Notes on writing for yourself

Three weeks back, I wrote Notes on Blogging for folks interested in blogging. In response to my question – “are you blogging for yourself or blogging for others” – a few folks wrote in wondering why someone would blog for oneself. What’s the point if you aren’t spending time building a following?

So, I thought I’d share what I’ve gained from the process. As the list is long, I thought I’d share my top 5:

(1) Discipline: I committed to writing every day in May 2008. I struggled for most of 2008 and 2009. I used to cheat by just sharing a quote for the day in those years to just get my post for the day in. I finally got the confidence to write “long form” (i.e. not cheat by sharing a quote) every day in late 2010. Every day since then, my belief in my discipline has grown.

That belief means I never question my ability to follow through on a commitment. If I can write every day, I should be able to do just about anything I set my mind to. Integrity is making and keeping commitments. Disciple is the foundation of integrity.

(2) Learning curve: We learn from 3 sources – from books or posts that share synthesized information, from people who share synthesized information, or when we synthesize information. Synthesis requires us to reflect on what we’ve done, boil what we’ve learnt to its essence, and incorporate that lesson into how we operate.

The word “essay” comes from the French word “essayer.” Essayer means “to try.” We write to try and figure things out. The process of attempting to figure things out every day has helped me synthesize.

And, this practice of daily synthesis has taught me how to learn. As an outcome focused competitive kid, I hadn’t learnt how to do this in the first twenty years of my life. I didn’t realize that learning requires an intense focus on the process – without regard for the outcome. Ironically, ignoring the outcome turns out to be the best way to consistently achieve good outcomes.

Learning how to learn has been a gamechanger. It has made my life richer.

(3) Writing: Aside from writing to figure things out, writing is a highly valuable professional skill. I work as a product manager at a technology company and writing is a key part of my job. Writing comes easily after all these years. It helps me do my job significantly better.

(4) Learning mindset: I hated screwing up before I started writing here. After I started writing here, every mistake gave me a blog post topic I could write about. I wasn’t just screwing up now. I was reflecting, figuring out how I could do better, and reminding myself to do so. Writing here has changed how I perceive mistakes.

Mistakes still hurt. But, channeling that pain into learning helps me make progress and appreciate the importance of pain in the process of learning. It has also helped me become much kinder to myself.

I realized later that being kinder to ourselves is the path to becoming kinder and more compassionate to everyone around us.

(5) Meditation. Practitioners of Zen buddhist/Hindu meditation focus on clearing the mind when they meditate. The stoics, on the other hand, talked about another variant of meditation – the kind where you reflect on your day and analyze how you lived. I haven’t found a better description of what writing here everyday means to me. It is how I meditate. It grounds me, reminds me to be grateful, and gifts me perspective.

These reasons are why I recommend committing to writing regularly. You can do it on a blog or do it on a journal. Pick what suits you.

Yes, there is the possibility that it may not work for you. As with all good things, it isn’t for everyone. At least you’ll have tried.

I would however posit that, more often than not, a person who commits to regular writing will find that it was one of the best commitments they’ve ever made.

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