Most of a blog's benefits are obvious—things like instant global communication, cheap publicity, and potential notoriety—but one is probably overlooked more than it ought to be. This may be because it's so simple, so self-evident, that it's practically invisible. The old writers write maxim is as true today as it ever was, and what better way to practice your writing than by cranking out a daily blog?
There are other ways, of course. You can write in a spiral notebook, or on your living room walls if your muse dictates. But a blog is different, and better, because there's a good chance your writing won't remain in a vacuum forever; sooner or later, others will read your words. Maybe lots of others, if you're lucky. This alone is reason enough to be a bit more careful with your writing than you otherwise might, but it's also a good reason to force yourself to sit down every day, and just do it. It's a lot like work, even if you do love to write for its own sake. But unless you have the luxury of a personal transcriptionist, there's no help for it.
Taking the memory train to one of my favorite old print magazines yesterday, it was probably inevitable that I wound up at the Web site of Jerry Pournelle. He was a regular columnist at BYTE, and also wrote books in his spare time—i.e. when he wasn't fooling with those infernal machines at Chaos Manor. From what I could gather during the few minutes I spent on his site, things haven't changed much.
Anyway, I ran across an old article of his that seemed appropriate in the context of today's post. Originally published in the December 1996 BYTE as part of his regular column, How To Get My Job is a response to the age-old how do I become a writer? question.
The secret of becoming a writer is that you have to write. You have to write a lot. You also have to finish what you write, even though no one wants it yet. If you don't learn to finish your work, no one will ever want to see it. The biggest mistake new writers make is carrying around copies of unfinished work to inflict on their friends.
Although it's aimed more at those with unpublished book manuscripts, his advice is applicable to bloggers, too. The first part is true regardless of the medium: write, write, repeat. The second is equally appropriate: finish your blog post, even if you don't feel like it—even a single paragraph has a beginning, a middle, and an end. And although it's certainly possible to carry your unfinished blog posts around with you in ways too obvious to illuminate, a hurried, not-quite-finished post can be inflicted on more than just your friends. Sometimes there just isn't enough time to do the post right, but maybe that's a good reason—and I say this to myself as well—to wait until there is.
So there it is. The secret to becoming a writer may be as simple as (dare I say it?) live to blog; blog to live. Or words to that effect.