My case for starting blogging

post by Neel Nanda (neel-nanda-1) · 2020-10-22T17:43:51.865Z · LW · GW · 2 comments

This is a link post for https://www.neelnanda.io/blog/27-retrospective

Contents

  Retrospective
  How to do a Daily Writing Project
  Conclusion
None
2 comments

(This is a retrospective post on a month of daily blogging on my personal blog, what I got out of it, my case for the benefits of regular writing and why this is a good use of your time, and advice for starting a daily writing project yourself)

Retrospective

Overall, I am incredibly happy with this project! This began as a 15 min/day project, and ballooned into 2-3 hours/day by the end, which ended up a dramatically bigger time sink than expected. But I consider this super worth it!

I find it useful to divide happiness into happiness of the experiencing self, feeling joy in the moment, and happiness of the remembering self, looking back at the action and feeling satisfied that it happened. And blogging was definitely a good project for the experiencing self! But now I have some perspective, I want to think about the value I’ve gotten for the remembering self:

How to do a Daily Writing Project

So, this is a project I’ve gotten a ton out of. And if those points resonated with you, and you find this idea exciting, I highly recommend trying a daily writing project yourself!

This obviously isn’t for everyone, but I think a lot of people would benefit from doing something like this. But there is a major sense of inertia at the idea of something taking up time and effort for uncertain reward, and anxiety at putting yourself out there. I felt all of these at the start, and so have a few friends I since talked into starting projects like these! So, empirically, these feelings are at best weak evidence that it’s actually a bad idea. As a general rule - downside feels concrete, upside does not.

My intuition is that people have a systematic bias against doing this kind of thing - it’s not the default action. But fuck being the kind of person who only ever does the default action - taking opportunities and Actually Doing Things is habit forming, even if those opportunities aren’t perfect.

If you feel tempted by this but hesitant, and uncertain this is actually the best use of time, I’d note that this uncertainty seems important! Writing could add value, or it could not. And learning whether this is a good use of your time is valuable, and worth spending some time on now! I recommend making this into an experiment - commit to doing writing every day for the next week, and review at the end of that whether this has felt valuable. You aren’t doing this to write, you’re doing this to gain information! So there’s no way for this to fail!

More concretely, my advice for doing this well:

Questions I often hear:

And finally, remember, humans systematically suck at making plans. The default state of the world is that you’ll forget about this idea. If you have felt excited about the idea of daily blogging, and want to try writing something every day for the next week, look past that enthusiasm. Imagine yourself a week from now, feeling guilty because you totally forgot about all of these ambitions. Are you surprised by this? What went wrong? And what can you do about it right now to prevent that failure mode coming to pass?

Pick a time right now, for when you’ll start writing. And if it’s not today, ask yourself, do I really have a good reason for this?

Conclusion

Overall, I’m really glad I’ve done this project. I’ve had a lot of fun, made progress on things that are important to me, made something I’m proud of, and cultivated the skill of doing hard things.

If these ideas resonated with you, I highly encourage you to do it too! I think it’s an excellent use of time, a way to practice important skills, and of clarifying thoughts on things you care about. Further, I think that one of the most important skills you can ever learn is the skill of agency. It’s easy to go through life passing up opportunities, and always seeing reasons why they’re imperfect. Always waiting for the perfect opportunity, building the habit of passing up opportunities, until you pass on the perfect opportunity without even noticing. Fuck that.

I’ve tried to be fairly deliberately persuasive in this post, because I think regular writing is valuable, and to far more people than those who’d naturally do it. But it’s not for everyone, and that’s fine! If writing isn’t resonating with you, try something else! Find a project you feel excited about! It’s easy to go through life being constantly reactive and passive - find something you care about and make it your own! Having autonomy is a really powerful motivator, and a major component of life happiness. And cultivating the skill of doing things and starting projects is a key source of it. This is definitely something I still suck at, but I’ve gotten a lot better with time, and this has been a major part of how my life has become more awesome over time.

If this is something you want to get better at, does it seem like it’ll happen on its own, given how you’re currently living your life? Imagine yourself a year from now. Are you surprised if you still feel passive then?

What can you do right now to take the first step?

2 comments

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comment by Viliam · 2020-10-23T19:23:35.653Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Simple first steps:

  • choose a pseudonym (unless you already have one)
  • choose your new photo
  • choose a title for your blog (then use google to make sure it's sufficiently unique)

More difficult first steps:

  • choose a blogging platform
  • write your first article

All these can be done in parallel. Then comes the moment when you actually register the blog and post your first article. Then you probably want to share it somewhere, to gain initial visitors.

comment by MikkW (mikkel-wilson) · 2020-10-23T20:21:17.734Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Choose a title for your blog

This sounds like a good use for a password generator (Correct.horse.battery.staple style of course)

  • Hart Germane Ontolog
  • Asbestos Cemetary Overhand
  • Sing Pluto Fish
  • Compare Damascus Strong
  • Tube Presents Dress
  • Mister Goldfirst