I enjoyed Cory Doctorow writing about the lessons he has learned over twenty years of blogging. He describes how quickly the writing practise adds up and how useful it is as an external memory:
These repeated acts of public description adds each idea to a supersaturated, subconscious solution of fragmentary elements that have the potential to become something bigger. Every now and again, a few of these fragments will stick to each other and nucleate, crystallizing a substantial, synthetic analysis out of all of those bits and pieces I’ve salted into that solution of potential sources of inspiration.
I’ve been blogging for about a quarter of the time that Doctorow has but I’ve found much the same thing. Having a public website allows me to develop ideas and have a vast archive to draw on.
It makes me think that there’s two types of website, one that is for the audience and another that is primarily for the author. I think mine is frequently falling into the latter. For most of the five years I’ve been blogging, it has been something I’ve done for my own pleasure. I’ve come to really value publishing ideas in a public forum to get feedback on them and not waiting until they are fully finished. The regular practise of publishing to this site has become a way to feed the rest of my writing.
Blogging shifts the objective from having a fully up to date site to one that is constantly evolving as your ideas change. It’s similar to any form of art, where the product is almost incidental and the practise is more the point. I’ve shifted in my writing away from a focus on the end goal and more to experimentation and play. Like blogging, the regular practise is something I value.
Doctorow’s thoughts also put me in mind of the digital garden, a term used to describe more of a ramshackle site full of notes, rather than fully finished articles. Joel Hooks describes his site in these terms, saying:
Just like plants in the garden I’ve got posts that are in various stages of growth and nurturing. Some might wither and die, and others (like this one you are reading) will flourish and provide a source of continued for the gardener and folks in community that visit.
Inspired by this and others, I’ve started keeping my notes on this public site, to further remove the pressure of a blog post. It’s half-finished notes on various topics. 1 Unlike this blog, they are not as polished, but it means I can update pages and topics as I wish. The pages are likely never going to be finished and that’s alright, it’s more about updating them and keeping me focused on the ideas. It’s a more ramshackle approach to having your own website and it’s one I am increasingly coming to value. These two sites will never be finished and that’s good.
Mostly writing poetry at the moment but I’m hoping to expand. ↩