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Why everyone should blog

“Everyone should write a blog, every day, even if no one reads it. There’s countless reasons why it’s a good idea and I can’t think of one reason it’s a bad idea.” — Seth Godin

Everyone should blog. You do not have to publish 500 words a day. You do not even need to post at all. In fact, writing comes easier when you can write for yourself, in private.

Use a smartphone journal like the Day One app or the ever popular Morning Pages Journal where you write by hand. When it comes to blogging effectively, you have to be a little vulnerable. Don’t tell all but don’t hide everything either, especially if your advice will benefit the lives of other people.

I have been blogging for years (click here to view my guide to setting up a blog on WordPress). It is harder to get an audience who cares to read your stuff today than it has ever been. You have to assume nobody wants to read your shit because he or she is busy or would rather be social networking or playing games instead. However, for those readers who do read your blog frequently, they have subscribed for a reason.

Luis Suarez has been blogging since 2002 and recently offered some advice about using your blog to reflect the real you.

“It’s all about having a meaningful presence and how you work your way to make it happen, to leave a legacy behind, to share your thoughts and ideas others can learn from just like you do yourself with other people’s vs. pretending to be who you are not…Just be yourself with your own thoughts and share them along! It is what we all care for, eventually. The rest is just noise.”

People like to say blogging is dead. But not only are new platforms emerging like Medium, but blogging is just writing. Words will always be a powerful way to say something meaningful, whether it is in print, online, graffiti, or the walls of a cave.

Here’s a tip: If you want to start a blog, try WordPress.com for free or go with a Personal account ($4/mo) with a custom domain name and access to dozens of free themes.  Learn More

I started this blog so I could show the world what interests me. It is no surprise that what you read here is information I learned from other blogs. In other words, blogging acts like a canvass where you synthesize, remix and interpret in your words. Above all, blogging is free, what Seth Godin calls “the last great online bargain.” Blogging gives you a voice, and it is an excellent incentive to think in a world that just wants us to consume.

Blogging is a bicep curl for the brain. Write daily, and practice the art of conviction.

“Use your blog to connect. Use it as you. Don’t “network” or “promote.” Just talk.”

Neil Gaiman

Genius is a balancing act

Genius is a balancing act

Said F. Scott Fitzgerald: “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”

The dialectic contains life’s truest serum.

It is the remix of opposites, not the grab of absolutes, that fosters new ways of thinking.

Genius is a balancing act.

What if your success depended not on being a specialist but specializing in being a generalist — a mere connector of the dots?

Consider casting wide beyond the silos and carrying a big information-seeking stick. Collect more artifacts.

Playing with opposites releases the mind from the forces of stuckness.

Maria Popova talks about writing for herself, creativity, and more on the Tim Ferriss Podcast

Below are some of the highlights of Maria Popova from her interview on the Tim Ferriss podcast. Some of the topics discussed include how to be interesting, on doing the work, and what makes a person creative.

On being interesting

  • “The key to being interesting is being interested and enthusiastic about those interests.”
  • When Kurt Vonnegut wrote “write to please just one person” what he was really saying was write for yourself. Don’t try to please anyone but yourself.
  • Content implies an “external motive” for advertisement. Nobody does content from the joy of their soul. Write because it’s personal and you love it.

Summary: Write for yourself. Stay interested. Don’t call your writing content.

“Love words. Agonize over sentences. Pay attention to the world.”

Susan Sontag

On writing

  • “Becoming” is a life long process. You never stop evolving so what you want to become is never done.
  • The most important aspect to work is consistency. All successful authors are consistent about their work. They show up and do it.

The formula for greatness: “Consistency driven by the deep love of the work.”

On creating

  • You don’t have to have a mental illness to be creative. That’s bunk. Yet without art, you may suffer even more.

On reading

  • “Literature is the original Internet. Every footnote, every citation, every reference, is a hyperlink to another book.” Read books, not just tweets, to find other compelling content.
  • “I read to make sense of life. The writing is a record of the reading.” Moments of time, place, weather, etc impact what you read. As long as it helps make your life better and richer in moment and long run, read it.

On inspiration:

  • Thoreau’s journals are timeless: “Those who work much do not work hard.”

Listen: Podcast: Maria Popova Hosts the Tim Ferriss Show

A pedestal type of person

The best marketers bake their advertising into their work.

Whether you’re an athlete, an author, or a baker, the product speaks for itself. Your trade either breeds trust and gets shared by others or falls at the wayside.

Steve Jobs, Michael Jordan, and Albert Einstein put their money where their mouth is.

But there are of course ways to exaggerate one’s abilities.

