This essay is inspired by this week’s Startup Edition topic, “Why do you write?”.
In my 18 months of blogging, I’ve gone through two phases.
The first phase was right after I quit my job. I used to be a computer systems researcher, and took to blogging as an experiment in web publishing. The main goal was to understand what it was like to share on the Internet, and how web traffic worked.
The second phase started at the 100 day blogging challenge a little over a month ago. I took the challenge because I wanted to write more, but since then I have really started to narrow in on why I blog, and why it matters to me. I thought I’d share a little about it in this post.
First, let me start off with some reasons that don’t motivate me to write.
I don’t write for web traffic. In my first phase of blogging, I wrote with the goal of driving some web traffic. I wanted to learn what made posts go viral, and ended up writing a few relatively popular posts on the most important lesson I’ve ever learned, the unbundling of reddit, and why titles suck on the Internet. Driving traffic was a fun game, but I had a tough time publishing on a regular basis. I learned that driving traffic, and building a web presence isn’t enough motivation for me to continually blog.
I don’t write for content marketing. This blog is pretty crappy as far as entrepreneur blogs go. It uses a default theme. I don’t target any particular keywords. I don’t target a particular topic to gain notoriety for one particular thing. I don’t use link-bait titles very often, even though I know many of the tricks. I don’t push my products much (although I do link to them). I feel good about this blog when it reflects who I am. However, I should say that I do appreciate content marketing. I may try it one day, but it isn’t the purpose of this blog.
I don’t write to be right. If I did, I would probably never hit the publish button. I might be right, wrong, or somewhere in between. Some of my writing may be ridiculously stupid. If it is… oh well. I wouldn’t be the first person to be wrong on the internet.
I don’t write to be a writer. I don’t expect the writing to be awesome. I just hope the writing is good enough to get my thoughts across. I don’t want to be seen as a writer. I judge myself by the other stuff I create. Writing is an auxiliary thing that helps my thought process. If my writing ever gets too “good”, please tell me to stop focusing on writing and get on with my actual work.
I don’t write for ego. I probably won’t ever blog about being successful (if I reach some point one could deem as successful). I don’t write regular “how to” posts because I don’t claim to know the right way to do something. If I write a “how to”, I try to preface it by saying that it is one strategy that has worked for me. In general, I’d rather blog about how things are hard because real challenges in life and hard, and figuring out how to tackle challenges is what is interesting to me.
By the way. all of these are all perfectly good reasons to write. Others on the Internet do a great job of writing for all these reasons I don’t write. They just don’t work for me.
So let’s get to the reasons that I do write.
I write to understand life. Many of my posts are random thoughts on life and personal development. They may be about internal/external reflections, identity, or dreams. To me, the most interesting thing about life is life itself. It is one thing to think about things; it is another to organize them in some form and get them out on paper. I highly prefer getting things out on paper.
I write to share my thoughts. I believe that humans are meant to connect, and thoughts are meant to be shared. Some people are talkers. I’m not one of those people. So, I share through written word. Plus, sharing by writing is scalable. I can write once, and it is on the web for anyone to read at anytime at the speed of their liking. As an example, I have many thoughts on how the academic system could be improved: from incorporating startup accelerators, to shifting some of the publication system to online publishing. Who knows if I am right, but I think they ideas worth sharing with the world.
I write to understand entrepreneurship. When I quit my job, I had the feeling that something within he entrepreneurial world would be right for me. Since then, I’ve thought a lot about what it means to be an entrepreneur, and what I am looking for.
I write to figure out product. I am working in the consumer web space because I like the idea of building something that is accessible to the general public. However, my background has nothing to do with product. Again, it is one thing to think; it is another to write. Blogging has helped me tremendously with boiling down product decisions. In fact, my two recent posts on simplicity and unboundedness in good consumer products caused me to do a full pivot on Soulmix last week. I am now in the process of reworking the entire product.
I write to make creating and shipping a way of life. I wrote earlier on why entrepreneurs should blog. In short, the job of an entrepreneur is to create and ship things of value for the world. Building products can be tough. You can’t always ship on a daily basis, and even if you can, it doesn’t always have value. However, you can write and ship your thoughts on a regular basis.
I write to motivate myself. If you follow my blog, you may notice many of the posts have to do with perseverance or staying on course. I’ve written on treating all steps as the first step, on surviving the startup roller coaster, and on playing the long game. Those posts were really for me. They are how I inject and imprint the “right” thoughts into my mind, and how I survive this entrepreneurial roller coaster (which can be damn tough!).
As a side note, there are definitely benefits to regular blogging. Through it, I have connected with other bloggers and entrepreneurs, I have started to gain more WordPress followers, and I can see an SEO effect starting to build as traffic from Google increases. These are great side effects, but if I was blogging for these purposes, I wouldn’t be able to maintain the habit.
It wasn’t until I did the 100 day blogging challenge that I was forced to find a sustainable reason to write, and in retrospect I am really glad I took on the challenge. The reasons above are the reasons that work for me. They make it fun, rewarding, and easy to sit down on a regular basis and bang out a blog post.
Your turn. Do you write? Do you want to? What motivates you? I would love to hear from other bloggers, or would-be bloggers.
P.S. This is post number #45 in a 100 day blogging challenge. See you tomorrow!
Follow me on Twitter @alexshye.
Check out my current project Soulmix.