The other day a student had asked about how to get started blogging, if anyone could provide examples of non-technical technical blogs that she could emulate (or at least that was what I gleaned from the question/comment). I gave some advice as a response but it also got me thinking. I started to think about how I got started and how anyone could get started.
Why Are You Writing?
The first thing we have to do is decide why we want to start blogging. For the students of the Firehose Project we (as a member of the community I include myself) highly suggest that all new students should be writing a blog about their journey as a developer. The reason we do that is to create an easy way to show potential employers our passion in our pursuit to be developers. This is the first step for making up for the lack of experience we have as students.
The other reasons we suggest creating a blog and also a big reason we promote the Firehose Lighting Talks to students is to get comfortable thinking and talking about technology, development, and everything that goes with it. This will also help potential employers or clients to realize that we understand what we know and that we actively look for more new information. This bit of knowledge is very important.
This isn’t just for students of the Firehose Project, figuring out the reason why is important for anyone who wants to write a blog, articles, journals, etcetera. First we need to figure why we want to write and what’s going to motivate us to keep going. For me personally I didn’t start writing my blog because I was a developer, I started writing because I was going through some difficult times and started to face some of the struggles that I hadn’t to that point. By doing this I was also discovering things about myself and struggles that I had that I hadn’t even know I had (in retrospect this all got super meta). My reason why I write is primarily to assist myself in working through the thoughts that go through my mind, no matter the topic
Next we need to get started and this is by far the most important step. How do I do this? How do I get started? How do I begin? This is equally the most difficult step and the easiest step, which I know is very contradictory but it’s the truth. When we decide to start writing we assume that we have to immediately be good at it, start publishing what we write, and impress people. We don’t, far from it.
When I started to write I wrote just for myself. It was a private thing only meant for me so that I could figure things out in my life. The purpose of my writing is to not hold onto my thoughts but to get them out of my head and have them live somewhere else. My joy, despair, confusion, frustration, anger, and every other emotion I feel or thought I ponder leaves my mind to live in a document or a piece of paper, no longer consuming and distracting my mind.
Like I said the most difficult and easiest thing is is just to start writing. Open up a text editor or notebook and just start writing whatever comes to you. It doesn’t matter what it is or if it’s even important just start writing. This is the path to starting your blog. Writing is a process and needs to be nurtured and developed. I wrote for nearly 3 weeks before I decided to publish anything. I had written more than 20,000 words (1000+ words per day) before I hit the publish button on my first post about my struggle with duality. To get started we just need to simply just put words to paper. Simple.
Finding your voice
Next we need to figure out what our voice is and what we want it to be. This is done by getting started. We just write and write and write and eventually our voices evolve. Whether you want to write a technical blog with lots of examples of code or write about philosophical ideas it doesn’t matter, this is the phase where that will evolve naturally.
When writing it’s important to know that we shouldn’t be writing for everyone, we’re not news journalists. In the beginning we should ONLY be writing for ourselves or maybe, and that’s a big maybe, writing for one or two other people. Don’t fall into the trap of trying to please and impress everyone, it’ll never happen. All of the important influencers in writing, for me, all say the same thing, they don’t write for anyone but themselves or at most one or two other people.
By writing only for yourself in the beginning or one other person (a specific person in mind; mother, father, coworker, friend, peer, etc) we don’t lose ourselves in the muck of trying to write to please. Write like you are authoring a letter to yourself two minutes ago, two weeks ago, 10 years ago, or 20 years from now, time frame really doesn’t matter and your topic will dictate your time frame. Tell your story, thoughts, struggles, and passions to yourself.
Writing is an intimate action and should be treated as such because effectively what you are doing is divulging your private inner thoughts on a topic and sharing it to the world but by focusing your words directions to yourself you don’t lose focus of your message or thoughts.
Finding your voice is not always an easy process and your voice will change over time, we as humans evolve and so will our voice. Don’t beholden yourself to one voice, one path, or one narrative. We are complex beings with complex thought processes, never be ashamed of changing your viewpoint, stance, or direction in life or your writing.
Choosing Your Platform
Choosing the proper place to publish your writing is a bleak experience, at best. We will want to decide if we should create a personal website that will host our blog, use a pre-built platform like Medium, or use Facebook or other social media solely to write on (this I don’t suggest). For many students of the Firehose Project I would suggest creating a website to host your blog for the simple fact that not only are you making the big leap into writing but you will also gain some experience with building a website, a great first step for any burgeoning developer.
Choosing your platform will be a long term commitment, recently redoing my website and changing platform has assisted me in realizing how painful migrating hundreds of posts to a platform can be, make a calculated decision in the beginning to better support yourself in the future. Find a platform that will last in longevity and usability. Writing is a marathon not a sprint, treat it as such when making your platforming decision.
Sharing Your Voice
This is by far the scariest step in the blogging process, sharing your thoughts. I was terrified the first time I hit publish on my first post. I wrote about my struggle of duality and the constant pull I have felt my whole life. For me this was a deeply personal topic that I had never discussed with anyone so to share these innermost thoughts and feelings to strangers and even more terrifyingly so to my friends and family was not a comfortable process. However, showing my humanity, fears and faults was well received by many people, I had zero negative feedback.
Publishing your thoughts is scary but from my experience they will be well received, people identify and understand that it is not an easy task. We tend to hide behind masks but when we step out from behind them it turns out people are much more receptive and appreciative of who we are and respect us more. Anyone who publishes their inner thoughts I have immense respect for and will never look down upon them or think they are less because of this. It can be a very nerve wracking experience.
Blogging can be incredibly intimidating when wanting to get started. The most important thing you need to do is to just get started writing, from there it all falls into place. You don’t need to fear what you are going to write about or how people will receive it, none of that matters. When writing the only thing that matters is that you are better off writing than you were when you weren’t and you will be. Whether you write and not publish or you write and publish the process of writing will help you work through anything that is running through your mind and you will be profoundly better off because of it.