After nearly a year at Razorfish, I’m resuscitating my blog. Why? Because blogging gets me out of the weeds and makes me smarter. In a way, I kind of think blogs are dead. Or more realistically, they’re just not as important as they were 6 or 7 years ago, when self-publishing was a transformative facet of the online experience. But for me, the practice of blogging is so very useful—it wakes me up to the interest and meaning of day-to-day things, and not doing it for the past year has made me dumber and less happy.
Here are a couple tidbits about how I approach blogging in a way that really works for me:
Never mind the audience.
If you’re trying to get famous blogging, you’re wasting your time. 99% of famous bloggers didn’t get famous by blogging—they have popular blogs because they’re famous, not the other way around. So don’t write for your audience. Write for yourself!
Nobody’s going to care. But more importantly, writing for yourself means no apologies and no excuses. You’re accountable to yourself alone for the quality of your thinking and for deciding what’s interesting and valuable to pay attention to. You’re the one who decides what matters—avoid trying to be popular and you’ll avoid the echo-chamber.
I’m not saying disrespect your audience! Don’t publish junk. Take pride in what you write, but take pride in how your thinking represents you, not in how much ephemeral attention or “popularity” your posts generate.
Always be blogging.
I’ll typically have a few dozen posts in draft mode at any given time. Every time I hear something interesting or have an idea I want to remember, I start a new post. (I use Windows Live Writer, which I think is still the best authoring tool out there.) Maybe a quarter of my draft posts ever get finished. So I essentially keep a long running list of things I’m thinking about, and whenever the ideas develop a bit I spend 5 or 10 minutes adding to the post.
Who cares if I waste time on posts I don’t end up publishing? The point, for me, is to keep thinking about stuff, not to finish anything. And because I’m not writing for a nonexistent audience that isn’t waiting with bated breath for my next post or who will stop loving me if my next post isn’t for another month, there’s really no pressure to finish posts. Writing for myself sure is less stressful!
Don’t try to “keep up.”
Forget about linking to other bloggers, cruising the web looking for relevant places to comment, etc—all the conventional wisdom from 5 years ago about how to build a following for your blog is less than unhelpful—it’s counterproductive to the development of original ideas.
And creating commentary on the hamster wheel of industry news is a waste of time. I actually think there’s a new kind of domain knowledge these days, and it’s less about collecting the full set of information, the traditional way of looking at mastery, and more about knowing what amidst all the noise you need to pay attention to because it matters. Filtering, not accumulation.
Don’t try to keep up. Instead, think hard about the stuff that sticks.
When I interview people, I always ask what they think the brave new world will look like. This is my way of understanding how well candidates can filter out the noise and tell a clear story about what really matters. And blogging is the way I get there, personally—which means not trying to be an industry commentator, but trying to be bigger than the industry, being about culture not news.
Anyway, if you’re reading this, I look forward to your feedback. And in return I promise to start actually blogging again!