Sharing your ideas online has never been easier. You don’t need to design a website, have it developed, integrate it with a CMS system, and host it on a server every year.
You can just create an account. Spell out what’s on your mind in less than 140 characters. Click a button. And boom. Your idea is now on the internet.
And yet, whenever I have an idea I consider worth sharing, rather than being drawn to the quick, painless, and often rewarding process of putting out a Tweet; I’m instead drawn to my website’s more clunky content management system.
Here, I click on “New Post”. A large blank page appears. It immediately reminds me that I have many, many words to go before I’ve got something worth sharing. There is no turning back now. I’ve committed. I then give the task several frustrating hours. Sometimes it flows right out of me. Sometimes it’s a slog. Sometimes, I begin again from scratch even after having already written over 1,000 words. All in an attempt to share those words on a corner of the internet that no one “follows”.
I’ve been doing this since I was the age of 14. I’m now 23.
Why? Well, I didn’t really understand at first. I guess I just jumped on the hamster wheel and got busy. Attempting to figure out what got me on it would be futile. That’s why the title of this is “Why I’ve been blogging” and not “Why I started a blog”. But after nine years of running, I think I’ve finally got the gist of my intent. Why, time after time, I get the urge to sit at my computer and demand so many words from myself.
1. To study out loud
When I created my first blog Appfilm, at the age of 14, I wrote extensively about apps and films (looking at the site name, who would have guessed it!) But this wasn’t because I knew a whole lot about them before doing so. I was 14 after all. I just wanted to say something about them. But every time I explored an app or film in writing a new article, I would ask myself a series of questions about why certain decisions were made, and how those ideas came to fruition.
In essence, each post became a catalyst for periods of intense investigative-study. The kind of studying that had me retaining a vast pool of knowledge about app design and filmmaking. (And this was before I started my career in app design). But this didn’t feel like whatever kind of work I was doing at school. I wasn’t following instructions from my teacher. I was following my natural curiousity.
Sure, you could probably do this in private, there is no need to write a blog post in order to explore this socratic process. But I like it. Perhaps it’s the pressure that comes with the need to know your sh*t. But more often than not, it’s because blogging is my tested and proven method for chasing that magical feeling that comes with, as author William Zinsser puts it, “exploring a question and taking control of it.”
2. To track moments in my life
An ex-girlfriend of mine used to love looking at the pictures in her own Instagram profile. She’d probably return to the app more for those pictures, than the new ones the Instagram feed would present her with. She was also fairly open about sharing the events in her life - so her profile would feature pictures from family birthdays, gatherings with friends, and fairly intimate and personal moments.
But as I grew to learn, her love for Instagram wasn’t about signalling or selfies. She had very little interest in trying to show something about herself to the world. Instead, for her, it was about seeing a beautifully arranged collage from her favourite moments in life. A colourful grid you carry with you, to remind you of all the times your life meant more than work, achievements, and problem-solving.
My blog is this for me. Whilst I feel slightly uncomfortable sharing such intimate photos from my life; I am, strangely, more than happy to share the intimate goings-on in my mind. To express that which is troubling me, inspiring me, and moving me forward in every important time of my life. As I’ve done this consistently over the years, I’ve built a small collection of thoughts on paper.
Much like my ex did with her colourful grid, I love looking back and reading my old blog posts. Seeing the moments when I struggled. The moments when I first did something that was scary, but is now fairly normal to me. The moments when I simply couldn't believe what had just happened. All these moments - they’re captured here in writing. And knowing that always makes me amped to capture even more.
3. To hear from people I don’t know
Every so often, I get an email from a first-time blog visitor of mine. Someone who perhaps stumbled across an article I had written 2 years ago. Upon reading such an email, I discover that my words have deeply resonated with a person, across the globe, with whom I have never met. Mind-blowing.
Thing is, I also get emails telling me that a piece I wrote could have been better. Other times someone gives me a book or podcast recommendation based on a topic I covered. A few have even come with job offers.
Author Christopher Hitchens said the best thing about putting out a book is that it’s a “free education that goes on for a lifetime.” Whilst readers might pick up a book and learn once; an author gets to learn over and over again through feedback as new readers pick up the book.
Blogging seems to be no different. With each email, I learn something new - and, most importantly, I’m reminded of how much my work (when done right) goes beyond being for my own amusement. But you only discover this when you share your work - because it turns out when you share, others, in turn, share back.
What perhaps started as some form of therapy for me, has become a place I return to hone my skills and sharpen my creative mind. And despite being at this for over 9 years now - I think I’m going to stay on the hamster wheel.
Here’s to learning, capturing special moments, and sharing the unique value in it with the world. With you.
Thank you for reading so far. Love.
P.S. This is my first post since my website design has had a refresh! (2 years in the making…) Feel free to look around and let me know what you think on Twitter @justincampbellp. I’d love your feedback!