Why I (want to) blog
I can’t remember why I first created my blog. My memories are fuzzy and my feelings elude me. At the time, it was a WordPress app that used the Deep Focus theme and I think I wanted to write something about estimating R-Scores (think GPA) but it hardly matters since I never got that done.
On the other hand, I’ve experienced various kinds of benefits from having a blog. Some come from external rewards, some come from internal rewards (feeling like I’ve improved as a writer). They’re now part of my motivation to write and I’ll summarize them here, in no particular order. Hopefully, this may be useful to you and inspire you to write (or write more).
One reason why I write is simply to practice writing. I am not a native English speaker and my day-to-day studies & work is not writing-intensive. But this is not just about grammar and prose! I’m inspired by writers like Paul Graham and Joel Spolsky who have many interesting and insightful essays. I’m aiming to also be able to write about a diversity of topics in a way simple enough to understand, while saying something interesting and providing clarity about a topic to the reader.
I find that keeping a blog has been beneficial to my personal growth.
One way in which this happens is that it forces me to flesh out my thoughts. You see, I have a document titled “Short Outlines” where I write any thoughts that pops up about tech or life which could potentially make a blog post. Ideally. It’s actually a graveyard of half-baked ideas. The vast majority of these never make it to daylight.
Sometimes it’s because I don’t have the time. But often, I just don’t have as much of a point as I originally thought I did, or I find out that the question I want to address is more nuanced than anticipated. For example, I might come up with a brilliant piece of advice, but realize a few days later that it only works under a lot of assumptions and isn’t generally applicable.
However, this process is good because it helps weed out mediocre ideas at a faster pace. I could just keep them in my head, or I could even just keep a log of ideas without ever intending to flesh out any of them. But then, I wouldn’t think things through as often. There’s something to be said for trying to take action, to publish ideas for the world out there to evaluate. In a way, I’m imposing on myself a higher standard by asking “why is this interesting to others?”. Evolution doesn’t happen without some pressure.
It’s also nice to look back at my post history and look at how the topics reflect the life experience I’ve gained over the years. The first half of the blog (2012-2014) doesn’t have nearly as many things of interest as the second half. Sometimes I hear people say they want to blog, but have nothing to say. The first thing I tell them is that it’s probably not true. But I would also say that it doesn’t matter, at least from my own experience. Even if you don’t have the life experience now, getting into the habit of blogging now will put you in a good place once something interesting happens in your life.
I want to be helpful in some way. Sometimes by writing advice or presenting technical ideas. Even in my recent blog posts where I talk about myself, I still try to make it thought-provoking (I know, that sounds really self-important).
Furthermore, I’m an information junkie. I like to read and learn a lot of things and subsequently share it with others. In that vein, I’m significantly more motivated to write about something that I think is under-covered or under-explained in daily discussions or other parts of the Internet, because I perceive that there is more marginal benefit for others.
Maybe this can’t be called altruism because I’m getting at least one benefit out of it (feeling good).
I’m of the opinion that it’s not an useful distinction. In fact, having personal incentives aligned with having positive impact is probably more sustainable.
I talk about wanting to be helpful and all, but I’m really just getting started there. Most of my recent blog posts have been more of personal nature (e.g. internship experience) which I haven’t thought to be of sufficient general interest to broadcast outside my Facebook wall.
But it’s nice to have those around because a summary of an experience for others is also a useful summary for my future self. I have a private journal but it’s not always updated, and the writing is a lot lower in quality, so I’m rarely inclined to reread it.
I keep repeating “interested people are interesting” in conversations because that seems to be always relevant.
By showing that I give a shit about stuff in life, I’m hoping to make people more inclined to talk to me. In a way, this blog acts as a beacon that broadcasts “hey, interesting people, please come talk to me, I’m interesting too”. It works sometimes. Someone who I haven’t talked to in a while might reach out when I have a new blog post they find interesting.
Finally, I expect some career benefits out of having a blog.
The obvious one is visibility. This blog tells far more about my personality (and possibly technical skills too) than my resume. In particular, things like communication skills and attitude are almost impossible to infer from a resume and can be faked in an interview.
Having this blog is also a form of diversification. This way, my achievements aren’t tied to a particular brand name. I get to keep control over my professional identity.
Lastly, I think that having this blog could help whoever I work for to recruit people, if it eventually gets more traction. There’s definitely an interest for many people to work at places with some high-profile characters. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not high-profile. Yet. Hey, hopefully I can get somewhere.