“Writing for an audience keeps me honest.”
So said Cory Doctorow in his 2021 blog post, The Memex Method.
Here’s a bit more context:
“The genius of the blog was not in the note-taking, it was in the publishing. The act of making your log-file public requires a rigor that keeping personal notes does not. Writing for a notional audience — particularly an audience of strangers — demands a comprehensive account that I rarely muster when I’m taking notes for myself. I am much better at kidding myself my ability to interpret my notes at a later date than I am at convincing myself that anyone else will be able to make heads or tails of them.”
Anyone who knows me knows I am a big proponent of blogging. Always have been. But, for some reason I’ve always steered away from what I guess what you’d call ‘personal blogging’.
When blogging really took off, there was a lot of personal blogging. It seemed to me at the time that much of what was being blogged was ‘writing for the sake of it’. But ‘sharing just because you can’ never really appealed to me, either as a reader or a writer. I needed more substance. Some kind of theme or central purpose to get my teeth into.
I’m also allergic to using the word ‘I’. When I started the blog that later became Londonist I used the ‘editorial we’ in place of the first person almost instinctively. It gave the impression of professionalism I guess, but it also meant I didn’t have to talk about me me me.
All of which is to say that having a ‘personal blog’ (like the one you’re reading right now) is a bit uncomfortable for me, but rereading Cory’s post has made me think about the idea of a ‘semi-professional blog’.
Creating a blog like Londonist, or a newsletter like London in Bits did keep me honest. It focused my attention, it made me more productive, it made me part of a community. All things which Cory talks about in his post. But those publications (if I can call them that) were always the end product. They were designed to grow and (eventually) make money. And with that comes a level of responsibility that leads to burn out and/or dilution of purpose if you’re not very careful.
After all, there is being kept honest and there is being kept too honest to the point where you want to run away and hide in a dark room.
What about somewhere in between? What about a blog that isn’t the equivalent of a public diary, but isn’t also something that has to ‘succeed’. Something that can just live and become “a supersaturated, subconscious solution of fragmentary elements that have the potential to become something bigger” (to quote Cory again).
A semi-professional blog.
Somewhere where I can write about whatever interests me from a personal perspective, but not feel pressured to be ‘overly personal’ (god forbid).
So that’s what I’m going to try and do here. For the next few weeks I’ll experiment with format and cadence and all that, so you’ll have to bear with me, especially as the idea is to just get down whatever interests me in the moment. Things are bound to be scrappy, but I hope they will be scrappy in a good way.
I feel like I will be writing about the future of online publishing and communities (which is a subject I’ve been writing about for the past couple of decades now!); but also maybe a bit about London and cities more generally (specifically the way we experience and ‘read’ cities), the whole subject of storytelling and narratives, as well as a whole mess of tangents and flotsam that I’ve been collecting for a while now.
N.B. This has taken me just over half an hour to write. Which is a good sign!