🖋 Stop Giving af and Start Writing More
In 2019 I wrote more than the previous 5 years combined, at least publically.
And then there are the walled gardens like Paper, Notion, Slack, and Basecamp that are private by default and meant to be for internal company use.
All of that to say, that I wasn't publishing, but I was writing a lot.
In 2019, I stumbled into the idea of treating this space like a digital garden, but less like the walled garden and more like a community garden.
Several practices have been a huge help to me and have led to a lot more publishing and sharing.
⭐️ It's not a fucking blog.
Seriously. The idea of a "blog" needs to get over itself. Everybody is treating writing as a "content marketing strategy" and using it to "build a personal brand" which leads to the fundamental flawed idea that everything you post has to be polished to perfection and ready to be consumed.
This idea is toxic and led me to publish less and less over time.
Instead my approach now is to publish my thoughts more freely with less premeditation. Particularly in this space, which is mine, for me, by me.
I don't lose the freedom to publish more polished work, it's just not my own personal expectation.
Curation over automatic indexing
Pagination is a garbage way to browse a site like that. The only thing pagination is really good for in a browser is saving slow servers from having to render 100s or thousands of items to the page.
This blog is generated statically and an HTML document in the browser can be really really large before it's an actual problem.
Now, all of my articles are there on a single page. You can
ctrl-f the page and it is actually useful.
But if there's no page, how do people find anything?
Look, nobody was flipping through pages on your blog to find anything anyway, so it's fine.
Now, I'm curating guides on the home page that lump together like articles and my personal favorites.
I've also got amazing full-text search via Algolia, which lets folks find what they need.
A Publishing Stack I Like
This is important. I need to enjoy the workflow and publishing experience. For me, it's technical and I want to have complete control. I don't want to publish on a platform like medium and I actually enjoy some of the hacking around of having control of my own site.
Gatsby has been fantastic and gives me a lot of power in my publishing pipeline. I love the strong interop with MDX (markdown with React components) and it fits the way I work very well.
No More Analytics
While we are talking about toxic practices, analytics might get top billing.
"I'm using analytics to monitor what content performs well for my audience."
For me this is a shitty optimization. Instead I'd like to optimize for being useful and interesting to both you and myself.
Being useful for me is the primary use case for this space on the internet. It's not that I don't care about you, but this is for me. It's here so I can record what I think and know and preserve it in time and space.
It's my garden, but I'm happy for you to hang around and eat tomatos with me.
Building a Second Brain
What are you doing with the vast quantities of information you are consuming on a daily basis?
Tweets, blogs, videos, tik toks, reddit comments, hacker news thread, cable news, books...
Where does it all go?
We live in a miraculous time.
There's something like 2700 books published every single day in the US alone.
Good luck ever keeping pace with that, but even what you do keep up with likely slips through your mental fingers and gets lost to the ether.
Then you sit down to "blog" and your stuck sitting there with "writers block" until you click away from the editor and go back to binging some new show on Disney+ (or whatever) with a promise to yourself that you'll blog better next week.
This year I started using Tiago Forte's Second Brain techniques to catalog and store all the shit I'm researching, reading, listening to, watching, and otherwise spending my days consuming.
It all gets shoved into my Second Brain for search and retrieval when I'm ready.
Tools like Notion and Roam have become extra ram that I store the things I'm interested in in.
I clip the whole text into these tools, highlight, add commments and context, cross-reference, and summarize in an incremental way.
Tiago calls this technique Progressive Summarization, and I'm here to tell you it's fantastic.
All of these things together have meant that when I sit down to write, it's painless. I have ideas. I have a great system. It's mostly friction free.