This is my occasional request that if you (1) have a focused interest and (2) post regularly about it on social media, then please start a blog. Please read both points again before proceeding. And, no, I’m not saying cease social media. I’m saying your thoughts deserve their own plot of virtual land. Starry skies above, and all that.
I had fun this past week on Twitter, resulting in a long thread on why blogs are great. I’m repurposing much of it here, lightly edited, so it’s in one place, true to my sense that Twitter is best as a public notebook.
Don’t sweat the digital undercarriage. Don’t worry about if you should use WordPress, or SquareSpace, or a whole new internet protocol I don’t myself understand, or some other service. Just choose one for now and start a blog. You can always output your blog’s content at a later date and upload it into a new service down the road. I’ve seen plenty of people get so focused on tweaking their CMS (content management system) that they never actually get around to publishing.
I’ve written something along these lines before, which I collated in a post titled “Bring Out Your Blogs” back in 2019, which marked the 20th anniversary of the word “blog.” The main points are simple:
- Have a topic focus
- Try to post at least once a week
- If you use social media, treat it as your public notebook
- Write for yourself first and foremost
And to be clear, I’m not just talking about or to folks who are focused on sound or music. Those just happen to be my interest. Start a blog whatever may be your yum: knitting, regional history, arcane professional expertise. (Though, should you ponder, in your writing, some sonic aspect of your topic, please do let me know.)
And please, if you’re all “I hate the word ‘blog'” then get in line. I started Disquiet.com three years before the word “blog” existed, and have been saddled with it ever since. Just ignore the word and do it.
Q: Why would I blog if I get more feedback on social media than I do whenever I’ve blogged?
A: It’s in the terminology: Social media is “social.” Blogs are “web logs.” Social media expects feedback (not just comments, but likes and follows). Blogs are you getting your ideas down; feedback is a byproduct, not a goal.
Q: But I don’t have a focused topic, so what do I do?
A: This post was written primarily for people who have a focus, and who already talk about that topic regularly on social media. However, if you still want to blog, then just start using your brand new blog as a public diary of things that are of interest to you in general, and when posting be sure to share those things of interest and say something about them. A theme will surface.
Q: What if I don’t think I’m a good writer?
A: Don’t leave writing to good writers, because one result is a lot of bad ideas that happen to be well-written. And you’re probably better than you think. And you’ll get better by doing it regularly.
Q: What about that software everyone uses to get people to pay $5 a month for a newsletter?
A: Nothing here says don’t do something else as well. Do ponder how many newsletters people will eventually be willing to pay for. And newsletters = broadcasting. Blogging is different.
Q: Aren’t blogs an old idea?
A: For context: newsletters rule, too. I started a Tower Records email newsletter in 1994 that ran for a decade. Newsletters are big today. No one taints them as being “old.” Just get over these secondhand perceptions and blog.
Q: I want to start a blog and I have no idea what to write. What do I do?
A: Begin your first post “I want to start a blog and I have no idea what to write and” — and then keep going from there.
Q: Where do I find the time to blog? I already write so much in email, and on Slack, and on social media.
A: It is 100% fine that your blog posts repurpose material you first write elsewhere. In fact, that’s often the way it should be. Try ideas out. See where they go.
Q: What do I do? I can’t write by myself. All my best stuff happens when I’m texting or tweeting back and forth with this friend of mine.
A: Start the blog together. There’s no rule that says one person per blog, or one blog per person.
Q: Any last thoughts before you log off for the night?
A: Yes. I’m reading Kay Larson’s superb biography of John Cage. There are many Buddhist stories in it, most of which come down to doing the same thing forever with no response and then suddenly all is well. That is blogging.
Q: Was that really your last thought?
A: No, but I do need to make dinner.
Q: You said “pick a topic.” Do I need to stick to a topic?
A: No. Things you post that are apart from your main topic help your readers know more about you. If you write a blog about being a paramedic and occasionally post recipes, that’s very interesting.
Q: Wait, I’m a paramedic. Are there really blogs by paramedics?
A: I have no idea. And even if there are, you should do one yourself. I’d sure as heck read a blog by a paramedic. And a forensic accountant. And a beekeeper. And a poetry editor.
Q: Can you help? I’m not sure what to do. I write a blog but some of the ideas I’m not so sure about.
A: I’m certain our world would be a better place if over the past few years people had posted fewer ideas they weren’t sure about, and if doing so acknowledged they weren’t so sure about those ideas. Write that way: to find out what you think.
Q: How can I write about something if I don’t know what I think yet?
A: Only people who don’t write think you need to know what you think before you write. You write to learn what you think.
Q: Can I really blog if I don’t know what any of these things mean: RSS, CMS, CSS, SEO, HTTP, FTP?
A: Yes, and you can, in fact, still lead a very long and full life. (For what it’s worth, I did define CMS earlier on in this document.)
Q: Dude, who are you, anyhow?
A: Hi. My name is Marc. I write about sound in various forms (ambient, sound studies, creative coding, homebrew instruments, etc.) at Disquiet.com, which I founded in 1996.
Q: There was an internet in 1996?
A: Yes, and it was paradise.
Q: You seem really into this stuff. What’s your most extreme — to the point of being almost absurd — idea about blogs?
A: I think the U.N. should compel Google to bring back Google Reader.
Q: How do I ever get past writing blog posts that are just lists of things?
A: Remove the numbers before each item in your list. Turn each item into a short paragraph. Write an introductory paragraph about what we’re about to read. Write a conclusion about what we just read.
Q: Aren’t you supposed to be cooking dinner?
A: It’s simmering.
Q: You’ve been doing this blogging thing for almost 25 years and you’re not done yet?
A: What is this “done” of which you speak?
Q: OK! I’m gonna start a blog. What one thing would you ask me to do?
A: Here are two, since you’ll likely repost stuff: (1) Don’t repost something without having fully read/watched/etc.’d it. (2) Don’t repost something without saying something about it; lend it some context.
Q: Clearly you had fun writing this thread on Twitter. Why spend time blogging instead?
A: This was fun, and clearly I’m not saying get off social media (though I do have thoughts on the topic), but a fun tweet thread is nothing like the steady pace of a blog well attended to. I promise.