I’ve been picking up the pace on my blogging lately and thought it would be interesting to share the reasons behind my effort to produce more content.
Before I answer the why questions, though, I think it will be helpful for me to make a few points about my relationship with writing in general.
I’m very self-conscious about words that I publish. I tend to be a perfectionist. I like things to be in order and I like delivering most things I do in close-to-perfect condition. You can imagine how that temperament affects me when I’m preparing something that anyone on the internet can read. This is a blessing and a curse. I have a high standard for quality, but can labor far too long over small things like word choice or sentence structure, which can derail the writing process very quickly. In addition to those struggles, my personality naturally cares what other people think, which generates some level of nervousness about possible feedback. For some people, it’s easy simply not to care. I wish that were me, but confidence in this area has been and still is a learned art for me.
Writing almost always feels difficult. I’m not sure if there’s a point at which capturing thoughts and turning them into words becomes an effortless flow, but if there is I haven’t found it yet. Sure, sometimes words come easier than others, but in general there’s always some sort of battle required in order to force my brain through my fingers into copy.
I truly enjoy writing. In fact, I told my wife the other day that if I was somehow not able to work in the tech industry, I would figure out a way to write for a living. Even though writing is difficult, I relish the process—especially the euphoria of finishing a well-written piece.
So, why do I write on this blog?
1. I write to become a better thinker.
Nothing helps you process something you’re working through quite like putting your thoughts into words. For some reason, things that live only inside of our heads make far more sense than when we try to articulate them. I find that when I need to communicate thoughts, ideas or concepts to other people, I’m forced to think through the subject on a deeper level, often revealing things that I didn’t see or consider before. Consistent effort at releasing my thoughts into the wild sharpens the way that I think.
2. I write to become a better writer.
As I said above, my default setting is to spend countless hours on my writings to make sure they’re perfect before publishing. Editing is certainly a healthy practice, but endless tweaking doesn’t make you a better writer—writing does. In fact, there’s somewhat of a myth around this: quantity is a far better path to quality than a focus on quality itself.
Herbert Lui wrote a great post on this subject1 and included a fascinating quote from the book, Art and Fear2:
The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups.
All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality.
His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group: 50 pounds of pots rated an “A”, 40 pounds a “B”, and so on.
Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot — albeit a perfect one — to get an “A”.
Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity.
It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work—and learning from their mistakes — the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.
With my perfectionist tendency, this is a tough pill to swallow, but necessary if I want to continue to improve at communicating through written word. I recently asked a good friend named John Saddington about this, and he had a great perspective to share. This is an excerpt from our conversation (via HipChat, so please pardon grammatical errors):
Me: one thing i struggle with in blogging every day is that i always face a point where i feel like i’m publishing to publish, not necessarily because i care a whole lot about what i’m posting. how do you deal with that? i was going to create a pressgram about the first time you mow your lawn in spring and thought, ‘that’s so dumb and what i’m writing about it is dumb’ – not in a self-depricating way, but in the sense that i thought, ‘i’m just doing this to get something out there, not because it will add value
John: ah. you see, you have missed the point! it’s not for your audience.. it’s for you first. learning to better yourself with communication is a life-long process… and you’re building that habit now. don’t worry about the audience or the pageviews or all that bullshit… just like building a habit of working out….. sometimes you just have a “grind’ through that bullshit, especially on the days where you don’t feel like working out. it takes time and i still struggle daily with writing… but it’s amazing how i can look back after 13+ years of writing and see how far I’ve really come….. and the impact it’s made on me, my family, the companies that i run, and more.
3. I write because it might help someone.
This is a much more secondary reason to the first two, but my journey has been impacted significantly by people who have taken the time to share their thoughts, learnings, experiences successes and failures. I hope the process of me working to become a better thinker and writer will somehow help people along the way.