Write About What Interests You
I’ve been very fortunate on the Internet, as most of my early interactions on it were about Bob Dylan, the greatest artist of my generation. His music has interested me greatly since some time in the fall of 1966. That was one of the first things I ever wrote about on the Internet. Why does that mean I was fortunate? Well it meant that when I interacted with other Dylan fans on Usenet (rec.music.dylan) and later on Facebook (EDLIS Café) I was nearly always writing from my own personal experience and on a subject about which I had a lot of passion. Especially in the beginning, there were always tons of people more knowledgable than myself about Dylan, so I didn’t dare pontificate about his music and try to lecture anyone on the subject, BUT I could definitely write about my own personal experiences and opinions, clearly stated as such. So my writing tended to be authentic and passionate. It turned out that a lot of Dylan people liked that and I made a LOT of friends with my writing.
That was a good start for me. This came about just by dumb luck, but maybe not completely. Because when I first got onto the Internet I considered it an amazing resource of useful information, a place where I could explore whatever interested me and in the beginning it was Dylan. Decades later I have participated on Twitter and now on micro.blog, where many people like Dylan too, but it’s not their main interest. So I certainly don’t only write about Dylan. I got very interested in blogging and read everything Dave Winer wrote every day for some years. I loved his blogging tools and when I got onto micro.blog I was pleased to find that I was getting more engagement here than I had been getting on Twitter.
So why is that? Well Twitter is very different from micro.blog. If you desire to be liked and admired, Twitter might be a good place for you to develop a unique personality and following to create that kind of effect for yourself. But I had no interest in that at all. Of course micro.blog de-emphasizes that whole Liking culture, which was fine with me. If I found something that was really interesting to me, I would often write about it in my blog. Looking back, I now believe that people like to read about things which interest another person. But be careful, because interest can manifest itself as either interested or interesting. There is a big difference. A person who is interested in something may be looking at it carefully, being drawn into it, perhaps becoming passionate about it, maybe even becoming an expert on it. That’s what happened with my interest in Dylan. On the other hand, a person who is trying to be interesting may or may not be successful in doing that. Maybe those who are really good at it become famous people, stars in Hollywood, rock stars, elected politicians and so on. That was never me. If one tries to be interesting but does not succeed, one might get labeled as what we called a “show off” in grade school. In my days in school, you didn’t want that label slapped on you. Well I don’t want it in my blogging either.
So my successful action in blogging is to write about those things in which I’m interested, while making no attempt to be interesting. I just want to make sure my writing is authentic, it really comes from inside ME, and is honest and straight forward. This approach is much more appropriate to micro.blog, than it is on Twitter or most of Facebook, where it often seems like the game is to be as interesting as possible. Those platforms are even designed to measure Likes, which is surely a measure of interesting.
If I get really interested in something, I might describe it in a blog post and publish it. For example, one morning my wife and I got up very early to drive to Chicago for an important meeting with Immigration. As the sun was rising, it warmed the fields we were driving past and some mist began to lift up off of them. I found this super interesting and it stuck with me for days. When we got back, I wrote about it to preserve the moment for myself. I wasn’t trying to impress anyone with my writing or to make myself interesting. I just wanted to save what had interested me. I think that posting was a good one.
Decades earlier I witnessed the most amazing symphonic performance of my lifetime. I was buzzing with excitement on the long drive home and long after that. I had witnessed and participated in the performance of silence! I wrote an email to my friend Steve (RIP) about it, and it became one of the most popular pieces I’ve ever written. It was written while I was still in the moment of exhiliaration from the unexpected ending of Mahler’s masterpiece. Once again, I simply wrote an honest description of what I had experienced, an event that held my interest for days and one that has held the interest of many of my readers as well.
I certainly didn’t write either of these examples to be liked or admired. I just wanted to make sure that I would have a way of recording these experiences for My Later Me to re-experience. Dave Winer once wrote, “I want the ability to tell my future self who I am today.” And that’s why he did blogging, writing “This is what blogging is for. I want these memories.” I do too.
In the most recent episode of Micro Monday Episode 65 on 6/24/19, Greg McVerry @jgmac1106 recognized that having a passion is something one can build a blog around. The way he expressed it was “Find a passion. Get a blog!” It seems to me that this is how the web grew in the beginning. A person would have a particular area of interest, expertise and passion, so they would build a website or blog around that subject. People can certainly do that today as well. That’s what I was doing when I built my first website, which was the first large bibliography of books by and about Bob Dylan. I created it between 1995 and 1999, not very long after the Web was first created by Tim Berners-Lee in 1989. The history of the web has been that most websites have not lived for very many years after they were built and in June 1995 there were only 23,500 websites. Most of those have certainly disappeared by now. So my bibliography is certainly one of the oldest websites still in existence.
As I have grown older, I have found myself getting interested in more and more different things. So when I got into blogging, the idea of focusing on just one subject did not appeal to me. I suppose that’s one reason I was attracted to microblogging and the idea of having my own personal blog. That gives me the freedom to write about anything at all that interests me at any given time! So I have not followed the formula of “Find a passion. Get a blog!” Instead, I just go about my life and when I stumble onto something that interests me, I might write about it. It might be the case that my postings on which I am the most passionate and perhaps the most filled with joy, could be the ones which people like to read the most. I have no way to quantify this or prove it with any quantitative measure. But it doesn’t really matter to me, as I’m on to the next thing that might interest or inspire me, after I hit publish on the lastest one I just finished.
There is one huge benefit to my approach, which is a side benefit of my choice to not write for money or to make a living. I never have writer’s block and never feel the pressure of a publishing deadline. I just write and publish when I have something to say. If I have nothing to say, I will write nothing and publish nothing. I will just go about enjoying my life and paying attention to the moment, until something inspires me or strikes me as something notable that might be worthy of being written about. And then I write once again.
Thanks for reading this. I welcome any comments you might have. 😃
Photo by Ross van der Wal on Unsplash.