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Blogging Thresholds

June 21st, 2016
writing

How to blog: lower your threshold until you start writing.

People often run into problems where their "good enough to post" threshold creeps up and up. They write something really good, people read it, they feel proud, great! That should be motivating! Except now they don't want to write anything worse. They have ideas, but the typical idea will always be less insightful than the best one, and so putting out something new gets harder and harder.

In some ways this makes sense: if you want people to think highly of you as a writer, the best strategy is probably to write a very small number of truly excellent pieces. But writing is a skill that needs practice like any other; the few best posts depend on the many lesser posts, the ones that developed the ideas, the phrasing, building an ability to transfer ideas to others through the low bandwidth medium of simple words.

Sometimes people handle this by dividing their writing into a formal blog and something casual. Scott Alexander has a blog and a tumblr, and this seems like it works for him. On the other hand, Ben Kuhn tried separating things into a blog and random short posts bloggish thing but gave up and moved back to having a main blog. At least for me I need to be writing visible things to get myself to write at all, and if my lower-standards writing is going to be visible I'm not sure there's much of a distinction worth having.

When I get ideas I really want to share I want a place to share them and practice doing so, which means keeping in the habit of catching ideas as they flow by and fixing them in words. What I've found works for me is noticing times when I'm not writing much, and trying to lower my standards until I start writing again.

(This seems like something that could apply to communities as well, though the only example I'm currently thinking of is how increasingly strict commenter-enforced standards on LessWrong pushed posters from Main to Discussion to open threads. And ultimately pushed nearly everything interesting to other spaces entirely!)

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