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How Does One Write?

Writing a blogpost is not as easy as writing what you're interested in; at least to me.

(Edited ) | Perspective Composing

Whenever I want to write something, the hardest part is always figuring out how to start. I'll often think to myself for a while about what that first line should be, coming up with multiple ideas that I don't even bother writing down because they simply don't sound right. Eventually, something in my head will ring out and I'll manage to catch it with my words. Often it will be approaching the subject matter bluntly that stokes the flames that allow me to steam ahead with writing, but even that will be delayed by me figuring out what the best angle of approach is.

The reason why this all matters to me is that I firmly believe that the quality of your starting point dictates your endpoint. If you start your writing out strong, that strength with carry you through the rest of the piece. This idea of having a solid start to your writing doesn't stop at the intro sentence, however - it branches off into the thesis of your writing, which itself is rooted in the quality of your research and knowledge of a given subject matter. Foundations matter, and writing is one of many examples on that show how starting strong can make all the difference.

There is, of course, a catch to this idea. And that is that you might not write anything at all.

One of the things I've noticed more and more frequently, especially after the recent changes that have been happening with Twitter after Elon Musk's acquisition, has been a rallying cry from the IndieWeb for more people to start blogging. Old words have been dusted off and cried out again. The introduction to Scott Hanselman's "Your words are wasted" has rung out in my ears since I've read it.

You are not blogging enough.

I don't know how to properly segway this, but I need to acknowledge that the argument that I fully understand and agree that the argument "I have nothing to say" doesn't apply to me. It likely doesn't apply to you, too. Yes, I'm referring to you, the reader. We both have plenty of things going on that we simply don't talk about, even if those things would be incredibly interesting in the eyes of others. I should also say that even if you think people won't care about what you'll have to say, it's still worth saying it. There might be a completely logical explanation as to why people should ignore you, but there will still be some that pay attention. Simply talking about what you've done recently might even make a difference in someone's life. We all have something to say, it's just putting it into words.

That brings me back to my problem. For me, the issue isn't what I should write about; it's figuring out how to write it. Let's take length for example of this problem. Someone like Hanselman would say to make your blogposts not to long or short (in fact, he literally did say that) but that's too vague for me. I like to know what the expected word count is for an assignment as I go into it, as it gives me an idea on how much I'll need to cover on a given subject. Blogging doesn't have that; a blog post goes for as long as you see fit. That leaves things wide open for me to wonder "what else should I be covering?" It also doesn't help that social media exists, which means there's now a mental split as to what do you write for where?

This is on top of this issue of me wanting a strong foundation for my writing, which becomes a problem when you're aware of the self-referential nature of hypertext. You begin to think about potential blogposts in sequence with the one your trying to start writing, which leaves you to wonder if what your trying to write is really the best place to start this trail of consciousness. Building from what you know also comes with the risk undermining yourself, with the worst way of which being "Hasn't someone already covered this before?" The feeling is made worse if you believe you don't have a strong enough grasp of a subject to write about it, even if that feeling is just self-doubt talking. A weird situation I've found myself in is that my adoption of Obsidian as my primary writing app and knowledge management system has left me wanting to fully organize my knowledge vault before I write anything, because then I can refer to my vault as I'm writing and can reference and include things as I go along. As nice as it would be to have, you don't need a knowledge management system to write! And yet I believed it was mandatory for me!

How do I write when the process of writing itself is a problem?

I asked my Mom that question in a phone call recently after going on a similar diatribe. She simply told me "one word at a time." In other words, just write about what interests you right now. I'm inclined to give it a shot.