In hindsight, I think I may have started the How To Be A Crappy Blogger series off on the wrong foot. I omitted something essential. While I’m more than willing to throw myself under the bus with the hope that you benefit (and I hope I’ve delivered on that promise so far), I forgot to tell you the single most important thing: why I firmly believe that blogging is really, really important for those of us looking to improve.
Blogging is a sandbox
When setting out to get our act together, we’re going to have to experiment at first. We’re going to have to try things, we’re going to have to suck at them for a while and several of our ideas and initiatives are likely to fail. A blog gives us a contained environment in which we can test ourselves. It requires us to make and keep commitments. It lets us learn new technologies and shows how they can both speed up, as well as improve our work. It demands new skills and helps us to improve on our existing strengths. It’s a place where when we make a mistake, they happen in a contained and controlled environment.
Blogging is a commitment
When we decide to write for yourself, when we decide to keep a journal, we’re making a promise to ourselves. Most of our track records aren’t great here; even a cursory look at the success rate of New Years Resolutions will confirm that for you. If we skip a day, we overlook it, we come up with some pathetic excuse for why we “just couldn’t.” When we take the same commitment and make it public, we’re held to a higher standard: the expectation of others. That may sound like a great reason not to start a blog, but if you struggle with consistency public commitment may be exactly what’s needed to ensure you keep it.
Blogging is a practice
As someone who is naturally inclined toward the inconsistent, the idea of delivering five posts a week was frightening. But what started as a struggle slowly and painfully turned into a practice. It took a long time. While writing quickly became a habit, I still felt like it could fly away at any moment. It wasn’t until I pushed through habit and into practice, that I truly understood the value of what I had been doing for the past eight months. There isn’t a version of the world that I can imagine now where writing isn’t an intrinsic part of the way I look at the world. Unlike a habit, a practice goes deeper; it isn’t something that is just as easily broken as it is created. It’s a part of you. A writing practice is a great place to start and a blog is an ideal venue. If you really want to become a better version of yourself, you need to stop making the kinds of habits that break and start forming practices that last.
Blogging is a skill builder
A blog forces you to pick up a few new tricks. While you don’t need to know how to code a damn thing (I don’t), you are going to have to figure out the basics. You’re going to learn how to set of set up and maintaining a site. You’re going to learn how to format and post you’re work to the web. You’re going to discover tools and tricks for spreading the word about your work. Setting up a self-hosted blog1 can seem frightening to many, but once you get start working your way through the process you realize that it’s more intimidating than it is challenging. This willingness to embrace, rather than eliminate new technologies can help push you forward, both on your blog and in any endeavor you attempt.
Blogging makes you a better thinker
I don’t care how smart or how stupid you think you are, regularly taking the time to work through your thoughts gives them a new kind of clarity. The more you write and unravel the mess in your mind, the better you become at it. Thinking, like exercise, gets easier with practice. As you grow stronger, you reach further. Take the time you would normally spend wandering off in front of the TV and spend it at your keyboard. It will bring you far closer to your goals and your thoughts than any quality time you’ll squander on the Kardashians.
My efforts to improve began with the creation of this site. At first, it suffered many of the same pitfalls as other projects I’ve struggled on in the past, but over time it has grown into a safe place to experiment, to reflect and to grow.
So if you’ve been wondering why I’ve been going on about learning to be a better blogger, here’s why I think you should be doing this or something like it in the first place. When you commit to writing for a site, you begin to see the world through blog-colored sunglasses. You naturally become more mindful as the very act of writing requires you to think deeply about your actions and interests. Committing to write (and in my case, committing to doing it publicly) was the start of something important for me. It was the beginning of a better understanding of my own mind, something that I think a lot of us who struggle could really use.
I hope these answer the few questions I’ve received asking why I’m both a big proponent of blogging and why I plan to spend a decent amount of this site’s time talking about how you can be better at it.
and dear god people, self-host your blogs ↩