Home > musing > Suggested New Year’s resolution: start a blog

Suggested New Year’s resolution: start a blog

December 27, 2012

I was thinking the other day how much I’ve gotten out of writing this blog. I’m incredibly grateful for it, and I want you to consider starting a blog too. Let’s go through the pros and cons:

Pros

  1. A blog forces you to articulate your thoughts rather than having vague feelings about issues.
  2. This means you get past things that are bothering you.
  3. You also get much more comfortable with writing, because you’re doing it rather than thinking about doing it.
  4. If your friends read your blog you get to hear what they think.
  5. If other people read your blog you get to hear what they think too. You learn a lot that way.
  6. Your previously vague feelings and half-baked ideas are not only formulated, but much better thought out than before, what with all the feedback. You’ll find yourself changing your mind or at least updating and modifying lots of opinions.
  7. You also get to make new friends through people who read your blog (this is my favorite part).
  8. Over time, instead of having random vague thoughts about things that bug you, you almost feel like you have a theory about the things that bug you (this could be a “con” if you start feeling all bent out of shape because the world is going to hell).

Cons

  1. People often think what you’re saying is dumb and they don’t resist telling you (you could think of this as a “pro” if you enjoy growing a thicker skin, which I do). 
  2. Once you say something dumb, it’s there for all time, in your handwriting, and you’ve gone on record saying dumb things (that’s okay too if you don’t mind being dumb).
  3. It takes a pretty serious commitment to write a blog, since you have to think of things to say that might interest people (thing you should never say on a blog: “Sorry it’s been so long since I wrote a post!”).
  4. Even when you’re right, and you’ve articulated something well, people can always dismiss what you’ve said by claiming it can’t be important since it’s just a blog.

Advice if you’ve decided to go ahead and start a blog

  1. Set aside time for your blog every day. My time is usually 6-7am, before the kids wake up.
  2. Keep notes for yourself on bloggy subjects. I write a one-line gmail to myself with the subject “blog ideas” and in the morning I search for that phrase and I’m presented with a bunch of cool ideas.
  3. For example I might write something like, “Can I pay people to not wear moustaches?” and I leave a link if appropriate.
  4. I try to switch up the subject of the blog so I don’t get bored. This may keep my readers from getting bored but don’t get too worried about them because it’s distracting.
  5. My imagined audience is almost always a friend who would forgive me if I messed something up. It’s a friendly conversation.
  6. Often I write about something I’ve found myself explaining or complaining about a bunch of times in the past few days.
  7. Anonymous negative comments happen, and are often written by jerks. Try to not take them personally.
  8. Try to accept criticism if it’s helpful and ignore it if it’s hurtful. And don’t hesitate to delete hurtful comments. If that jerk wants a platform, he or she can start his or her own goddamn blog.
  9. Never feel guilty towards your blog. It’s inanimate. If you start feeling guilty then think about how to make it more playful. Take a few days off and wait until you start missing your blog, which will happen, if you’re anything like me.
Categories: musing
  1. thomas
    December 27, 2012 at 5:49 pm

    i feel compelled to tell you i subscribe via RSS, and read every word, lurking.

    i enjoy your writing very much, and i have learned some things!

  2. Sendhil Revuluri
    December 27, 2012 at 7:42 pm

    Thanks for the thoughts! One other consideration – which I think would go on the “con” side of the ledger – is if one’s opinions might be controversial or reflect poorly on oneself in the context of one’s “day job”. Was this anything you considered when you began the blog, or as it has continued?

  3. GD
    December 28, 2012 at 12:04 am

    Great idea. I think it is also a good place to store up references and ideas that you can access easily on the road with minimal hardware. If you are a member of discussion groups – you can send them the link to a well thought out blog post that would have been wasted and buried on a listserv. Detractors and personal attacks are easy to ignore because you are the editor.

  4. December 28, 2012 at 12:47 am

    Seconded opinion :)

  5. December 28, 2012 at 6:53 am

    If you do researchy types of things, then a nice thing about blogging is that you can talk about things that don’t work. A “real” paper has to be about something that does work, or that you can make appear to work. Blogging gives you the freedom to try things and report on them no matter what happens. Learning what doesn’t work is often at least as valuable as learning what does.

  6. December 28, 2012 at 7:13 am

    I’m grateful for your blog, and it inspires me to keeping blogging myself. There are so many positives (as you’ve listed). Many of them have been quite unexpected. I think of writing for the public as a way to discover one’s own strengths and weaknesses (getting stuff out of the head and then seeing it and having to stand behind it is the perfect reality check) and make unexpected connections with people.

