Blogging/Podcasting/Life as a Process

Good read over at Tales of the Aggronaut today for those who are interested in the process of writing. It’s titled “The Permission to Suck” and speaks to the need for new writers to be brave enough to write without fear. Fear of what? Fear of not being good enough. The timing of the post is great, because I’ve noticed a trend over at the newbie blogger initiative forums within the newbie introduction thread. Many of the new bloggers introduce themselves and describe their writings as “ramblings about…” whatever subject they plan to loosely address within the blog. Reading these descriptions (especially the ones who describe their blogs as “rambling”) cause me to jump to a couple of potential conclusions about the authors. Either, both or neither of which might be true:

  1. The author does not have a clear vision of what their blog is going “to be” when it grows up. Perfectly understandable, as I fall into this camp most days as well. As Belghast says: “Just write”.
  2. The author lacks confidence in their work.

It’s this second possibility that I find the most interesting, and also ties in more clearly with giving yourself “permission to suck”. There seems to be this expectation in western culture that people are just “born” a certain way, with specific talents or vices, which simply cannot be avoided or overcome. I see this in my kids. They try a sport for the first time, have no immediate impact, decide that they’re “not good” at that sport and decide to quit. On the flip side, I also have a child who was born with an impulsive disorder. He is at a social disadvantage to most of his peers. He was, in effect, born this way. That doesn’t give him permission to eschew all social graces at the expense of those around him. Yes, he is disadvantaged, but aren’t we all in certain ways?

Sometimes this heightened self-expectation can lead to a lack of confidence, or the fear to start something new. We look around at all of the established people and we say “well, here I am. Doing this thing. But it’s not very good, really.”. What isn’t immediately clear is that all of these people we’re comparing ourselves to have been working very hard over a long period of time to get where they are. The Internet has shifted culture in a way that has not been beneficial to this perception. We are instantly gratified at every click. You want a new song? Here it is. News from China? No need to even ask! Play a new game? Here it is in your browser. Instant success in online new media? Errrmm….

Instant, anonymous feedback mechanisms have also been detrimental. Some comments and replies serve no purpose other than to destroy confidence. Is it any wonder that the newest generations desire instant, immediate success? To today’s youth, “fail” is a meme to be mocked, not a pathway to success.

Self-awareness is important. Understand who you are, what your motivations are, your strengths, your weaknesses, and realistically what you can accomplish now. Once you have accomplished it (say, a first post on a blog), you can take a step back and re-evaluate your position. What did you learn? How can you apply that to future endeavors? Wise people are constantly re-evaluating themselves. Blogging is a process, as is life. Nobody is born to write. For some people, it comes more easily than for others. But the real success stories are those who continually work at it and consistently improve.

This can be applied to podcasters and vidcasters as well. It’s easy to get distracted by the sensational story of the person who was in the right place at the right time. The guy whos cat video went viral. The woman who started the first travel blog. Then, compare yourself to them because “hey, I can film a cat video or post pictures to a website just as easily as those people!”. The problem is, those people won the lottery. Most people don’t win the lottery. Most of us settle down into a job that doesn’t irritate us too badly, we work hard, we constantly re-evaluate our performance and improve, and 30 or 40 years later, hopefully we’ve provided for our families and socked enough away to enjoy life for a little while. Blogging – or any project/hobby – is much the same. It helps to have a reasonable understanding and expectation when we first start so we don’t become too discouraged early in the process.

Now for a word of encouragement. Belghast says that you will look back on your early posts and be embarrassed. This is probably generally true, but occasionally I am surprised by the quality of some of the past posts on my personal blog. Every once in awhile I’ll click on a post from 2011 or earlier and think to myself “wow, I was really ON that day!”. That may be more of a commentary on my lowered expectations of my past self than of the actual quality of the post, but it’s nice to be surprised by younger me, occasionally.

Featured image by jeffrey james pacres on Flickr

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16 thoughts on “Blogging/Podcasting/Life as a Process

  1. Roger Edwards (@ModeratePeril) May 6, 2014 / 11:23 am

    I politely refuted Belghast’s somewhat blanket statement about being embarrassed by ones earlier work. I agree with the notion of ongoing improvement but I do not think that validates the idea that ones first output is always poor.

    In the movie industry there are many established film makers who’s early work is far from poor. In fact it can be cogently argued that several A list directors made their finest work when they were learning their craft. Some never recaptured their initial successes. Orson Welles, John Carpenter and Steven Spielberg spring to mind.

    I would also like to carefully introduce a cultural element to the discussion about failure and peoples fear of it. In my experience I see this more often in US. Because the United States is founded upon the universal dream of making it big and reaching ones potential, the culture is extremely focused on success be it personal or national. The notion of winning being everything is weighty burden to place upon any child. Link that to financial security and it’s fully understandable why so many become risk averse. Failure ceases to be a chance to learn but a crushing personal, social and even economic disaster.

