Like nobody is reading

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If a tree falls in a forest and no-one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?* Is the true Zen wisdom of blogging to be found not in whether it speaks to an audience, but in the purity of writing itself?

Moby has been there and done that. In a fascinating chinwag on the Rich Roll podcast, he argues that he’s uniquely qualified to comment on what matters in life, as he’s seen life’s extreme’s sampling all of life’s bounties, and enduring abject poverty and failure. He has
come to know life’s true rewards are not to be found in riches or material goods:

“The stuff that really delivers happiness is available to almost
everybody and most of it is free or not very expensive – it’s the
meaning we bring to it.”

Laurie Ruettimann is similarly qualified to talk about blogging. She has experienced all that blogging has to offer over 13 years at the coalface (well, the keyboard).

Saṃsāra for bloggers?

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In The Journey of a Blogger, Laurie generously shares the wisdom earned through her decade-plus spent writing every day. There is an almost Buddhist aspect to her description of the three phases of blogging.** Most of those who reach phase two – “where you do a deep dive into your industry (or field of inquiry) and solve problems for your readers” – see it as “Nirvana.” But it is a false Nirvana. “They never get better” and transcend to phase three, “a place and time where it’s possible to publish universal truths that are relevant and meaningful for broad and diverse audiences.”

Laurie has come to know that the true reward of blogging is blogging itself:

“It’s the honor of a lifetime to be a professional writer, but when I meditate on what makes me feel so much joy, the answer is clear: it’s the blog. […] The act of writing purifies my soul and pushes me to write more. The only critic that matters is the inner critic who knows if I’ve done my best work and written something that’s true.”

I can promise you no-one will read yours

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The best thing I’ve ever read about blogging is a post by Dwane Lay, entitled Why I Blog. Why You Should, Too. Sadly, Dwane seems to have unpublished it. But I was delighted to discover just now that I still have a dog-eared print-out of it from yesteryear. I hope Dwane can forgive me quoting his now-unavailable words. Here’s what he has to say about how blogging taps directly into the power of words:

“Blogging makes me think. It makes me consider my feelings on topics, crystallize them, and commit to them in a way that simple pondering never world. There is power to the written word, including the power to make you commit to opinions you didn’t even know you had.”

I love Dwane’s advice that the novice blogger need not worry about finding an audience:

“That’s the beauty of starting a blog. See, while I assume no one reads my work, I can promise you no-one will read yours. Not for a while, anyway. That’s a good thing. You’ll have time to find your voice, find your topic, and find what you believe in. You can play around, learn the tools, and learn yourself.”

In a 2009 talk, Robert Peston (then of the BBC) shared similar views on how blogging can help you find what you believe in:

“For me, the blog is at the core of everything I do, it is the bedrock of my output. The discipline of doing it shapes my thoughts. It disseminates to a wider world the stories and themes that I think matter.”

Write like nobody is reading

I love the idea that writing and blogging can be both joyful and
meditative. There are few things in life that I like better than sitting
down – as I’m doing right now – with a pot of coffee in the very early
hours of a Saturday, starting up the music and letting the words of a
new blog post flow out. I never know where these words will take me. It
is a joyful and meditative process.

The discipline of writing clarifies my thoughts.

Finally, I love Laurie’s advice on how to be a successful blogger:

“Do it for thirteen years. Do it every day. Do it when nobody is reading your blog. Don’t get caught up in writer’s block or grammar. Don’t listen to the external critic who tells you that your blog isn’t very good. It might not be very good, right now, but the tough love is the affirmation you need to keep writing. So if you want to be a successful blogger, be a blogger.”

Dance like nobody is watching.

Write like nobody is reading.

Footnotes

* Bart Simpson has an answer to this unanswerable riddle.

**  A Saṃsāra of blogging?

Images

  • The photograph of @mjcarty – perhaps writing the words of a sermon no-one will hear? – was taken by my friend Kate Griffiths-Lambeth at the 2000AD exhibition at London’s Cartoon Museum earlier this month. If you have ever had an interest in 2000AD, please do pop along and check it out. It’s such a treat.
  • Simpsons screengrabs via the amazing Frinkiac website.

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