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Josh Branchaud
Josh Branchaud

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Writing without Publishing

As I've started writing daily blog posts (just for 30 days), I've come to realize what Tom Critchlow was talking about when he described a digital garden as being a blog without a publish button. It's the difference between a living document and a publication.

A blog post that has been published feels like a thing that is or should be finished, cemented in time. Writing the post was an act of the past and now it is a read-only document just for my audience. However, inevitably after each post I publish, I think of something else, an addendum or a clarification, or I read something that feels related, that I want to integrate and expand on.

When some written piece is unpublished, the kinds of actions that I tend to allow myself are write, edit, expand on, restructure, proofread, get feedback, etc. An action I don't really think of is share publicly.

On the other hand, once something is published, I tend to narrow the set of available actions to share publicly and fix typos. The pre-published actions like expand on, get feedback, and continue writing take a back seat or stop altogether.

Why shouldn't I publicly share some writing that is still incomplete?

Why should I aim my writing toward publish-and-forget instead of write-to-expand?

What if my writing could evolve as I learn and discover new things?

The publish button, the idea of freezing my writing in time, is preventing me from expanding my knowledge and growing my writing. As a result I miss out on insights and connections that are right there just at the edge of what I've written, and just at the edge of my thinking. There is only a little bit further to go. If I forget about the publish button, I can get there. If I forget about the publish button, I can start writing for myself again.


Maintaining a digital garden, mind-mapping, or using a tool like Roam seem like some of the best approaches to get at this kind of writing.

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