    Of course we face a similar situation in the UK. However, culturally, the UK has always held dear two concepts that help mitigate the fear of failure; our sense of self deprecating humour and our love of underdogs and those that have no hope in hell but give it their all.

    I’m a firm believer in focused and dogged determination. It sadly doesn’t lend itself to a great Hollywood story of over coming the odds but it a proven method. Plan, implement and reflect upon results. Learn from what works for you and what doesn’t then continue forward.

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    • Braxwolf May 6, 2014 / 12:45 pm

      The cultural aspect is interesting. I can only speak to what I’m accustomed to, of course, but we’ve always been very careful to instill in our children that we’re proud of them no matter how well they perform at any specific sport/event. So,this self-expectation is coming from the people and things they observe around them. Perhaps it’s a societal thing, after all. But the US is pretty tough to pin down. We love a winner, until they’re too much of a winner, at which point we want to see them taken down a notch.

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      • Vlad Matejka (@thematejka) July 1, 2014 / 8:40 pm

        Totally agree with Roger as well and also want to add on the cultural aspect. I think there is more to this, because the idea of making it big, realizing potential, etc. is very Greco/Roman. Their civilizations (which we also got our governing systems from) held the same values in many ways. Loving a winner until they get to big is also a function of Greek civilization. That’s what Greek/Athenian democracy was for regulating. The US’s and Canada’s democratic systems do not help much with that part, though…oops.

        North America’s tendencies have evolved over a long time, but perhaps recently intensified due to the rising middle-class, subsequent competition, and business world competing to be the best. Business and money are highly valued things in North America. That culture had penetrated all other aspects of the general North American culture, I think.

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    • Doone May 6, 2014 / 7:21 pm

      Completely agree with Roger here. There is a cultural component. It’s really more of an ideology of competition. As you describe in your post, kids learn to be competitive at school (socially, grades, sports, etc) and if they’re not the “star” or doing “well” or getting “As”, they get discouraged. They can feel the cultural messaging that failure is disgrace. And that’s a total disservice to children.

      This is a very well written and thoughtful piece, Brax. I think it was very important to share for the reasons you stated. Might be worth forwarding newbies over for a discussion of the topic, just to see what others think about this.

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      • Izlain May 7, 2014 / 2:49 pm

        Unfortunately this has lead to children being rewarded for every small success in their lives. Completed Kindergarten? Here’s a “graduation” ceremony. Competitions end up with “everyone is a winner.” The spirit of competition has lead to the spirit of fairness in everything, and simply put — LIFE IS NOT FAIR. Kids need to feel failure so they can learn to improve, or take their lives in a different direction.

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      • Doone May 7, 2014 / 6:31 pm

        @Izlain; Oddly I think what you describe is a response by parents and teachers to a curriculum designed to make children compete with each other for “best” in class. I think they try to remove the competitive elements from the education process, but what you describe is one of the ways it goes wrong. Good point.

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      • Braxwolf May 7, 2014 / 9:23 pm

        While I agree that failure is necessary for growth, can I say that as a parent of a kid who’s tasted very little (athletic) success, it can be a little heartbreaking. I can certainly sympathize with those who don’t like to see their children disappointed, especially if it seems to always be *their* kid tasting failure and not those other gifted children who always seem to persevere on the field of play. I’m not saying that competition should be removed, just that the “kids these days” argument is not always so black and white.

        Thank you all for visiting and for the thought-provoking comments!

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  2. Sig May 6, 2014 / 5:18 pm

    I almost always look back on my old posts and go “wow, I sucked.”
    I have a few I am a little proud of.

    Excellent post, Brax.

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    • Izlain May 7, 2014 / 2:50 pm

      I was looking at some of my older posts from the mid 2000’s, when I kept primarily a personal blog. Some of the things I wrote about were best left to private conversation. Man, some of the things I put on the Internet that I wouldn’t put up now. NO SHAME lol

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  3. Doone May 6, 2014 / 7:21 pm

    Reblogged this on XP Chronicles and commented:
    Very powerfull, thoughtful post writting by Brax for the Newbie Blogger Initiative. Please read, especially if you’re a blogger.

    Like

  4. seanxxp July 27, 2014 / 7:42 pm

    Well I just started my blog this weekend, and it’s funny to read this piece now, as in my very first post I mention that this is a style of writing that’s pretty new to me. And that as such, I expect my writing to change over the course of time

    At least in my case it’s certainly a confidence issue. But I hope to feel more comfortable with it as I progress.

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    • Braxwolf July 27, 2014 / 10:20 pm

      I saw your blog today, and am very excited about what may lie ahead! If your first few posts are any indication, you have no reason to lack confidence from what I can see.

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      • seanxxp July 29, 2014 / 3:36 pm

        Thanks Brax, that’s really kind of you.

        Like

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