Blog The First Draft

October 26th, 2010

MarsEdit users sometimes sheepishly admit that they aren’t blogging as much as they “should” be. Excuses vary, but it usually boils down to the classic issue afflicting all of us who try to stick to a productive routine: we simply fall out of the habit.

Long time readers of this blog will note that I’ve had my dry periods as well. But watch closely: I’m blogging now about a thought I had just earlier this evening, while reading Twitter updates and responding to them. Colin Barrett complained that his perfectionism is limiting his blogging:

I plan to write more; I think my @secondconf talk on freelancing would work well as a series of posts. Just gotta get past my perfectionism.

I’m incredibly familiar with this line of thinking. In fact, it’s a variant of the indefinitely postponed software releases that I just wrote about. I read Colin’s tweet and, before I had even noticed that the neurons in my brain were firing, I had responded with a bit of encouragement:

@cbarrett The modern business model for solo writing is to blog your first draft and sell your final.

I’m referring to the fact that very few blogs are edited to the level of professionalism you might find in literary or scientific journals. On the contrary, some of the web’s most celebrated bloggers have let their essays loose in a semi-rambling form, only to piece them together later into a more refined, salable volume. Rands in Repose and Joel on Software spring to mind in the techie world, while writers such as Heather Armstrong and Julie Powell turned their respective parenting and cooking blogs into million-dollar enterprises.

The ever-so-thinly veiled message? Don’t worry so much. Just blog it. If you are among the lucky few who achieves perfection effortlessly, then by all means carry forth. The rest of us are lucky if we coerce a unit of coherent thinking out our brains and onto the web. Perfectionism? Your editor will help you achieve it after you’re famous.

7 Responses to “Blog The First Draft”

  1. Brent Simmons Says:

    Excellent advice, Daniel.

    When I sit down to write for my weblog I think of the Sex Pistols. Those bastards could barely play, and they sucked — but their music is great, and *alive* in a way that little else of the era was.

    If you want perfect, you get Foreigner. Or REO Speedwagon.

  2. Colin Barrett Says:

    Great advice, Brent and Daniel both. Thanks a lot.

  3. Karen Tiede Says:

    Good post!

    OTOH, Joel Spolsky recently resigned his column at Inc. Magazine because his writing was taking up too much of the time that he needed to be investing in Fog Creek. Will be interesting to see how that plays out. Jon Morrow says he can predict the # of retweets he gets as a 10X multiple of the time he spends on a post.

    Think. Post. Revise later. Publish and sell still later. It helps if you can keep enough posts on the back burner so that you have one or two that don’t need a ton of work. Wish my software managed this part better; for today, I keep ideas in Excel and drafts in WP and hope I can keep them straight.

    thx!

  4. Victoria Wang Says:

    Thanks for writing this up! I’m always struggling with the same perfectionism. It *is* a lot like postponed software releases, but somehow I overcome the latter because it… involves fewer introspective personal statements? Sign :)

  5. Victoria Wang Says:

    I agree it’s good to post now, edit later, but I have to admit—I think of that impressive feature in NetNewsWire which displays all the edits someone’s made to the blog post, prominently calling out the little mistakes, and it scares me into a week of obsessive editing before I can post.

  6. Chris Nicola Says:

    A perfect example of this is Ayende Rahein http://www.ayende.com who manages to blog prolifically and does so by not worry to much about what he writes. He has a very popular blog probably partially as a result of being consistent.

    You will often see in the comments of each post people pointing out grammar and spelling errors for him to fix ;-).

  7. Adam D. Says:

    @Chris

    I need to blog more. If I stopped tweeting, I’d have as much content as Oren ;)

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