The toughest part of blogging is keeping up the urge to blog seven days a week. This post, inspired by Orwell, started out as my quest to find out why I blog, but it kinda evolved into an outline on why you should too.
Trust me on this one: blogging’s tough to keep up with, there’s no clear end game but it’s totally worth it!
So blogging newbies, if you’re expecting a quick return on investment with your new hobby I’d say, don’t even start. You are likely to shed your blogging interest much like a New Year’s resolution:
“Avocational” bloggers are likely to drop off simply because it’s hard work to keep up the pace. Writing an insightful 700 word article several times a week, for no or little money, is far more taxing than snapping a photo or sending a 140 character tweet. That’s part of the reason a 2010 Pew study showed that the rate of blogging was declining among teens and young adults, who were instead spending their time on social networks.
But if you’re willing to stick with it, read on. Here’s why blogging matters to every single one of us (yes, every one reading this post):
1. Blogging gives you a voice
Blogs traffic in ideas and as a professional if you’ve ideas other than what your boss demands of you in a daily job, than a blog is the best way to share it widely. Quora or LinkedIn or Twitter sure help, but you’re playing in somebody else’s playground. I say build a blog yourself and it’s all you. You own your words, your ideas.
Writing is still the clearest and most definitive medium for demonstrating expertise on the web. But as thought leaders like Gary Vaynerchuk have shown with video blogging and fellow HBR blogger Mitch Joel with podcasting (i.e., audio blogging), as long as your content is rich and thoughtful, you can still build up a massive following and reputation regardless of your channel. In an information-hungry world, there will always be a need for expert content. And there will always be more readers and “retweeters” than there will be creators.
2. Use that voice with purpose
If you want to have an impact, you might as well be the one setting the agenda by leading with your ideas to influence the world. Reminded me (yes, I think of most things in life as a Steve Jobs quote) of something Steve Jobs said:
When you grow up you tend to get told the world is the way it is and you’re life is to live your life inside this world; try not to bash into the walls too much, try to have a nice family life, have fun, save a little money.
That’s a very limited life.
Life can be much broader. Once you discover one simple fact and that is everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you.
You can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.
Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.
This thinking echoes one of Orwell’s motives for writing:
Political purpose: Using the word ‘political’ in the widest possible sense. Desire to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other peoples’ idea of the kind of society that they should strive after.
And, I think any good blog or book has a serious purpose. The rest of them blogs are boring as hell; kinda like some of the older posts I wrote in Act II of writing this blog. A mistake I don’t plan on making again.
3. Blogging sharpens your mind
Nothing clarifies the mind better than the concerted effort to write a blog post. I learned this from @adamnash who, besides being a prolific blogger himself, also used to be a strong advocate of product managers on his team writing posts for the company blog as an exercise in thinking through product features from a user’s perspective.
What’s true for product managers is true for any professional across the board. Much like the iPhone’s limited mobile real estate forces designers to surface the most important features efficiently, a blank page on a blog forces you to channel your ideas on topics that mean something to your career.
Open an empty word document and try writing down the first thing that comes to mind about your “job” today.
Try it, it’s a liberating act.
4. Blogging helps you connect the dots
Facebook may connect you with people you already know, but knowledge networks like Twitter or Quora connect you with people you gotta know. A blog is the epitome of this dynamic.
I’m still good friends with the first group of bloggers I stumbled upon when I started this blog. Folks like Ann Handley, Jeremiah Owyang or Mack Collier among others. As time progresses, your thinking evolves, you focus on areas your mind leads you to (in my case – social networking) and you find other equally insightful bloggers to friend.
Fact is: blogging expands your circle of professional connections but more importantly guides you towards people who are more in line with your professional thinking.
So have I made a persuasive case for blogging? Frankly, this post is more a personal rallying cry to help me sustain my blogging, but rest assured blogging changed my life once and I’m betting on it doing the same again.
As Steve Jobs said:
You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart even when it leads you off the well worn path; and that will make all the difference.
So blog. Do it if you really love what you do. Heck, do it if you don’t love what you currently do.
And the dots will eventually connect.