Just write something

Blogging is scary, until it isn’t.

A post about why I’m trying one more time.

Have you seen those Field Notes™ branded notebooks?

I love them. 48 pages or so, lovely designs, good for scribbling, cheap enough that they’re almost disposable 1, easy to keep in a pocket. I’ll go through at least half a dozen a year, wide-eyed at whatever innovation they come out with each quarter.

Have you seen those Midori notebooks?

I love them too. 170 pages, beautiful paper, just so beautiful, you won’t believe the beauty, like seriously they’re so pretty. I was given one as a present a few years ago and am scared to sully its purity with my inanity.

The medium matters.

I’ve done some kind of blogging, on and off, since 2003. I had a two-post LiveJournal, a few different WordPress instances, multiple Tumblrs, a Squarespace page. The habit’s never stuck because I’m this messy inconsequential ordinary person that gloms onto something for a while and then moves on. A blog is a life’s work! It’s a permanent reflection of you, indexed and saved and searchable! What possible post could ever, ever stand up to the test of time?

How could I sully the internet with my in-the-moment scribbles?

In May last year, I asked on Mastodon why people blog long-term. @hl very generously wrote an entire blogpost in response which I’ve gone back to again and again:

By writing out my ideas and publishing them publicly where someone could read them, I’m forced to be clearer and hopefully more coherent. It’s not important that anyone actually does read them, but I need the fact that I’m trying to communicate the ideas to someone else to make me look critically at what I’m writing and thinking.

[ … ]

I’d like to be braver about writing about personal topics. As I get older I find that I value this more in other people’s writing, and I am becoming more interested in how they were affected by events and experiences.

“Yes!" I cry every time I reread these two quotes. “That’s precisely how I want to blog!"

Writing is an easy skill; writing with simplicity and clarity is really tough2. It’s something that only comes with practice. At work, I teach my team about narrative structures so that the insight reports they create and deliver are easy to follow, and we sometimes go over a report again and again to make sure there’s a clear, simple flow that makes a complex problem easy to follow. I like to think I can write well but aside from a gentle bit of private journalling when do I ever practice that skill?

In recent years, never.

And looking at those past blogs anything I have posted has been a chin-stroking pontification that (and I’m being honest with myself here) is mostly boring. If I’m being generous there’s some vaguely insightful stuff back in my 2012 post about a new music streaming service but it’s buried in 2000 words of naval gazing. Who cares?

My blog should be my scrappy Field Notes™ notebook-of-the-moment. A place to fling occasional ideas and to be unafraid of sharing who I am. Instead it’s this scary Midori of perfection where I’m think I’ll sound stupid especially when I look back in five years' time.

But that’s changing.

Joining omg.lol3 at the very start of 2023 has been revolutionary. I wanted a one-page profile website and instead I got a full suite of really lovely web-based tools. I started updating a page on what things I’m doing every week. I’m getting into the habit of sharing what I’m doing in a few lines every day. I’m in contact with a really lovely community of people on Mastodon.

And it’s got me blogging again4.

I had a personal anniversary in November. I wrote a little bit and it made me feel better. I shared it amongst that community and a few people kindly read my note and commented so compassionately.

Goodness, that felt cathartic.

Over the past few months, I’ve occasionally gone back to some of those old blogging attempts of mine and, where possible, brought the posts back to my current blogging site. I’ve got this archive covering nearly 15 years and though there aren’t that many actual posts it’s… nice that they’re here. I like that I can what I was listening to in 2012. It’s got me flicking through albums I’ve not heard in a decade and really enjoying them.

I’m finding myself wanting to post frivolous things, an exciting new band, a thought on something elsewhere on the internet. I’ve not quite felt brave enough to do that yet… but here I am. Messy and imperfect.

Maybe it’s ok to open the Midori now.

  1. Damned if mine are getting destroyed though. They’re kept pristine in a special Field Notes™ archival box, I’ll have you know. ↩︎

  2. Especially when you have a propensity to use semi-colons. And words like ‘propensity’. ↩︎

  3. A referral link, sure. Snip off the ‘referred-by’ part of the URL if you like. I won’t take it personally. ↩︎

  4. But, ironically, not blogging using the omg.lol tool. But that’s a post for another day. ↩︎