A long time ago, I was in high school. I wasn’t a basketball player or an artist. My school didn’t have a computer club or a chess club. Instead, I found myself in the choir. Despite what my futile attempts at karaoke might otherwise indicate, I had a nice bass voice at one point in my life. However, my school was pretty small. Our entire choir consisted of about 12 kids. Because we didn’t have a lot of guys in the group, we didn’t have the opportunity to split the male section into tenors (higher notes) and bass singers (lower notes). We combined the guys into baritones, which can sing in the middle of the range but don’t usually stray to either extreme. While this allowed us to sing in competition, we couldn’t really sing complex material written for four-part harmony. Instead, we were forced to sing three-part harmony at a less difficult level. It wasn’t until my senior year that we got enough people in the choir to split into four-part harmony and increase both the quality and the difficulty of our songs. Those extra voices really did make the choir better.
When I was at VMware Partner Exchange in February, I talked to a lot of people about my activity online around social media and blogging. A lot of people expressed both interest and discouragement at the thought of blogging. Most of it went something like this:
“I want to blog. I’ve got some ideas. But I don’t want to feel obligated to do it.”
If you want to blog or write or even make witty comments, the most important thing to do is to say something. The biggest bump in the road isn’t finding content to publish. It’s finding the nerve to publish it in the first place.
Most people want to light the world on fire with a blog. They want to write that single post that is going to be linked on Slashdot and Reddit and make everyone impressed. In reality, that’s likely to never happen. When you write for yourself and not for a “name” like the professional blogging sites, the odds of your posts getting linked to major news aggregators are slim. In two and a half years of blogging that’s only happened to me twice. Once was my Meraki story. The other was when Matt Simmons linked to my post about learning why things work on the sysadmin subreddit. I’ve never written posts for the purposes of getting linked. I just write because I have something to say and want to share it. Other people reading it is just an added bonus.
Bob McCouch wanted to start a blog after becoming CCIE #38296. He spent lots of time trying to come up with the perfect name. I like Herding Packets, which is what he decided on. At first, I think Bob may have been worried about what he was going to say on his post-CCIE blog. Some want to use it to further their studies around a specific technology. Others use it to plan for another big certification. The point isn’t to write about something specific. The real point is to get the writing juices flowing. Here’s hoping that Bob keeps all the good stuff coming.
You don’t have to write about technical stuff all the time. Staying that focused will eventually lead you to get burned out if you aren’t careful. I try to keep things light with goofy posts from time to time, like my software release names post. Stephen Foskett (@SFoskett) writes about random things like hot water heaters and toilets. Jeff Fry (@fryguy_pa) is a huge Disney fan. They find ways to work their own interests into their writing to show their many facets. Even within their own blog ecosystems, the very diverse voices they add to their own choral composition make things unique and interesting indeed. If you ever find yourself in need of a quick post, never overlook the mundane things you do that might be exciting to someone else.
All of the above are excellent examples of how adding new and interesting voices to the overall choir serves to make the music much more enjoyable. When more voices join into the conversation more time can be spent on analyzing up and coming topics. The more words dedicated to discussing things like BYOD, SDN, and a thousand other topics, the better they can be understood by everyone. The music becomes deeper and more meaningful with more voices involved in singing. We aren’t just limited to the same four or five arrangements (or discussions) and instead can tackle the really tough pieces because of the varied voices.
I often say that everyone has at least one good blog post in them. Once you’ve gotten that out, one often leads to two or three. Unlike writing book chapters, blog posts are very free form and varied. Some are like Michael Jackson, fast and lofty. Others are like Barry White, robust and slow. They all make music that people enjoy in their own way, and each of their songs adds to the overall variety and beauty of music. In much the same way, blogging can only get better when people write down their thoughts and publish them for all to see. Maybe you only want to post once a month. Maybe you want to try and post every day. It doesn’t matter if you want to publish short and sweet like a commercial jingle or more long-form like a symphony. What’s important is making your voice heard.
Thank you for this post. It was a perfect reflection on why/how people should start/restart blogging. I appreciate your sharing of your choir experiences to illustrate your point. Well done!
Great post. I shared it with a class at my school that encourages blogging. I think it’s great advice and spot on. I’ve been blogging for a bit now and I find that I cant stress over having the perfect topic to write about.
Disclosure: I’m the host of Packet Pushers Podcast & Website.
If you are a networking blogger you may want to consider blogging at Packet Pushers. There are already 50 bloggers signed up, many who have blogged only once. But that one post will have reached at least 1000 people. We edit all submissions, check your grammar and help you look good.
We work to be community focussed, accept content from anyone.
For example, Paul Gear talks about his first three days on a Juniper JunOS router http://packetpushers.net/my-first-junos-switch-detailed-review-after-three-days-under-the-covers/
or, Garry Baker with a book review http://packetpushers.net/book-review-how-to-master-ccnp-route/
or Alex Clark with IOS SPeed Tips http://packetpushers.net/ios-cli-speed-tips/
Thanks so much for this Tom! Even though I’ve had my blog a while now, I’ve always had and continue to have that fear/pressure of publishing new posts since I’m always worried about what other technical people who are more experienced than me might think of my writing; I’m certain I’m not the only person that feels this way.
You’ve literally removed that burden with this posts! I think that’s the way blogging should be. You shouldn’t feel obligated or burdened to post new topics, rather it should be a happy experience of expressing yourself/thoughts to the rest of the community.
Thanks for the shout-out, Tom! I was wondering where the spike in hits suddenly came from! Looks like I’ve been NetworkingNerded 😉
No worries m8s!
Give yourself permission to have FUN!
No pressure, simply share your experiences, and here is one perspective, or state of mind, to assist in relieving you of stress:
1. Rather than talking to the world or to clients and customers through your blog, vlog, or other social-Emedia, Imagine you are talking, sharing and archiving for yourself. To at a later time reflect on your past experiences. This is an AMAZING self-reinforcing tool for reprogramming yourself with a new consciousness and aware state of being. (I detail old 1st programming learned in childhood from family/school/etc. in several posts, here is but one: http://ronmamita.wordpress.com/2012/08/20/remove-the-yoke-a-mental-excercize/ )
There are other useful mental tools but this comment is getting rather long…
Thank you all for being here and I look forward to your stories.
Love and Peace