Just Write, You Dolt
January 03, 2024
When it comes to writing posts on this site, the phrase “I don’t like writing, I like having written” resonates strongly. I enjoy getting more posts on the site, but I find it strangely difficult. I want to post more in 2024, so I’d like to get past this.
Most of my job is writing. I write emails and documents daily, mostly about challenging or technical subjects. I also keep a daily handwritten journal. I find this sort of writing easy and enjoyable.
When it comes to posting things on the public web, I often second-guess myself. “Who cares?”, I wonder. I’m sure someone’s written something about this before. Sometimes I stop short because I realize there’s a lot I don’t know about a subject. I end up in a rabbit-hole of research and give up because it seems like too much work.
But again, this doesn’t seem to happen with other types of writing. Why is that?
For journaling, the answer is pretty easy. I’m just writing to myself. I enjoy the physical act of writing — of using pens and inks and paper. I’m writing for myself, to work out ideas and remember things for later. Likely, no one else is going to read the journal. It’s just for me, so I don’t feel self-conscious about it.
For work writing, I’m not so sure I know the answer. Maybe it’s because I’ve been doing this long enough that it’s a “mode” I can get myself into. Also, I’m often already considered a trusted advisor by my clients when I write about tricky subjects. I don’t need to convince them that I know what I’m saying. If a client pushes back on something, I find it natural to engage and understand their point of view. After that it seems easier share my perspective and come to some middle ground. This is easier when it’s a handful of professional contacts rather than the entire web.
But writing on the web can be extremely rewarding! In 2023, I got three posts to the front page of Hacker News 1. People were reading my stuff, and I had a very fun time watching analytics numbers go up! Yeah, sure, some people didn’t like what I had to say — but most of them were making rational points. So far, the anxiety of people disagreeing with me is always worse than the reality of it. I really hope it stays that way.
Also, I’ve mostly been using my site for “think pieces”. I’ve gotten so used to posting small, fun things in private chat groups or social media sites. I want to change that, but I think it’s going to be a tricky habit to break. A site I’d like to crib from is kottke.org. The way Jason includes small title-free posts in his main feed seems liberating. Similarly, I love how The Verge added short posts into their late-2022 redesign. When working toward the new site structure, Nilay Patel said: “Why am I finding it easier to publish on someone else’s platform instead of my own?” 2. This has been stuck in my mind ever since.
The upshot of all this is: I need to get over myself. I need to stop worrying and just post more things. I plan to make some changes to the site to hopefully make that easier, but this isn’t primarily a technology or tooling problem. I’m hoping change will come from practice and forming new habits. Hopefully this will lead to a better populated RSS feed in 2024 and beyond.