Blog ennui

I think I have blog ennui. In regard to my own posting, that is — I still enjoy reading others, and still get exciting about discovering great posts on unheralded blogs. But I have a rapidly diminishing interest in the products of my own pen. For the last few weeks, posting anything here has seemed a chore. The thrill is gone. Anyone know any cures?

*

There was snow on the ground for the fifth morning in a row, an inch and a half of fresh powder — well, not powder, exactly, but just sticky enough to cling to branches and the furrowed bark of the black walnut trees in the yard, where three squirrels chased each other, spiraling up and down the trunks first one direction and then the other in mad, headlong spurts that left little puffs of snow behind them, like clouds of exhaust. A couple minutes of that, then over to the lilac where a pair of them disdained the natural pathways the branches afforded, treating them instead like rungs on a ladder — and barely slowing down. Maybe the weird weather is getting to them, I thought. Sitting inside, I heard nothing from their chase, but I know that sound of claws scrabbling on bark so well, I can’t replay the scene in memory without hearing it, in the same way that I can’t remember the characters in a subtitled foreign film speaking anything but English.

*

cardinal pair in snowstormThis afternoon, I watched a cardinal make threatening gestures at its reflection in the window, diving and fluttering. This wouldn’t seem at all remarkable — cardinals are among the most notorious of reflection-fighters — except that this was a female cardinal. After her third sortie, her mate flew in and perched in the bush below her. I wondered if she hadn’t learned this behavior from watching him in past years. Perhaps she was trying to lead by example, feeling that it was high time he start defending territory so they could get this breeding thing underway. If so, it obviously wasn’t working. He continued to sit in the bush, looking just a little nonplussed.

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave's writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the "share alike" provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).

25 Comments


  1. 1. Impetuously but politely declare that you are quitting.

    2. Attempt to quit.

    3. Pretty soon you will have the itch again.

    I’ve noticed this with quite a number of people, the latest being writer Clare Dudman. I was very glad to see her back again!

    Or perhaps you should just have some guests over for a few rousing scribbles…

    I like the nonplussed cardinal. The whole scene was so human.
    Squirrel exhaust was rather charming as well.

    Once I saw a very amusing, frolicksome squirrel chase, round and round and high tree. Suddenly the young lady squirrel lost her grip and fell. It was a slapstick moment, all at high speed. But she never got up again, and her beau was confused and bemused, feeling his way round and round, until at last he went slowly away.

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  2. Sound advice from Marly, me thinks. Personally, I’m trying to hold back a bit, like every other day. Actually, what I really want to do is get back on the bicycle. I’m getting a genuine touring cycle, for long-distance traveling through the North Country of Vermont and New York.

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  3. I dunno. As soon as I force myself to stop for a specified time, the itch returns. “The power of sin is in the law,” quoth Paul.

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  4. I think it’s an epidemic going around. Weird behaviour all running smackdab into spring pretending to be winter.

    Whydya think I’m doing dumb haiku?

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  5. Hey! marly and Alan commented in the eight minutes it took me to puzzle over what to say. No conspiracy, honest!

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  6. Oh, I think you’ll get over it, Dave! I get days like that too. Take a break for a FEW days…

    Love the image of the squirrel chase – have seen that around here too.
    Is that a mating game? And the male cardinal pretending not to be hen-pecked…

    Hope your spring returns very soon.

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  7. My suggestion for blog ennui: take a month off, and maybe in your spare time go visit a few new local places.

    Last August I just tanked – I was busy, I was tired, and I was worn out with the heat. Taking a month’s “vacation,” refocusing on other projects, going a few places, and not thinking about posting at the blog was really helpful for me.

    I came back fresh for the beginning of autumn, and had a whole bunch of new ideas and pictures to share with renewed enthusiasm. Posting a note to let readers know I’d be out worked well.

    Best of luck,
    JLB

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  8. For me, substituting pictures for awhile usually helps the words to return.

    Of course, sometimes an extended silence also gives me time to think some new thoughts.

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  9. if you lived round here ’bouts, they would say, “dave’s got sprang fever, he’s went out mushroom hunting and won’t be back till he’s well over it and back in his own mind, somebody else better be a doin’ the chores fer now”
    To me, though, seems you have painted yourself into a corner of polite obligation, by answering your comments so faithfully and kindly. That is wonderful and refreshing for your dear readers, but sometimes it turns the faucet on a little faster than the spring box is filling up.
    Just wait till it gets warm enough were you are to go barefoot again, you will be all renewed, energized and gloriously generous again!

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  10. Wow, thanks for all the feedback! I think maybe admitting I’m feeling this way may have helped a little. In regards to the specific suggestions, I do think a hiatus is the best way to renew my enthusiasm, and I am planning one, starting in the middle of June and lasting for six to eight weeks. I’m just hoping to keep posting regualrly until then. As Loren says, concentrating on pictures is one thing I can do. I’d also like to get back into posting audio clips (though the slight nausea I feel at having to re-read my writing is nothing compared to what I feel on listening to my own voice!). Alan’s suggestion of more physical exercise is a good one. And I agree with Zhoen: I’ve noticed a lot of bloggers slowing down, especially once they passs the three-year mark. In my case, maybe it is spring fever, as Cady May suggests (but I certainly don’t mind the obligation of answering comments – that’s the fun part!).

    As for the squirrel games, the females are supposed to come into heat in late January around here, but some of them seem to have missed that memo. (Or maybe the wintery weather is triggering something?) I just watched an amorous pair in the woods about half a mile from the house. See here for much more on gray squirrels.

