my list, please leave a comment with the details. Who knows, it may end up on my own wish list this year.

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