Should I keep blogging?

This is not a passive-aggressive maneuver to get you to scroll to the bottom, read the footer and consider supporting my work. (It would mean a lot though if you did.)

This is a serious question which I ask myself at a frequency approaching every minute. All the benefits are not directly measurable.

Exposure — In order to ensure I have material to write posts, I have various processes and systems that force me to skim an insane amount of stuff pretty much every day. If you imagine skimming my weekly email in a second or two, that’s 7 items. I skim about 300 to 500 items every day. A small number each day catch my attention enough that I toss them on my read-later queue. There are 764 things on that queue at this instant. It takes me significant time to read them, but often just a few seconds to realize, “yeah this is going to be a blog post” (and then I go on reading to the end and then I write the post.) If I stopped blogging, would I still do all that work to be exposed to ideas?

Learning — Writing blog posts creates a third “imprint” in my mind. First a glance, then a read, and then thinking about it. Even if I sometimes abort the blog post mid-writing, it’s still three different repetitions. And I have software that feeds me my own blog posts (“what did I post 10 years ago, today?” etc.) so I am constantly re-reading everything on this site; that’s more repetitions as things drift into history.

Integration — If I write a blog post about it, I generally try to figure out its relationship to everything else. Adding blog tags is the most obvious bit of integration. But figuring out what to pull quote involves deciding what is salient to me. And deciding which part(s) I want to focus on, magnify, or disagree with requires further integration.

Writing — Thoughts swirl in my mind. Characters appear on my screen. There are several skills one can work on between those two sentences.

All of that goes into feeding my personal growth and priming my curiosity. Since good conversation is powered by genuine curiosity, all that stuff also enables my person mission.

Should I keep blogging? It doesn’t feel like stopping is realistically an option.

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Clichés

The problem with clichés is not that they contain false ideas, but rather that they are superficial articulations of very good ones. […] Clichés are detrimental in so far as they inspire us to believe that they adequately describe a situation while merely grazing its surface. And if this matters, it is because the way we speak is ultimately linked to the way we feel, because how we describe the world must at some level reflect how we first experience it.

~ Alain De Botton

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4 things to know

That’s not because Rudin did a bad job. It’s because there ain’t no way to re-write mathematical analysis as a “list”. When you do write a list, you are promising that you’ve figured out a way to cover the subject in that way without losing essential detail. Provided that you deliver on that promise, it’s a powerful thing.

~ “Dynomight” from, https://dynomight.net/lists/
  1. This article makes several (while the article is a list, it’s unnumbered and I’m too lazy to count, you should just be happy I sometimes check my speling) magnificent points about what lists have going for them. There’s a lot. The only problem with lists (generally, on the Internet, These Days™) is that spammers and search–engine–optimizing mouth-breathers have published an insane amount of crap, in list format. It turns out that if you publish great content as a list it’s even better than long–form prose. It turns out that it looks like chapters, sections and sub-sections!
  2. I recently learned a lot about proper use of the three different types of dashes: hyphen (-), en-dash (–), and em-dash (—). Their relative lengths are pretty clear when you see a family portrait like that previous sentence. It turns out that: Compound words, like en-dash and mouth-breathers, are assembled using hyphens. Compound adjectives, like search–engine–optimizing, are assembled with en-dashes. You can use em-dashes—that’s a hyphen in there—to insert gently–parenthetical commentary.
  3. A case can be made—here, I’m making a case—that my weekly email is my way of turning my blog into a list which makes it easier to… oh, just go read the article.

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This is the trick

Sanderson argues you should instead experiment to figure out what combination of motivation, and circumstances, and accountability work best for your particular personality. He responds well to tracking a daily word count in a spreadsheet. Others, he notes, thrive under the social pressures of a writing group, while others lean on deadlines to induce work. The key is recognizing that the urge to avoid hard things is human, and should be expected. It’s part of the process.

~ Cal Newport from, https://www.calnewport.com/blog/2022/02/25/brandon-sandersons-advice-for-doing-hard-things/

I’m filing this under “things I wish I had learned 30 years ago”. Some things I really track, and some things I just do whenever I feel like. One way or another though, it’s important that I be honest with myself. “Do I really want to do this?” …or do I just like the idea of being able to say “I did that”?

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Stingy with positive reinforcement

Here’s something I’ve noticed about myself: If I read something great, I’ll sometimes write a short comment like “This was amazing, you’re the best!” Then I’ll stare at it for 10 seconds and decide that posting it would be lame and humiliating, so I delete it go about my day. But on the rare occasions that I read something that triggers me, I get a strong feeling that I have important insights. Assuming that I’m not uniquely broken in this way, it explains a lot.

~ “Dynomight” from, https://dynomight.net/internet-writing/

I too have this tendency. In recent years I’ve been actively working on my own version of “See something. Say something.” as part of my changes to achieve results. My version is that nice things must be said out loud. No more sitting on the positive thoughts; Yes, I need to squish my incessant critical commentary. Dial that down, please. But I also need to practice letting out the good stuff too. Nice shirt. Smooth movement. This food is delicious. It’s so insanely comfortable here. Thank you for making this come together. If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.

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The moment

The moment that you feel that, just possibly, you’re walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself. That’s the moment you may be starting to get it right.

~ Neil Gaiman

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Truth

Remember that truth is the greatest thing in the world. If you will be great, you will be true. If you suppress the truth, if you hide truth, if you do not rise up and speak out in meeting, if you speak out in meeting without speaking the whole truth, then are you less true than truth and by that much are you less than great.

~ Jack London

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Three great things

The three great things of life are: Good health; Work; And a philosophy of life. I may add, nay, must add, a fourth—Sincerity. Without this, the other three are without avail; And with it you may cleave to greatness and sit among giants.

~ Jack London

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In summary

The chronological summary of a man’s life is of all composition for students perhaps the most futile. […] “What of it?” remains to be asked at the end; And if the student begin there, not rewriting the annals, but seeking throughout the characteristic traits, the typical activities, the expression of individuality, he will find no better practice. Thus not only the reader, but far more the writer, gains by the abandoning of the order of chronology.

~ Charles Sears Baldwin

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The only rule

What I learned from reading about writing…

~ “Dynomight” from, https://dynomight.net/2021/02/07/writing-as-a-craft/

This was a fun read and is mostly not the usual titles one sees suggested to read on writing. Among many things, I am a writer. I enjoy learning what appears—in others’ view—to be the right way to do things. The more I read, write, and read on writing, the more I’m convinced it’s just like any other mastery practice: The only rule is that there really are no real rules. Understand the best, accepted practices, (often labeled “rules” to get the newbies to start in the correct direction,) and then later move on to do whatever you please.

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