David Beckham was a good football player, not great. Karl Lagerfeld is a good designer, but no one amazing. The difference is how these two talk about themselves and strategically elevate their game by raising their awareness platform.

Performance is only half of the story. The other half of the story is what the consumer tells themselves. Buyers acknowledge the artifice but also stand on pedestals they too think they deserve.

‘His retina is beleaguered with images’

'His retina is beleaguered with images'

“What of modern man’s scale of values? His retina is beleaguered with images (photographs, printed matter, street advertisements, Cinema) from morning to night.” 

Alvar Aalto, 1927

And now we’re beleaguered with shiny devices that blast such promotions into our eyes.

We all carry a piece of Times Square in our pocket.

gif by Tomasz Konczakowski

The magic double-consciousness

Both attention and boredom are vital to creativity.

Attention works like a gate, opening and closing at the will of seeing. The photographer’s eye spots patterns the same way a poet finds beauty in the mundane.

Yet, boredom is a gateway to mind wandering. It’s a trigger for experiences, a calling for both imagination and novelty.

The mind zig-zags between concerted effort and pause in the attempt to pick up more knowledge. Emphasizing one over the other negates their impact.

Active control also requires a calm discipline.

Self-scrutiny is the thief of joy

What do you for a living? It’s either the first or last question you want to answer at a dinner party.

Any time you have to open up about a personal topic it burns the lips.

Comparisons are natural, contentedness is artificial. Everyone acts happy but they always want what they don’t have.

If you earn $50,000 a year, you want $100,000. If you’re stuck in a cubicle, you want to work from the beach. If you’re single, you want a partner.

The opposite is true: just switch the latter with the desire for more time, a stable job, and more privacy.

Life is a game riddled with paradoxes. This realization should elucidate what truly motivates you.

Your level of happiness depends on your ability to appreciate what you got multiplied by a personal projection of where you want to go.

Self-scrutiny is a therefore a type of theft.

Fifteen minutes for eternity

We all want to be fifteen minutes ahead of everybody, fifteen minutes of fame, and fifteen minutes of bliss.

Not ten, not five, but fifteen.

Fifteen is just enough time to bake in an experience, to create something memorable even if we don’t deem it worthwhile.

We feel the freest when we’re most in danger, the paradox of escaping everydayness.

In search of a stimulus, the rush of blood to the head turns a moment into a milestone of excitement.

“The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.” John Milton

Once we scratch the itch, life can go on.

A fleeting fifteen minutes is sometimes all we need to keep going. It’s the clock that stops.

They took our jobs 🤖

Hoover catalog in the 1920s.jpg

In the 1920s, Hoover marketed its vacuum not just as a time-saver but as a human energy saver: “Hoover offers the least fatiguing way of cleaning carpets and rugs.”

If a robot wrote this blog post, would you even know the difference?

The future of automation says that robots will displace human jobs. Gmail’s auto-responder already responds to email for you.

Writes Logic, a magazine about technology.

Since the dawn of market society, owners and bosses have revelled in telling workers they were replaceable. Robots lend this centuries-old dynamic a troubling new twist: employers threaten employees with the specter of machine competition, shirking responsibility for their avaricious disposition through opportunistic appeals to tech determinism. A “jobless future” is inevitable, we are told, an irresistible outgrowth of innovation, the livelihood-devouring price of progress. (Sadly, the jobless future for the masses doesn’t resemble the jobless present of the 1 percent who live off dividends, interest, and rent, lifting nary a finger as their bank balances grow.)

I doubt the rise of technology obviates the need for human brains and hands. We are thinking machines while the automatons themselves excel in action, at least for the time being.

The bigger problem seems to be the perception of jobs. Most people allow work to justify their existence when really it’s the things we do outside the office that should make us feel needed. There’s more to life than a paycheck!

South Park they took our jobs.gif

The machines are going to be there like they’ve been all along, helping people get their work done more efficiently. The bots versus brain chasm is a non-zero-sum game.

But if it just so happens that all we do is push buttons all day, perhaps it’ll give us a chance to do other things like making better art.

Wouldn’t that be something?

How technology impacts the way people write

Nietzsche wrote on a Malling-Hansen Writing Ball // How technology impacts the way people write
How technology impacts the way people write
How technology impacts the way people write

From Nietzsche’s Writing Ball, to Stephen King’s typewriter, to Steve Jobs’ Macintosh and iPhone, technology has changed the way we write.

