“Writing has so much to give, so much to teach, so many surprises. That thing you had to force yourself to do—the actual act of writing—turns out to be the best part. It’s like discovering that while you thought you needed the tea ceremony for the caffeine, what you really needed was the tea ceremony. The act of writing turns out to be its own reward.” - Anne Lamott
Often times I find myself with a seedling of a blog idea, but end up not executing that idea. This blog post is a reminder to myself—and for others who read—of reasons to publish that blog. This is also a living blog post that I’ll modify over time.
Reasons not to blog
First, I’ll document my usual reasons for not blogging more. My goal here is to document these so I can come back to this blog post and say “Hey, I’ve definitely felt this before!”
- It’s hard! Writing down the seedling of the idea is easy and fun. But when I have to expand on it with detail I encounter a lot of resistance and it becomes less fun, sometimes even tedious.
- I’ve read a lot of books on writing, and it’s enjoyable to apply those methods, but of all the practices I’ve read about writing I’ve probably only applied 5% - 10% of them. This makes motivation to write much more difficult, because I am aware of all the things I’m not doing when writing a blog post.
- It puts my reputation at risk. The expectations for the quality of a blog post are unwritten - is someone coming to my blog expecting an in-depth, book-quality explanation of a concept? Or are they fine with a more casual exploration of something? Is it something I’d want a future employer to read? Is it mistake-free? There are lots of opportunities for a blog post to reflect poorly on me depending on the audience.
- I feel I often don’t have enough to say about a topic - is there really enough there to constitute a blog post?
- Another reason I don’t blog is that I’ve read someone else’s blog post on a certain topic - and it might be better than what I would write.
- I don’t have time! It takes me quite a while to finish a blog post and I almost always have competing activities for my attention.
Reasons to blog
Now that I’ve documented reasons not to blog, I thought the best way to overcome these justifications would be to come up with a rebuttal for each of them.
- It’s hard. Yeah, and learning how to do anything is hard and uncomfortable. And it’s nice to get better at the “boring” parts of doing project beyond having the initial idea and relying on novelty.
- I know all the good practices I’m not doing. This is true, but I think I’ve also incorporated more and more of them over time. It would be impossible to write something that followed 100% of all of the writing practices I knew about given what I write about. In addition, I think some more sophisticated writing advice is either conditional or subjective, and not always appliccable.
- My reputation is at risk. On one hand, this can be motivation to do a really great job with blog posts, but on the other hand, the best way to prevent someone from finding any mistakes or errors is to not publish it at all - so that’s not helpful. What I would rather have is readers who have correct expectations coming into reading a blog post. It might make mistakes! I might not cover what you want! What’s great about blogging, when your blog is backed by collaborative verison control, is that people can make issues or pull requests against your blog! Every time this has happened it makes me feel so good that someone has actually read my blog and put in the time.
- I don’t have enough to say. Short blog posts are fine! Living blog posts that get continually updated are also great! In addition, I often find I have more to say after I get started with writing something down. Writing is often a generative process for me, so even if I feel like there isn’t much there to start, I should at least try and do something more with those ideas by outlining and structuring them or free writing around them.
- Someone else wrote it better. This might be true, but someone reading my blog might not have read the original blog post. In addition, I might understand something differently than the original author of the post, or be making some connection to something else, so it’s usually always worth it to write my post—unless it is going to be 90% the same, then I should just refer people to the other post. Either way, the internet is a big place and there’s lots of entry points to content, it never hurts to create another entry point for someone who is new to a topic.
- I don’t have time. I need to invoke my future self here, because it’s likely I also won’t have time in the future as well! I think I’ve only gotten busier in my life and career as time has progressed. Blog posts can save time for future me - I’ve used my posts on Cython and Julia as references while I’m working.