I’ve come to believe blogging is a useful practice with a shoddy reputation. A friend recently asked what I did during the coronavirus lock-down to stay sane. When I told her I revamped my front garden, she nodded knowingly. But when I told her I also revamped my blog, she cringed. Her cringe was the full-body kind, starting in the eyes, moving to the mouth and then finishing strong with a slight recoil. I get it too; a blog is an excellent place for non-experts to share their expert advice, and non-writers to pump out poorly constructed prose.
Following her mighty cringe, my friend asked me a big question, “Why do you bother blogging?” For me, keeping a blog isn’t part of a content creation strategy. It’s a tool I use for getting clear on what I think, testing and bettering ideas and letting people know what I’m about.
Getting clear on what you think
Most people think writers write because they know precisely the thing they want to say. They imagine a special kind of human who’s ideas are just there, ready to be extracted. For many of us, though, getting to that excellent idea takes a lot of looking. The search for good ideas is where writing takes on a different purpose — we need to write to get clear on what we think. Blogging is one way to unearth your ideas and then sharpen them.
I take my blogging queues from Marc Weidenbaum, who recently celebrated the twentieth anniversary of his blog, Disquiet.com. Marc has this to say about blogging:
Don’t leave writing to writers. Don’t delegate your area of interest and knowledge to people with stronger rhetorical resources. You’ll find your voice as you make your way. There is, however, one thing to learn from writers that non-writers don’t always understand. Most writers don’t write to express what they think. They write to figure out what they think. Writing is a process of discovery. Blogging is an essential tool toward meditating over an extended period of time on a subject you consider to be important.
By taking this approach, my blog has become a kind of workshop for idea discovery and betterment. I think of it as like keeping a garden. You want to create a fantastic garden with great plants. So you plant some seeds, tend to them and see what happens. Then you do that over and over again.
Sometimes you grow the wrong thing; sometimes you’ll plant the right thing but in the wrong season. Some plants will fail to thrive, some plants will die, but with effort, care and attention, over time, your garden will take shape. Who knows, you might occasionally grow something brilliant and unexpected.
Put ideas to the test
I’ll confess something to you. Sometimes my ideas terrible. In particular, they tend to be awful when they’re formed in my mind alone. I’ve realised that ideas need to get out in the world and socialise to be any good. Putting your thoughts out there lets you find holes and weak points, and discover things you’d have never considered if you kept your ideas safe and private.
A blog is a simple way of saying, “Hey, guys, what do you think about this?” The results of sharing in this way aren’t limited to the virtual world either. I find once you capture a thought in a blog, it slips out into “real life”, popping up in conversations and work. And real life is where the most robust testing goes down.
The thing I thought What if it’s dumb? The thing I thought, it seemed so sharp inside. If I say aloud the thing I thought, it might reveal a lie. A lonely idea is never good; it needs to mix and fly. So I’ll tell my friends the thing I thought and brace for their reply. It may just shake the thing I thought— see it change, improve, or die.
What are you about?
If you write in a blog over some time, you’ll eventually end up with a catalogue of your thoughts on topics that are important to you. There might be a few dud posts, but for the most part, you’ll likely build a pretty clear representation of what you’re about. The upshot of this is that other people can then be pretty clear on what you’re about too. Sharing your thoughts in this way does one of four things:
- Nothing at all
- Connects you with like-minded or like-hearted people or their work
- Strengthens your existing relationships by giving those who know you a chance to deep dive into your perspective
- Helps people quickly realise you or your thoughts don’t mesh with them.
Blogging can be an excellent tool for unearthing and growing ideas. Your intention, your process and your perseverance will ultimately determine its value. It seems something can be worthwhile and cringeworthy at the same time.