Write About Small Ideas

A problem I often run into when writing (as an absolute amateur, anyway) is that there’s too much I want to explore, and the scopes of my blog posts tend to become bigger and bigger with unsettling speed. I often find myself adding sub-sections, and sub-sub-sections, and repeating myself throughout them until I become lost in a rambling draft that touches on a million points but doesn’t fully address any of them, or else overreaches in the connections it attempts to make between disparate ideas.

So how do you know when to stop adding to a post?

I think the best thing to do is for each post that’s getting out of hand is to divide it into multiple posts (that will comprise an ongoing series) and publish them one at a time. This lets you iterate on your previous ideas while still publishing consistently, and will keep your thoughts brief and absorbable.

There’s something really valuable about only discussing one part of an idea at a time, because each part of an idea is still a whole idea itself, so why shouldn’t it get its own space to be explored?

Anyway, I’m working on a series of responses to Kelsey’s post and follow-up about load-bearing aspects and behaviors, and ran into this problem, and the best way forward seems to be to break it down into atomic components, as small as possible while still retaining hopefully useful or original thoughts.

Make Your First Thing Bad

Epistemic effort: I wrote this very quickly and hit publish without thinking too hard about it.

I’ve spent a lot of time agonizing over hitting the deploy button. Or calling an edited photograph finished. Or publishing an article. But in all of this frustration and anxiety over whether what I’m producing is worth releasing to the world, whether my thought or content is original and meaningful enough, I’ve re-remembered something.

Also, if the stakes are low (you’re starting a new blog with no following (*waves*), aren’t relying on investors, etc.), publish whatever you have and then edit it incrementally, whether that means posting revisions or editing your content in-situ. It forces you to move forward, and forces you to establish a base of published content more quickly, which is almost always valuable. In the internet age, with publishing across most media costing pocket-change at most for small projects, there’s no reason not to be prolific. And in an age where almost all digital text is mutable, there’s no reason not to start off bad and retro-actively improve your creations as you move forward.

Instead of thinking of your blog or general corpus of work as a series of diary entries recorded at a particular time and place, think of them as a series of essays, living documents that grow and change as you grow and change. Treat your posts like wikipedia articles. Grow quickly and in small steps. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes or publishing bad content. Just put it out there and let it be incomplete. You’ll improve naturally with time, and you’ll have a leg up on everyone else. I’ll probably edit this post so many times, but I’m choosing to release it in its current format because I know otherwise I’ll never publish it. Be humble – you have lots of growing to do – but be unafraid. Otherwise you’ll never produce anything, and that’s a far more reasonable fear than producing something bad.

Further reading: Dive In, by Nate Soares