I've been feeling many things watching the Dev.To community and its writing pick up steam - enjoyment, curiosity, better informed, and mild synesthesia. But between reading new articles and tasting pie whenever I see the color blue, another feeling has popped up: a twinge of jealousy.
This isn't to disparage other bloggers or say they should apologize for being awesome (please don't, or I'll apologize for you apologizing and the spacetime continuum will shatter). But it's made me reconsider myself and the role writing plays in my life.
What could have caused these feelings? Here are some recent examples:
- Reading posts about bloggers getting a professional writing rhythm and excitement to keep it going
- Seeing writers get so popular they're amassing big followings or getting invited to speaking events
- Noticing popular writers who have been here for less time, yet written up to or more than twice as many posts at a more consistent pace
- Listening to writers branch to different mediums and start podcasts
I know I'm not some nobody in terms of writing here. Most of my posts have been well-received, with some getting surprising amounts of attention. But I still sometimes feel insecure seeing so many professional bloggers moving past me. So I can only imagine how coders with no experience or knowledge of their writing feel.
The message I have for these anxious people is the same I arrived at after some brooding, drinking, sighing, and more drinking (as is standard for all self-proclaimed writers, albeit with less drinking than usual). That message is you can, like I have, be more casual with your writing and still find success. You don't need to get the huge audience, the speaking engagement, the book deal, or the town square statue to be a good blogger.
You Can Write Silly, Meaningless Things
I enjoy writing (mostly) serious pieces about programming, and love seeing people enjoy them. I was over the moon just hearing two random people compliment it on a podcast. But a while ago I realized I didn't just want to write about programming. I wanted to write about random, bizarre, and philosophical things. I wanted to let off mental steam, even if no one read it.
That's why I made the "Notes" section on my personal site. It's a random stream of conscious of whatever I want to scribble about, which includes:
- If morals can be passed down genetically
- A sudden re-connection on Twitter to an old college professor
- Making relatives immortal by remembering them
- The passive-aggressive fairy that haunts my brain
- Political journalists working in a zombie apocalypse
- A life lesson from a podcast with a drunken wizard, a servant made of various bodily fluids, and a verbally abusive talking flower
These notes help me remember a big reason I like writing: it's a simple, enjoyable way to expressive myself. Limiting myself to serious, professional topics would make me start hating it. They help me find my authentic voice in a silly, inconsequential setting. They help me keep my love of writing strong. New bloggers should remember this so they don't limit themselves and burn themselves out early on. If you're tired of writing code tutorials or career guides, write about something totally off-topic somewhere else! Even if it's just random tweets about how the bagel emoji having cream cheese is a sign of the upcoming Rapture.
You Don't Need a Writing Schedule
Every time I tried a blogging schedule, I failed. Even "I will schedule 5 tweets a day" fell apart in less than a week.
I blamed my lack of commitment for a while. Then I realized I just don't have enough good ideas to justify that much writing. Some weeks I'm too busy with other commitments. Other I just want to focus on learning skills or reading cruise ship murder mysteries. Lately I've had weeks where I want to play Puyo Puyo Tetris until I've crushed Ess because I WILL NOT LOSE TO HER AT TETRIS AGAIN!
Ahem, more importantly, I've found when I force my writing, I can't stand by it. It can be better to write when you feel good inspiration strike naturally. My routine's gone better when I'm living my life and being curious until a good idea hits me. I scrawl my thoughts in a notebook (digital or paper) so they don't fade away. Then I fine-tune them when I have the time, and I have a post. It can be days, or weeks, until this happens again. But that's okay, because posting on that natural schedule may help you (and others) like your writing more.
For so long I thought I was unprofessional. But I realized this just works best for me, and helped me fit writing into my new adult schedule. I write less than many great bloggers here, but I don't lose time for other things I love - reading, learning, boxing, and burying Ess in garbage Puyos after a 3-part combo and seeing her cry in agonizing defeat.
Yeah, you heard me!
You Can Write For an Audience Of One
So many blogging guides I've read talk about the importance, and difficulty, of finding your audience. It takes research, interaction, narrowing in on a brand, and ritual sacrifice. I've never had the time, energy, commitment, or goat blood for any of this.
Because if I'm honest, I'm a selfish writer. I write for two main reasons above all others:
- To remember important knowledge or lessons I don't want to forget. For example, this post on keeping my ego out of my work.
- To find meaning or insight from new life experiences. For example, this post on lessons learned from my first luxury vacation.
You may be wondering "if you're so selfish, why post things here at all?" Then you'll gasp since I read your future thoughts and put them in this article.
But my answer is being a selfish writer is okay, since writing selfishly and writing for others aren't mutually exclusive - you can do both. I write chiefly for an audience of one, myself. If I write something and no one likes it, I shrug and move on. So people enjoying it is less a sigh of panicked relief and more a burst of unexpected joy.
Writing this way may even make your articles better. It's helped me focus on ideas and content I care about without worrying about their reception. It's easier to lose myself in the details, find a a good angle, and post something that people enjoy reading. In a way, a selfish attitude has helped me give this community better blog posts!
I'm going to forego the usual "neat and tidy recap and conclusion" and end with this: Don't let a fear of not "doing things right" keep you from writing. Even if you only post something once every two months. That's been me a few times, I'll have more times like it, and will still enjoy writing.
I don't believe someone can write wrong unless they're not enjoying it or finding it meaningful. If you have those, things like having a big audience are just a joyful bonus.