    I shouldn’t really describe it as chasing, BTW – it’s more like follow-the-leader. When the female stops, the pursuing male usually stops, too.

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  11. I’d have to agree with Cady May that you have the seasonal affliction. You need some ramps. Ramps and eggs. Ramps and fried potatoes. A skillet full of ramps with a little vinegar on the side. There’s a world of ways to fix them, and in a pinch, you can eat them raw (if you live alone or if everyone in your household eats them raw too).

    They work wonders, and you don’t need a lot to set yourself straight. Some people swear by sassafrass tea or bitter greens (dandelions work in a pinch), but I think ramps work best. Any ramps left in Pennsylvania?

    It’s a couple of weeks too early to hunt mushrooms in Pocahontas County, although I think we’re going out today anyway.

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  12. Ramps, huh? They do grow around here, just not here on the mountain. I’ll ask around. A ramp sounds exactly like what I need right now. An on-ramp, that is.

    Thanks!

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  13. You’ll get over it. I always seem to. And spring’s coming; this prolonged end-of-winter greyness has a lot to do with it, I think.

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  14. Yeah, that old blog ennui! I have periodic bouts of that, but all it takes is an insightful comment or the discovery of a new place to explore and photograph and I’m off and writing again!

    Here in Missouri we’re in the midst of a protracted spring cold spell after a couple of weeks of balmy weather. The morels are biding their time beneath the leaf duff and everyone is cranky. C’mon, spring, strut your stuff!

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  15. The wise thing to do is probably not post for a bit and wait for the inclination to find you again. Personally I tend to try to grind on through to make sure that something is appearing in the front page even when I don’t feel like it, but I expect it’s pretty obvious when I’m going through the motions.

    I guess I worry that if I left it for a few weeks it would just turn into yet another abandoned project, like all the (paper) journals I’ve started which just have a few days-worth of entries in them.

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  16. Like they’re all saying, go walkabout for a while. We’re not going anywhere. We’ll be here when you get back.

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  17. Then there’s always my approach: scheduled sepuku.

    It concentrates the mind wonderfully. And not knowing if one will return, that’s part of the thrill.

    But, somehow I don’t think you’ll go for it…

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  18. beth – I hope you’re right! (About spring coming, too.)

    Larry – Getting off the mountain a bit more would probably help. Maybe my mill just needs more grist.

    Harry – Like you, I’ll probably keep posting something no matter what. But I need to train myself to stop worrying that if I don’t post for two days in a row, all my readers will drift away.

    Dick- Thanks. As a matter of fact, I’ll be gone from Thursday through Sunday, so we’ll see if that helps.

    Teju – You’re right, I won’t. I’m afraid I’m more like Harry than I am like you in my approach to blogging and journal-keeping. I like this blog a lot; it gives me great pleasure to come here. It would feel almost like an act of murder to take it down.

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  19. I’ve been suffering from a bit of blog ennui myself. I have no doubt that it’s apparent lately. I believe it’s tied to something along your comment, “Maybe my mill just needs more grist.” The cold weather has dragged on, occasional snow, and still no Wood Frogs behind the barn. Last summer, I was often racing back to the house to empty my camera and write about something I’d seen. Lately, the photos languish in the camera for days until I finally pull myself together and force myself to download them — only to find a bunch of ho-hum white, gray and brown dead-grass and bare branch images. Yes, as you commented a couple of days ago, this weather is getting pretty old.
    I’ve found that it helps to just blog when I feel inclined and not worry about trying to put something up each day. That helps. No doubt, when things pick up outdoors, I’ll be back to my “I can’t wait to post this” feeling. Maybe you’ll feel much the same.

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  20. bev – I’m sorry you’re feeling this too, but i must admit I’m glad for the company. Yeah, it’s tiresome photographing – let alone writing about – the same old things. And I love winter, as you know. But I’m ready for spring. My fear now is that we’ll have one of those speeded-up springs where everything blooms at once, the leaves open and before you know it it’s mosquito season again.

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  21. Well, the mosquito onslaught is inevitable, but I’m hoping it will hold off until this year’s tree order arrives and everything is planted. Last year, the tree order didn’t arrive until around May 7th, and lemme tell ya, it sure was nasty trying to plant trees while giving blood to the local forest inhabitants.

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  22. It’s true, there’s a seasonal epidemic of blog fatigue – or blotigue. But we’ll all get over it. Re-inventing one’s blog is a good trick, changing the look etc. I think I’m about due for that since I’ll have passed the four year mark later this month.
    But don’t change yours, I like it the way it is.

    What are ramps? What is sepuku?

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  23. bev – Better mosquitoes than black flies, though, I’m thinking. (I was so ready to leave Maine when I was five!)

    Natalie – You’re right – fussing with one’s blog is good cure for blogtigue, as you call it. I do like the theme I have now, and would probably only change it for something I designed myself. Which, given the current state of my abilities, will probably be just short of never.

    Ramps are a kind of wild leek popular as a spring tonic in the Appalachians. Seppuku is the correct way to say harakiri – Japanese ritual suicide. (It’s the same two characters, with the Sino-Japanese pronunciation in the first instance and the native japanese pronunciation in the second.)

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  24. Oh, don’t condemn them to tonic! They’re tasty and have a pleasant smell of spring.

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  25. Write haiku instead. Or satire. Or a screenplay. Or gobbley-gook. Write what the fluttering cardinal would write, what the squirrel would write if they made tiny laptops or pencils for hyperactive critters with clawed fingers and toes.

    Or take a break. But the story by the critters might be more fun.

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