Last night I dropped myself down a blog-browsing rabbit hole, including adding the discovery feeds of Write.as and Bear Blog to my feed reader, and somewhere on the way I ran into Joel Hooks having some thoughts on what works for him and what doesn’t when it comes to writing online.
Seriously. The idea of a “blog” needs to get over itself. Everybody is treating writing as a “content marketing strategy” and using it to “build a personal brand” which leads to the fundamental flawed idea that everything you post has to be polished to perfection and ready to be consumed.
I’ve started to wonder how widespread is this view of blogging. Not too long ago, in a post on self-belief, I mentioned Whiona having similar complaints about what happened to blogging. Also, I wonder how much of this view is based upon Google likely ranking those sorts of blogs higher than anyone’s random, personal blog.
(It’s a case, perhaps, of extraction needing things to be “of use” and there’s not much “of use” from the standpoint of productivity and scale to be found in a random, personal blog.)
Anyway, the point is that Joel decided that his site is much more of a digital garden than it is a blog, and it’s really only just now that I realize my difficulty with that particular concept.
It isn’t that I have any problem that people have digital gardens instead of having blogs. Obviously, do what works for you. That’s, in fact, where it falls apart for me: I cannot cognitively grasp writing garden-style because it’s too much of a database for my narrative-inclined brain.
(I can’t find it now, but last night I also ran across someone else, not Joel, proclaiming their site a digital garden rather than a reverse-chronological blog, and yet their site literally was organized and presented as a reverse-chronological blog. This confuses me even more. I’ve risked hoisting myself on this petard before, but: words mean things, and they need to mean things.)
At any rate, as often seems to happen in the “bloggers on writing” (or “writers on blogging”) world, there are other people to bring in, too. Sara (who we’ve seen here before on the subject of self-care) also had some thoughts on writing.
There’s a lot of good stuff in here, including the idea that blogging is “learning in public” (which, I’d say, takes a certain sort of weird hybrid of hubris and humility to do), and “the principle, that each person is responsible for their own experience.”.
But this also means, that I am free to write about whatever I want to. I don’t need to chase the niches or popular stuff or whatever. Not that I know what is popular or anything, even if I ignore how popularity can be context specific.
That does not means, that I write about anything I find important. Writing is also a way of thinking, so it is much more likely for me to write about things I am trying to figure out, than the things that I have already figured out.
This brings to mind, yet again, Mandy’s thoughts on writers and talkers, specifically the idea that both talkers and writers are involved in thinking. They aren’t just talking to talk or writing to write, but doing the thing that helps them think.
(Then again, there’s this from Paul D. Wilke: “Talking is easy, but eloquence takes work. Writing is more challenging but leaves something tangible behind. Writing reifies thoughts, turning them into durable things out in the world.”)
In the latest edition of Manu’s series of interview with bloggers, Jim Nielsen makes a similar observation that while it’s more about the process of blogging easily can be read more expansively about what the blogger gets out of writing in public.
The best part of blogging is what you discover and learn experientially along the way.
Being useful for me is the primary use case for this space on the internet. It’s not that I don’t care about you, but this is for me. It’s here so I can record what I think and know and preserve it in time and space.
In my post about reclaiming mediocrity, I stated off with a mention of something posted by Neville Morley:
I have tried to cultivate that classic motto of mediocrity, ‘I just try to please myself, and if anyone else likes it that’s a bonus’.
I still don’t know if that’s truly some sort of classic motto of mediocrity, but it’s arguably the motto of the kind of blogger—or, indeed, digital gardener—who pre-dates the age of content marking and influencer culture. Certainly, it’s a motto that never could be applied to the latter. Most of us are just out here alone, thinking and learning out loud in public.
- The next day, I’ve been catching up on my Rob Horning, and he says some familiar things on the subject of writing.
Mainly I resist video watching (and video making) because I have convinced myself that I only really think about things by trying to write about them, and only the practice of making and remaking sentences disciplines me into not just accepting at face value whatever it is other people or machines are saying.
He adds: “Generative text is palpably repellant in part because it seems to lack this quality of thinking ideas through live on the page.”