It seems we are once again blogging about blogging. Such is life.
(When I talk about blogging here, I am mostly talking about what Tom Critchlow calls "small-b blogging", or maybe "sincere blogging" as I have called it. Basically blogging that isn't designed for pageviews or scale.)
Again, I can second that. He then elaborates different attempts at getting people into blogging. Most attempts failed (second that). Most people just give up after a while, citing various reasons: nothing important to say, too difficult to write, too much friction involved, the workflow doesn’t feel good, not into webdesign, don’t have a server, etc. Objectively, most of these are excuses are nonsense, but subjectively, they are of course perfectly valid.
I felt that, in my soul. So many of my IRL friends tried to start blogging back in the aughts but among them I believe only one is still blogging, and only sporadically (which is fine! Better than nothing!)
In my RSS reader I still maintain a category of feeds named "Old Friends, Now Inactive", in the hopes that maybe someday one of those feeds will suddenly have a new post.
Although I have known and sometimes befriended other bloggers online, among my IRL friends I am the lone blogger. Even in the broader terms of content creation, I'm the only one I know IRL who dives into things like Twitch streaming. (That's not entirely true - I do have a cousin who also streams on Twitch, but we aren't very close anymore so we don't really talk about it.) I'm pretty sure very few of my IRL friends even read my blog!
It's understandable why people would feel like they can maintain a blog. Even setting aside the technical stuff, blogging is hard. Heck, simply writing is hard. A lot of people don't know how to express themselves that way (which is probably an indictment of traditional educational systems), and so any kind of writing is often a nonstarter.
Even among people who are already inclined to write, writing in public comes with it's own challenges. I have a friend who regularly posts lengthy reviews of games, movies, etc to our group chats and a while back I asked him: "Have you considered writing your reviews somewhere other than the ephemeral well that is [[our group chat]]" and his answer was basically along the lines of:
- doesn't want to maintain a blog (I did not follow-up on what part of "maintaining a blog" he has trouble with)
- he was scared of emotional damage from internet feedback, even from non-strangers
- he would feel obligated to review stuff all the time
These are, to me, mostly anxieties to be overcome, and they can only be overcome by becoming comfortable with yourself and your writing.
Coincidentally, I also ran across a Hacker News post titled "Why Blog At All"?:
I think it boiled down to a realization that no one really gave a damn about me, my writing/work/creations/etc. So then, what's the point? Is it entirely ego driven? Chasing dopamine hits when your post or your project is tweeted about?
I think there's this misconception (driven by our world of late-stage capitalism maybe) that anything you do, even as a hobby, has to be done for the sake of extrinsic gains such as hits or views or likes or shares or even monetary profit. Those things are nice probably, but if you're getting into something for such gains, it really may become difficult to sustain.
For me, blogging and maintaining this website are a hobby that I enjoy. The same way that some people enjoy tinkering with cars or old computers or cosplay or such, I enjoy tinkering around with this site, writing posts, figuring out the best writing style for me and so on. I don't do it because I think I'll make a profit or become famous or whatever. I do it because it gives me joy.
There's also the misconception that you have to be writing about a particular topic or niche all the time, which Wouter also covers a bit in his post:
... The problem I think is that, especially for people in the tech world, they think they have to write about tech, which gets boring after a while—or they get burned out on the tech employed at work. This is just a misconception. To me, the more weird and personal a blog and its writing subjects are, the more interesting and more fun to read.
I have tried, in the past, to spin-off more focused blogs (about topics like Django, MTG, or Comic Books more than once), but they never last. I'm not the kind of person who can stick to a single topic or genre all the time (it's why I have so many different hobbies), I'd get bored so easily. So my blog always ends up covering a bevy of topics, mostly whatever interests me at the moment.
So, blogging is difficult, yes. Keeping a blog running for years (not to mention almost two decades) is hard. It takes time and energy, and you need to be the kind of person who enjoys expressing himself through writing, otherwise you will be unwilling to part with that time and energy. If you follow the archive link earlier in this paragraph you can see even I had some trouble keeping up - some years were very lean and had very few posts, mostly due to busy work days. The worst one was 2014, with a measly 3 posts! Now that I have more free time, I have the luxury of blogging regularly, but whenever I look back over those lean years I do wish past me had somehow found the time or energy to write more during those years.
Despite the difficulties, I think blogging is worth it. You don't even have to be consistent or regular or anything, but I think you have to enjoy it. I think the benefits change for different people. If you write mainly about a particular topic like tech, it can even have direct benefits in terms of your career. For someone like me who writes more about personal happenings and a wider variety of topics, some of the benefits are:
- improved introspection and self-awareness
- the ability to clarify or solidify your thoughts through writing
- improves/hones your writing and your thinking
- a "backup brain" that's available online (on the go) and easily searchable. It's async read-access to your brain!
- when someone asks you "What's your opinion about X" and you've already written about it, you can just link them to the post or even just cite parts of it
- can find people who share similar interests
If you're really worried about online feedback, you can in theory get some of these benefits from non-public writing / journalling (and I actually do that too!), but you miss out on some of the other benefits. I wrote a bit before about why writing publicly can be important:
These days, everyone can have a platform for writing, whether it's in one of the social media silos or your own site like this one, so the whole "writing in public" thing isn't so novel anymore. But even in this age, not everyone chooses to participate in social media, not everyone tweets or posts all the time, and that's fine. I can accept that writing in public isn't for everyone. But to have that voice, that ability to express yourself and share your human experience with others, to have stories to share and advice to dispense and objections to raise - to have it and not to exercise it in a meaningful way? For me that seems a waste. And so I write.
(I thought about attaching a header image of some sort to this post, bit felt that might be disrespectful to blogging as primarily a text-focused activity.)
I am 99.9999% sure this is not the last time I'm going to blog about blogging.
Edit 2022-04-18: This recent SMBC strip felt relevant.