Why I write and why I won't [blog]
I've been publishing on my blog since 2006 - something I'm personally proud of. My blog is the personal little space I've carved for myself on the web. Whilst I'm here in the real world, my blog will exist in the digital world, and every single post URL will work (404s are for the weak! 😏).
Back in 2015 I set myself an goal to publish at least two posts a month, for the most part I've managed. I've always been a fan of "easy goals" - something that's achievable without it causing stress - so doing some writing twice a month definitely hit that sweet spot.
This particular blog has been active since 2006, but I had also toyed with more diary-like sites during the early-2000s but the URLs are so obscure not only has the web forgotten, but they're wiped clean from my own memory.
When I started this blog the content was one part wanting to "share" my new findings. I put share in air quotes because the reality is that there was no one I was actually sharing with. It was more of a hope that someone might stumble across my corner.
In addition to inane posts about Flickr Geo Tags I would write short reviews for movies that I had seen. Partly to record the event for myself, but in reality I was practising writing and communicating my thoughts.
Why I write
There's a few real motivations for writing here, and those motivations and the understanding of the impact of writing has changed over the 15 years I've been publishing.
A search engine for my mind
The first is a search engine friendly memory. The majority of the technical posts from the first five years of this blog exist so that I can drop the ideas into text and later search my own blog for the solution.
Tech moves fast and sometimes (or even most times) the solution to a specific problem is extremely specific and tiny that I'd only need it every few years. Instead of keeping that at hand in my memory, my blog serves as a digital backup of my brain.
Secondly was the active practice of writing and communicating ideas. I'm dyslexic at some level (the lower end) and when I was a kid reading and writing were things that "smart people" could do, and I could not, ergo, I was not, and could never be, one of the smart people. Spelling never came easily to me either (I suspect hindered by the struggling in reading) - again, "smart people" could spell. In my 20s I had just accepted this as fact.
However, by regularly writing and regularly reading what I've written and repeating over and over, I've found that my written skills, spelling and grammar have improved, albeit by rote. They're far from perfect and I'm sure this post itself still struggles with grammar but it's leagues ahead of my writing in my 20s.
I also read back my own blog posts, which helps me see mistakes or spot hard to read sentences and through editing I'm able to make small improvements.
Expression of ideas
Through writing and thinking about what I want to say, I'm able to get a better understanding of what I'm trying to communicate to you. This kind of skill helps me in work, in my personal life and even with my kids.
If there's something important or I feel passionately about, being able to communicate clearly is critical and writing helps me practice that communication; distilling the thoughts down to what is at the heart of what I'm trying to say.
Equally, on my own blog, it's sometimes useful to me, that I can brain dump my thoughts without editing, so that they're raw and unfiltered. This method helps me get ideas out quickly without overthinking it too much. For better or worse.
The hidden bonus
Though it's far from intentional, and I cringe at the thought, but in some way, blogging keeps me relevant to the conversations.
In the digital disconnected world I live in, if your blog becomes dormant (and I tend to think in years) this would disconnect you from the active discord we have about and around the web.
Even though I never set out to use my blog as a marketing vehicle, I do know that over the years it has brought me client work. In all the years I've run my business (15 years as of September 2021) I've not once pitched for work. That, I believe, is down to my blogging and my open source work.
Why I won't write
Setting myself the goal of two posts per month was always designed to get over this bump of not writing. To keep contributing to all the points I've already outlined in this post so far.
As I mentioned I struggled with writing when I was younger. When I was in high school, the prospect of writing a 1,000 or 2,000 essay or article filled me with dread. I can still remember sitting my living room starting in the evening and would struggle all through the night right into the morning. I'd feel exhausted and like an utter failure. Getting those words out on paper was neigh impossible and I don't even remember getting a decent grade or report for the work.
Writing is still a struggle at times, particularly when I have longer thoughts to get written down - such as this post.
I posted a tweet earlier this month reading:
I've got so many half written blog posts and I'm totally out of the rhythm of bashing them out Worried face.
I find I start writing and the longer I take, the less convinced what I have to write is worth posting.
I'm my own worst enemy. Always have been. — @rem / 29-Apr 2021
Not only do I now have 70 draft blog posts in varying degrees of progress but I've got a "titles for blog posts" with 10 titles - along with a dozen or so I've since deleted because there was no chance of actually writing them.
As the years have gone on, I find it harder to complete blog posts. There's also a very real factor of time. When I started my blog, I had all the time in the world.
Today, as I write this, I'm stealing away time that I should really be with my family - and just trying to keep focus enough to finish is just not realistic. I have to accept that writing anything that takes more than 20 minutes to get down is going to be interrupted and broken across, at best, several hours if not days.
Writing still requires a lot of focus for me, and getting into that focus leaves me in a position where I won't write. I'll chew a blog post through in my head, but it'll never make it to being written.
This is where most of my posts in the last few years have taken me, literally, 20 minutes to write. If I can't finish as post that fast it risks landing in the land of Draft Purgatory (I'm probably hosing my metaphor but it sounded good in my head).
There's some other truth to this problem of only blogging fast posts too. Patrick Lauke replied to my tweet with:
may also be that with more experience, we realise there's more nuance to things - and the fear of not acknowledging those nuances and covering all angles. oh for the hubris of youth when you just made a tiny discovery or insight and felt compelled to shout it from the rooftops — patrick_h_lauke
In fact, Patrick hits the nail square on the head. A tiny discovery or insight that I felt compelled to shout from the rooftops. This was my blogging process in the early days.
Now some 15 years later, blasting out a post without careful consideration of language, communication and assumptions would just be irresponsible of me - and I know better. I want to contribute better.
This comes to the fore more so with technical posts. I need to carefully test each aspect of the tech I'm talking about. I need to make sure I've not missed some key step that a reader might be following along. I need to include resources and links for further information if something falls outside of the scope of the post.
What's worse is that often those longer thoughtful posts rarely get any discourse at all, and it's those 20 minute blasted posts that actually tend work. Case and point, the post "The web didn't change; you did" was written in a single shot in 20 minutes or so. Unedited, half ramble. Yet lots of discourse.
These are just a few of the things that stop me from writing. I'll still have my goal to post regularly and hope that it's a low enough of an expectation that I can keep it up for as long as this site exists.
Originally published on Remy Sharp's b:log