  7. JSE
    December 28, 2012 at 9:32 am

    I resisted starting a blog for a long time, but like you, Cathy, I’ve found it immensely valuable. One pro you didn’t mention: it’s an outboard memory! Many times someone has asked me a math question, and where I used to say “Oh yeah, I thought about that at some point and had some ideas about it but I’ve forgotten what they were” I can now say “I summed up on my blog what I did and didn’t know about that and what I thought were good questions about it, here’s the link.”

    What got me started blogging was very good advice from David Carlton, who told me that the secret to blogging is LOW STANDARDS — if you have high barriers to what goes on your blog, you just can’t do it regularly, and my experience has been that people who blog irregularly quickly stop blogging at all.

  8. December 28, 2012 at 11:52 am

    I got into blogging when I offered a few comments about Goldman Sachs and the banking system which interested me because of the financial crisis that affected everyone, including me with negative interest rates for my savings accounts. The owner of the blog invited me to post every day and I took advantage of his offer starting in 2010. I have posted hundreds of items with commentaries since.

    Now I find that I have learned a lot about derivatives, fiat currency, banks as debt creators, economics (both the bad and the good), bailouts, Federal Reserve discount windows, Central Banks, fiscal and monetary policy and Modern Money Theory. There are certain blogs I read every day to gain information on my subject matter. I read alerts on GS every day, too, and at first I thought I would run out of material. Luckily for me, though, Goldman is always paying a fine for some fraud or other so there is lots of grist for the mill.

    I highly recommend that everyone get involved in blogs that interest them or create your own blog as suggested by mathbabe.

  9. December 28, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    Apropos of #4 in the “Pro” list, I would add that another big “pro” is that your friends who live far away get to hear what’s on your mind and feel closer to you for it. It uplevels the degree of engaged daily conversation despite the distance. Thank you, Mathbabe!

    • December 28, 2012 at 4:02 pm

      True, that’s been a huge blessing! Although I get the impression (not about you) that some people read my blog and feel closer to me but then don’t comment or get in touch with me. Not fair! :)

  10. December 28, 2012 at 5:33 pm

    Great post! I wrote about the same idea recently – would definitely recommend people to start blogging as a New Year’s Resolution, it is a very nice way of spending your time. And the cons you mention should not stop anyone. Just go for it :)

  11. December 28, 2012 at 6:43 pm

    For me, the “outboard memory” comment rings trues. I know many forums or forae, but not always a suitable one for a blog topic I’m thinking of. As someone wrote in comments, having too high standards can interfere with the “blogging” process. Also, I used to be a fan of Twitter. But now I definitely prefer the long form of blogs. About Pro #4, switching subjects: I think it’s good, and if I read something interesting by someone, I might well be interested in reading more by that someone on various topics.

  12. Peach cake
    December 29, 2012 at 7:09 am

    My resolution for this new year will be having less comments deleted from other people blogs. Seriously.

  13. January 1, 2013 at 7:39 am

    Well, my resolution is to write more for my blog, and also try to write shorter entries (every now and then). The latter is a BIG challenge. :)
    Thanks for you nice summary. Nothing I did not know in advance, which is good: I know the salient facts, now it’s time for action!

  14. January 1, 2013 at 2:34 pm

    Yes when I began a blog this year it too morphed into something that went beyond my previous understanding of things. But I have not yet come around to enabling comments on post feeling it would be a distraction or a cause of too much concern and timeloss.

  15. January 3, 2013 at 11:54 pm

    If your friends read your blog you get to hear what they think.
    If other people read your blog you get to hear what they think too. You learn a lot that way.

    Well…Cathy, most people’s blogs receive zero to few comments. Even quite good ones. I certainly don’t read all my friends’ blogs. I think your experience of blogging has probably had more of this “pro” than most can expect.

    Once you say something dumb, it’s there for all time, in your handwriting, and you’ve gone on record saying dumb things (that’s okay too if you don’t mind being dumb).

    I frequently edit after publishing. Maybe the original worse version is cached somewhere but nobody cares enough to look for my non-canonical first folio.

    I really love that aspect of blogs versus books. You can’t make any more edits after your book goes to press. But with electronic writing I can. Meanwhile something is out there (even if it’s imperfect) so I don’t feel like I’m magnum-opus’ing away in my dark corner.

    (thing you should never say on a blog: “Sorry it’s been so long since I wrote a post!”).

    #1 most infallible blogular advice.

    • January 3, 2013 at 11:54 pm

      …bleh. even quite good *blogs* receive no comments

  1. December 31, 2012 at 11:24 am
  2. January 5, 2013 at 11:54 am
  3. September 14, 2013 at 8:13 am
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