Should I Start A Blog?
Last week, I convinced two people to start blogs. Any week I convince someone asking “should I start a blog” is a good week.
I finally realized why I try to convince people to start blogs after I heard Seth Godin talk about blogging in terms of “learning how to see.”
That’s it: blogging teaches you how to see.
The most common response when I tell someone to start a blog is “I don’t have anything to say,” but it’s actually a chicken/egg problem: You don’t have anything to say because you haven’t started a blog.
It’s sort of the same thing as the cliche (but true) line that “the best way to succeed in business is to be in business.”
When you have a blog (or podcast or facebook page or twitter or newsletter – don’t get hung up on the medium), it forces you to interact with the world in a different way.
I remember after starting my blog I had this sense that I HAD to do something interesting with my life or I had to think something interesting in a way that I hadn’t before.
For about three years I wrote my blog on Saturday mornings after the work week for my job was over. I remember being terrified to sit down on Saturday mornings and have nothing interesting to say. My rule was that I had to publish something before I ate lunch so I could stall, but not that long because I would get really hungry.
Knowing I had a deadline to publish something, I started trying to do things and to see the world in a way that I hadn’t before, if only to not look like an idiot on my blog.
It worked. Having in the back of my head all week that “I have to write a blog post this Saturday” taught me how to see in a way that I would not have learned otherwise.
I’m grateful and happy that my blog turned into something more than just a tool to teach me to see, but if my blog had gone up in a poof before I ever made a dime out of it, that was enough.
Once you start to see the world in an interesting way, there’s a virtuous cycle where you attract people that also want to see the world in an interesting way.
Then, those interesting people help you do interesting things and think interesting thoughts which you get to blog about. This will take you past the blogging idea threshold, you will never “not have anything to say” again.
I probably read this post by Derek Sivers 50 times in first few years of my blog when I asked “why am I doing this?”
The TL;DR is that you used to have to move to LA/NYC/SF/London/etc. to meet interesting people but now you just have to start a blog. There are shades of grey to that, but it’s more true than it’s ever been.
But What if My Blog Sucks?
It will suck. My blog sucked. When I look back on my first stuff now, I cringe. Hell, when I look back at what I wrote a year ago, I cringe. This, however, is a good thing because it means I have learned to see (and communicate) now in a way that I couldn’t before.
For the most part, no one remembers your crappy stuff. Academics are judged on “their best 5000 words.” If you write one amazing paper, you can build a whole career on that. That’s true for bloggers too.
Most people never get to their best 5,000 words because there are at least a few hundred thousand crappy words between where they are and those 5,000.
Ira Glass, the host of This American Life, says in this two minute video (transcript below)
“What nobody tells people who are beginners — and I really wish someone had told this to me . . . is that all of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, and it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not.
But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase. They quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story.
It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”
The most important thing you need to start is a deadline. I tinkered with a blog for a long time before I figured out that my Saturday morning hunger deadline was the magic ingredient.
Because the deadline was coming, I couldn’t do or see something interesting “later,” I had to do it now.
Which is to say, for those asking “should I start a blog?“, you should definitely start one (or a podcast, or a Medium account or a Twitter account or Facebook Post series or an email newsletter) and set a deadline.
P.S. It can be anonymous.
P.P.S. Joel Runyon has a technical how to start a blog guide, if you know of other good resources for technical how to start blogs, podcasts, newsletters, etc. please drop them in the comments.
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Mark Snell says
Great article, I love the idea of a deadline and will implement my own, thank you. As for the short form, I love it. To be honest I have at least 2 browser tabs open to your longer articles that I’ve started and never finished…
Hugo Dahl says
Agreed! Both on the article, as well as the short form. With 2 young kids at home, I have a difficult time finding enough contiguous time blocks to read more long-form articles.
Taylor Pearson says
Noted Hugo 🙂
Taylor Pearson says
Thanks Mark, appreciate the feedback 🙂
Liz Froment says
Add me to the list! I started a new blog that sort of grew organically off my 25 year plan from TEE.
Taylor Pearson says
shaurya jain says
What do you think about having a journal Taylor ?
Taylor Pearson says
Big fan! I find that I like having once a week where I sit down for a couple hours and really process stuff. I outlined my basic method here: https://taylorpearson.me/weeklyreview/
Your blogging is top tier brother. And that Derek Sivers article is golden.
Taylor Pearson says
Thanks Marco! Love Sivers 🙂
Cam Collins says
Add me to your list but with a twist. Your post and the link to the Derek Sivers post helped me to restart my blog (http://camcollins.com). I wrote my first blog post in 2007. I had no deadlines and I wrote articles whenever I felt like I had something interesting to share (which was not often). Around 2010, I started to get more consistent and with the help of a VA and I was able to post an article per week. My opt-in list reached over 1,500 by 2012. When I sold my business in 2013, I stopped blogging. I would write the occasional personal post (like when we went to Bali for 6-weeks) but the articles lacked focus and consistency.
My first post of 2017 is being published this Saturday!! My plan is to start the writing process on Saturday and then post by Wednesday. An excerpt with a link to the post will be posted on Facebook, Twitter (Buffer: Wed/Sat) and Facebook.
In terms of long form/short form…my feeling is that the overall strategy shouldn’t be one or the other. If it takes 10,000 words to convey your message, then that’s ok. If you can make an impact in 500 words then great. I have used the multi-part method made popular by Chis Brogan where I would break up a long post into 3 parts and publish each segment weekly. However I question the effectiveness of this as people tend to lose interest if it’s not all right in front of them.