Why I started a blog?
On how I persuaded myself to experiment with writing in public.
Writing is a struggle. For some reason, it’s a type of effort that I enjoy. As far as I remember, I’ve liked putting words to paper. Throughout my professional creative career, I’ve continued to write, mostly in design and business context.
Writing is important. It’s an increasingly necessary skill to participate in a global culture in a way that matters. For example, writing is an integral part of my current job, and I’m primarily a graphic designer and an art director (not a copywriter or an editor).
If we assume that’s true, why so many of us choose not to practice and hone that craft?
Instead of that question, we ask a myriad of others. We question ourselves. Why write if you don’t necessarily have to? Why write publicly? How dare I claim something? Does the world really need another blogger?!
While I could find endless excuses why not to start a blog, I’ve managed to dig out a dozen of persuasive reasons on why I should actually give it a go.
Here’s my top six.
I believe writing is a useful skill. And I would like to develop that ability further. Skills should be practiced, and what better exercise than a public one. Stakes are much higher. The goal is to harness the potential of what author Robert Greene describes as the death ground (inspired by Sun Tzu’s military strategies). That’s precisely how I became good at graphic design. By continually doing it, often in public, for years and years. Looking back on my past creative efforts, a lot of it was sub-par, but that process got me to where I am today—comfortable with, and sought-after, for those skills. In my experience, actually doing something for real is the best way to learn. And you have to start somewhere. Additionally, I hope to provide value to you, the reader, receive your feedback and use it for improvement.
2. Better thinking
It’s been said by many writers, in various iterations: Writing helps clarify thoughts. That’s definitely true for me. Most often I can explain ideas more adequately if I write them down. As David McCullough said: “Writing is thinking. To write well is to think clearly. That’s why it’s so hard”. And that’s one of the reasons why it’s so worthwhile.
3. Getting into the zone
When I’m in the midst of writing something, I often lose a sense of time, environment, myself. I go into the zone, or what Steven Kotler more appropriately defines as flow. According to Steven, flow is an optimal state of consciousness, when we feel and perform our best. For example, when we are in the flow state, creativity gets up to a 7× boost! Lucky for us, his research discovered that flow states can be triggered by various inputs. Personally, writing (and publishing it) is packed with flow state triggers including high consequences, immediate feedback, the challenge/skills ratio, and clear goals.
4. Creation vs. Consumption
By in large, the contemporary culture encourages consumption. We only have that much time and mind/body resources on any given day. So more consumption results in less creation. I hope that the daily task of making a blog post can encourage me to maximize the habit of creation and sharpen my instinct to finalize and share what I’m working on. At the end of the day, I want to be the best creative professional that I can be.
Overall, I think jealousy is not a useful behavior. Whenever I see a personal blog, especially by a fellow creative, I get jealous. When I can’t avoid that feeling, I try to use it strategically. Over time, I’ve learned to harness that energy as a compass on what I might actually want to do in my life. But please don’t get me wrong. Jealousy is not a map with precise directions. It can merely point in the right direction. There’s a difference between desiring something because it seems cool and wanting it for an intrinsic reason. Soul searching can be an excellent way to figure that out, but if you are still not sure, drop the excuses and just go for it. It’s the ultimate test, and I decided to take it.
6. Seth Godin
I consider Seth Godin as one of my most influential mentors. I’ve never met him in person, but I read his books, follow his blog, listen to his talks, and take his courses. Whenever I implement his advice, I learn, grow and largely benefit. There’s one suggestion Seth mentions over and over—to have a practice of daily blogging. Here’s one of his riffs on the topic:
Blogging is free. It doesn’t matter if anyone reads it. What matters is the humility that comes from writing it. What matters is the meta-cognition of thinking about what you are going to say. How do you explain yourself, to the few employees, or your cat, or whoever is going to look at it?
How do you force yourself to describe in three paragraphs why you did something? How do you respond out loud? If you're good at it, some people are going to read it. If you are not good at it, and you stick with it, you'll get good at it.
This has become such a micro-publishing platform that basically you are doing it for yourself, to force yourself to become a part of the conversation... And that posture change changes an enormous amount.
And that’s my final reason. Seth is my teacher. I trust him. And he gave me some homework.
While working on this post (and blog, for that matter), I’ve done a lot of research and read various resources about the topic of blogging and writing. Here are a few nuggets by some of the bloggers who inspire me.
Writing is transformative. It changes you, and the reader. You get feedback from the reader and learn from them. You get accountability and you have to reflect on what you’re learning. You become greater from the attempt to overcome the fear.
How to Put Your Writing in Public, Leo Babauta
When I started in 2012, I did it purely for myself — to untangle the knots in my head, to find and make peace with my voice, to lay my inner wall of confidence brick by brick. And through the habit of writing, my thinking sharpened. I became a more curious and humble reader. I spent more time on reflecting and giving thanks.
Write in 2016, Julie Zhuo
For me, doing it wrong is a gift and there are not many people who have the courage to do it the wrong way. The moment we understand that “the wrong way” just means “our own way” we know we’re on the right path.
Doing It Wrong, Tobias van Schneider
Everyone should blog, every single day. If you are in public making predictions and noticing things, your life gets better, because you will find a discipline that can’t help but benefit you. If you want to do it in a diary that’s fine, but the problem with diaries is because they are private, you can start hiding. In public, on this blog, there it is, six weeks ago you said this, 12 weeks ago you’ve said that. Are you able everyday, to say one thing, that’s new, that you are willing to stand behind. I think that’s a huge wonderful practice.
How Seth Godin Manages His Life — Rules, Principles, and Obsessions, Seth Godin on The Tim Ferriss Show
Because I’m a human and my mind is an asshole, I forget it every time. This is how you write: You just start.
This is how you write, Matthew Trinetti