I recently had drinks with a mentor of mine, and he was remarking on the fact I post so often (here and at my other, LinkedIn blog). I shared with him one of the honest, personal reasons why, and he said, “You should blog about that.” Since one of my New Year’s Resolutions is to venture beyond what’s easy into the territory of what is profoundly uncomfortable (see #3), here goes. Following are the real reasons I am compelled to blog.
1. To think as I could be, not as I am. I post about ways I want to think, ideas I should pursue and how I could do better work. Each post is at its essence personally aspirational. I write to remind myself of all the lessons I should be applying, not because I’ve mastered any of them, but because I want to try. I recently heard Seth Godin tell Mitch Joel that (even he!) shares his wisdom for himself as much as for the rest of us. Blogging at its best is the pursuit of a better self.
2.To step out of my own, tiny experience. Blogging makes me do two important mental exercises. First, it makes me work through my thoughts more fully. It’s one thing to have an idea – it’s much harder to explain it in a post. Or it’s one thing to read a book, quite another to publicly discuss what was important about it. The second mental exercise is that blogging forces me to apply those more fully formed thoughts beyond my little, silly, daily existence. I have to explore the larger significance of a concept, and that in turn broadens and betters my own experience. It helps me combat intellectual laziness.
3. To kick to the curb the shrill critic in my head. There’s an unkind and unimpressed judge who visits my mind, and she is at her most outspoken when I write, brainstorm or develop a daring idea. She tells me what I’m thinking is strange or stupid or shameful. Often, she gets in the way of my work — for example right now as I blog about blogging, which she yells that no one cares about. Perhaps you’ve met her on occasion. I know Brene Brown has met her, as has Anne Lamott, who points to her perfectionist tendencies. As Lamott puts it, “Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life… Besides, perfectionism will ruin your writing, blocking inventiveness and playfulness and life force (these are words we are allowed to use in California).” Each time I post something, however simple or small, it involves kicking this inner critic to the curb. It’s creation having to crush fear. Even if the shrill voice is right, if I hit Publish, at least I didn’t listen to her. At least I put something imperfect out there. At least I kept trying. We have to go to battle with this judge as often as we can, with as much force as we can muster. That – as far as I can tell – is the arduous but necessary road to invention.
4. To be in the act of creation. (This reason requires a lot of kicking to the curb.) I believe that if we’re in the act of creating something, we are living most fully in that moment. An act of creation is gloriously affirmative for ourselves and can be a gift to others. I wrote my book when I was going through my divorce from my first husband, and that generative act amid destruction taught me a thing or two about the power of making something. It’s really good for a person. It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece and it doesn’t have to be the best thing we ever did. It just has to be something that is our own, that we put out there for others. It might be a book, an idea for a new product or a loaf of bread. As long as creation is happening, we are really living. Blogging makes me create, even at 11 pm when I really don’t feel like it, and that practice makes me more creative in everything else I do.
5. To make it better for someone else. You’ll notice that up to now, this is an entirely selfish list. That’s what makes this a confession. I blog with the dream of being a better person, and I write and share the kinds of things I most want to read. Honestly, that is what gives me the energy to do it every day. And yet… While it’s in many ways about me, it’s about you as well. It seems that when we share with others our aspirations, our interests and our passions, it helps other people connect with their own aspirations, interests and passions. It makes something bigger than just me or just you. I care deeply about that. If I didn’t, I would have a diary instead of a blog. My happiest blogging days aren’t when I’ve written a post I like (and believe me, I don’t have many of those given that judge in #3). They are when I created something that someone else said made a difference to them. Or when someone reacts in a way that advances my ideas in a fresh direction. By doing #1 through #4 in public, that is sometimes possible. And that is what makes thinking out loud, in type, ultimately worthwhile. It’s the hope that I might find a meeting of the minds, in the limitless and inspiring place that is far above and beyond the confines of my own head.