In this post I will explain five specific reasons why I find writing content for this website to be a valuable activity.
Why do I think I need to explain this?
I bought my first domain in 2008. (Not this one.) I'm also a programmer who has built lots of websites over the years for different companies. I spend a lot of time online, and lots of people I see online have their own websites. Some have blogs, some have online businesses, and some have one page interactive resumes.
After a while, I sometimes forget that most people I speak to in person don't have their own websites. If I mention mine in casual conversation, others react like it's a novel oddity that I have this thing.
On several occasions, I've been directly asked, "What is your website for?" or "Why do you have a blog?" or "What do you write about?"
If people I know in person already know of my website and my past blog posts, they still often seem caught off guard when they realize that I've written more since the last time they looked, or that I still have a website a year or two after the last time it came up in conversation. "You still write on that thing?"
To be fair, some of that surprise may stem from me not writing on a consistent schedule. However, I believe the real crux of what people wonder is why I bother at all. What reason could I have to write here? Why do I feel the need, and what purpose does it serve? They don't understand, and I haven't always known how to explain it to them.
(I don't notice people with Facebook accounts being questioned like this though.)
Well, this post is my attempt to explain why I blog. It can serve as an explanation I can point to whenever I'm asked the relevant questions in the future.
The reasons below are not in any particular order of importance.
Reason #1: Posts can be answers to questions.
This post is a good example for this category; it's an answer to people wondering why I bother with this whole website and blogging stuff.
My posts sometimes contain replies to questions that fit one or more of these situations:
- I don't feel I can answer eloquently or thoroughly in person and need some time to think.
- The question comes up repeatedly and an honest, consistent reply is easier to write once.
- My answer is complex, and casual conversations often demand pithy replies that lead to wrong or incomplete impressions.
A few more examples of questions I've tried to answer with posts are:
- Do I want kids someday?
- Why don't I have a Facebook account?
- What makes me think that digital piracy isn't theft?
Reason #2: Posts are conversations I would like to have with friends.
Maybe it seems self-centered to write a lot of words about yourself online (though my posts aren't all just about me), but really, it's a way for people to get to know me if they want to. I'm handing everyone with an internet connection a short cut. These are the topics I spend time thinking about, and these are the things I enjoy talking about so much that I will type them out for all to read, even if I'm only ever talking to myself in the end.
An amazing number of people who know me in real life know of my blog, or looked at it once, but don't really read it. That is a good filter for me. If a friend just doesn't read, or finds the things I write too boring or long-winded to ever finish, well, we can still be friends. But if I'm honest there will always be certain experiences we just don't share and a level we don't click on.
I don't expect friends to agree with everything I write though. I don't even agree with all the stuff I've written in the past. It would just be nice to be able to talk about these things with people. One of the best side-effects of writing here I can imagine is that someone reads some of my posts and becomes a good friend that can be a part of conversations that inform and incubate better posts.
Reason #3: It's a form of self instruction.
I find writing to be a way of organizing and refining my thoughts into something better than anything that originated in my head.
Trying to explain a thing, whether to teach others or just write coherently, forces this organizing and refining of concepts. The exercise of jotting down ideas, collecting ideas into a draft, and iteratively improving the writing through rewriting and filling in conceptual gaps allows me to learn things I wouldn't otherwise know. Seeing my own words externalized in front of me allows me to notice gaps in my logic, play with the words, cut extraneous details, and re-order arguments. Once I've finished a piece of writing, my opinions are never exactly the same as they were when I started. The process teaches me.
In fact, this is something I need to work on. I think I should be posting more during my process instead of waiting to share until I've reached some conclusions.
Reason #4: Posts help me track my opinions over time.
Over the course of my life, my opinions have changed. That's a good thing, because it means I haven't stopped learning. I know this, but I'm not sure I could accurately model what my opinions were at any given time if I tried. Our memories aren't good enough for that kind of thing. It's not uncommon for people to decide things and then forget what they decided.
If I rely solely on what my memory says I used to believe, past me has ideas that look suspiciously similar to ideas I think are true now. But looking over my past blog posts, I can quickly pick out several where I now think the opinions I expressed were wrong. Blogging (along with private journaling) leaves evidence behind that I can check later to understand how my opinions are really evolving (or not) over time.
Reason #5: It's a way of sharing information in public.
I used to vaguely think I would like to make money from a blog, and that writing posts was a performance I could somehow monetize if I did it well enough or in specific ways. I wasn't clear at all on how to go from blog posts to money, and I wasted a lot of time trying to learn about blogging as a business.
I no longer want to pursue blogging as a business at all. Yet my blog lives on, and writing in a publicly visible space is still a valuable activity in my eyes.
If there's a chance that something I write can help someone else, or be used as a building block for more ideas, then writing in public is worth the effort. Ideas beget ideas, and being completely original isn't necessary.
There's also a degree of accountability. Once I put these things on the public internet, they are in some sense on my permanent record. This public visibility incentivizes organizing, editing, and generally polishing my writing to avoid looking too much like an idiot to readers. I think this results in higher quality writing than what I would get if I was writing for my eyes only.
And above and beyond Reasons #1 and #2, public visibility gives me a chance to get feedback from others.
You can't be a part of a conversation if you never say anything.