Describes Matthew Kirschenbaum in The New Republic:

“Our writing instruments are also working on our thoughts.” Nietzsche wrote, or more precisely typed, this sentence on a Malling-Hansen Writing Ball, a wondrous strange contraption that looks a little like a koosh ball cast in brass and studded with typewriter keys. Depressing a key plunged a lever with the typeface downward onto the paper clutched in the underbelly.

It’s well-known that Nietzsche acquired the Writing Ball to compensate for his failing eyesight. Working by touch, he used it to compose terse, aphoristic phrasings exactly like that oft-quoted pronouncement. Our writing instruments, he suggested, are not just conveniences or contrivances for the expression of ideas; they actively shape the limits and expanse of what we have to say. Not only do we write differently with a fountain pen than with a crayon because they each feel different in our hands, we write (and think) different kinds of things.

I like to believe that my best writing appears in long-form first. Writing by hand produces this magical experience of disfluency, where the brain moves swiftly with the pen in synchronicity.

Writing on the computer, on the other hand, tends to make me overtype and therefore edit most of my words. However, I have noticed that drafting a note on the phone with one hand typically produces something more thoughtful than typing two-handed on a desktop.

Whether we write with a digital device, pen, or pencil “we become what we behold,” Marshall McLuhan reminds us, “We shape our tools and then our tools shape us.”

Creativity is a game of inches

It comes as no surprise that bad work begets good work — the more you create, the more you have to play with.

People mistakenly believe that successful artists excelled all along. But what you see as the viewer is mostly the result of trial and error.

What I enjoy about the internet is that you can show your work. Anyone can put their art out into the world and get immediate feedback, even if the latter is crickets. Dead silence may inspire you to be more expressive, in some cases, intensely provocative.

“It is a joy to be hidden, and a disaster not to be found.”– D.W. Winnicott

It takes a lot of time and a ton of practice to recreate what you consider good taste. It also takes a lot of courage to be one of the crazy ones trying something new. But the artist can’t combat convention until they master the basics first.

From emulation to originality, the entire creative process seems to happen slowly and shimmers when it thinks you’re ready. Until then, cultivating talent is a game of inches.

‘Be the bamboo tree which bends toward the wind’

81Ath3JIruL.jpg

“Alive, a man is supple, soft; in death, unbending rigor. All creatures, grass and trees, alive are plastic, but are pliant, too, and [in] death all feeble and dry. Unbending rigor is the mate of death, and yielding softness, [the] company of life. Unbending soldiers get no victories, the stiffest tree is readiest for the ax. The strong and mighty belong to the bottom, the soft and yielding rise above them all.

The strongest is he that makes use of his opponent’s strength—be the bamboo tree which bends toward the wind; and when the wind ceases, it springs back stronger than before.

— Bruce Lee, Bruce Lee: Artist of Life

Leonardo’s strange faces

Leonardo da Vinci made ugly beautiful, an approach Francis Bacon did well to mimic nearly five hundred years later.
Leonardo da Vinci made ugly beautiful, an approach Francis Bacon did well to mimic nearly five hundred years later.
Leonardo da Vinci made ugly beautiful, an approach Francis Bacon did well to mimic nearly five hundred years later.
Leonardo da Vinci made ugly beautiful, an approach Francis Bacon did well to mimic nearly five hundred years later.

There’s an excellent piece in the NY Times about Leonardo Da Vinci’s obsession with drawing weird faces:

Leonardo was a true Renaissance man, fascinated with everything — the mechanics of flight, architecture, engineering, botany, artillery and human anatomy — but one of his favorite private pastimes was to draw faces, either as scribbles in the margins of his notebooks or as fully conceived sketches later used for paintings.

Leonardo da Vinci made ugly beautiful, an approach Francis Bacon did well to mimic nearly five hundred years later.

Banksy’s self-destructing painting 🎈

In 2016, graffiti artist Banksy installed a shredder into one of his canvasses entitled it “Girl With Balloon.”

Just last week, Sotheby’s auction house in London sold the painting to the highest bidder for $1.37 million. The picture subsequently tore to shreds. 

“A few years ago I secretly built a shredder into a painting…in case it was ever put up for auction…”

Banksy

People are wondering whether someone at Sotheby’s was in on the prank or whether it was just careless. Purveyors of modern art do consider frames as part of the artwork, so it’s possible that Sotheby’s never thoroughly examined the painting on purpose. 

Either way, the self-destructing painting makes a mockery of the commercialization of art. Banksy quotes Picasso: “The urge to destroy is also a creative urge.”

Given Banksy’s triumph and his legendary status in art world folklore, the only question people are asking now is how much the demolished painting will be worth in the future. Guaranteed the new owner is already there picking up the scraps.