What is Blogging, Anyway?
No, really, will someone tell me?
Cards on the table: I’ve not written anything in nearly two weeks.
Yes, I’m the editor of The Writing Cooperative, one of Medium’s largest publications with writing advice for 210k followers. No, that doesn’t mean I’m the most productive writer in the world.
Right now, I’m stuck inside my own head. The thought of writing seems impossible. Before I even put fingers to keys, I worry how the concept will land. My anxiety rises over the possibility of a typo or misplaced thought. When I get into this headspace, it’s difficult to create. Let me rephrase that: it seems difficult to create.
The act of fleshing thoughts out and putting the words on the screen seems impossible when I’m in this headspace. So, to compensate, I do anything and everything adjacent to writing. I update the design for the publication. I reorganize my drafts in Bear. Andy Weir called it “lazy-assed work avoidance.” I call it an existential crisis and wonder if I’ll ever be able to write a complete sentence again.
In college, I’d put my headphones on and end up writing 5,000 words for my blog based on whatever song came on. Back then, the stakes were lower. If my friends didn’t appreciate an exploration of financial inequality filled with Dave Matthews lyrics, well, so be it. They just didn’t get what I was going for — no big deal.
Today, the pressure is on. A bad piece can directly impact my income. At least, that’s what my lizard brain tries to tell me. As a result, I overthink everything. Every. single. word.
My first website, Justin’s World, was a GeoCities masterpiece. I can still picture the black background, yellow text, and an edgy yellow globe gif — this was pre gif resurgence, when they were, you know, new. Anyway, I’ve been writing on the internet for a long time.
At the start, blogging was a game-changer. People wrote about their lives, and people showed up to read. Words were raw, unchained, dare I say, real? Then blogging moved to vlogging and, eventually, the influencer market. In the process, blog became a dirty word, and most of the internet got a lot more serious in the process.
With this hellscape of a year we’re having, it seems the internet is looking for any escape it can find. And, let’s face it, what the internet does best is provide an escape. So is blogging having a comeback? I have no idea. It comes down to how you define blog.
Ev Williams, the founder of Medium, Twitter, and Blogger, recently asked for questions on his blog, Ev Head. Since Medium is attempting a pivot toward the creative and expressive internet we all once enjoyed, I asked the question: “Is the future of Medium a return to blogging?”
My question was one Ev chose to answer (thanks, friend!). He explained:
Was it ever not about blogging? Unfortunately, this is one of those questions that cannot be answered simply, because there’s a question within the question: What does one mean by “blogging”?
Well, Ev, I have no idea what one means by blogging! And, maybe that’s the point? Blogging was a thing and then it became another thing and now it feels like it could be a thing again. Maybe (probably) I’m overthinking all of this.
I allow perfectionism to dictate my productivity. Since perfection is impossible, I avoid writing altogether. The only way to break the cycle, to get over my existential crisis, is to create. Do you see the problem?
There are methods to break the cycle, of course. Namely, force myself to sit down and write something, no matter how painful (like this right here). What I wonder, though, is how to get back to that state where the stakes were lower. A place where the content was more personal and perfectionism didn’t factor in. Is that what defines a blog?
If blogging is a return a freer flow of thoughts with less inhibition, then I’m all for it. If it’s some sort combination of the joyful, gif lined world of the early internet and the high-quality, high-stakes writing we’ve come to love, then I’m also all in.
I guess the question of “what is a blog” is really a question of personal preference. I’m leaning toward more freedom of expression without an overabundance of perfectionism. Not a drop in quality, just lower pressure.
I have to remind myself all the best writers, people I genuinely admire, create stories that fall short. They publish pieces with typos and grammatical issues. Even the biggest authors in the world, the ones with teams of editors, have problems slip through the cracks. And you know what? People don’t think less of their content.
So, maybe blogging is about being honest and authentic. Maybe blogging is about being human. Humans cannot be perfect. It’s not possible. So why hold ourselves to that standard?
After two weeks of being held back by fear of imperfection, it’s time for me to get back on the horse. The blog is back. Whatever that means.
There are bad times / But that’s ok / Just look for love in it / Don’t burn the day away.
-Dave Matthews, “Pig”