What to post? You can post anything

inspired by Alexey Guzey’s Why You Should Start a Blog Right Now (archive)

It’s discouraging to browse the internet when researching things to write about. You’ll find amazing projects and posts by people smarter than you and it’s likely that you’ll find the very exact thing you were thinking of doing, but of course better-executed and well-written. It’s easy to walk away convinced you should write nothing because any attempt will be inferior, embarrassing, and a waste of time. Let’s address those points one-by-one:

My writing will be inferior

Writing is a skill and if you’re out of practice, you won’t be able to put what’s inside your mind onto paper. You need to spend time (years?) producing work that you’re unsatisfied with until finally your skill catches up to your taste. Ira Glass, an American public radio personality, refers to this as the taste-skill gap, see video and illustrated comic. I hope the advice in his post encourages you to start and keep writing.

In terms of content, there are two areas you know more about than the internet experts:

1. Being a non-expert

In addition to knowing less about writing, you probably also know less about the domain or topic. This is something you can write about. Most people have forgotten what it’s like to learn the basics and essentially don’t have first-hand experience anymore. Anecdotally, I learned how to code 15 years ago. My memory of that time is hazy and it’s impossible for me to replicate that experience today. Even if I did have picture-perfect memory of my learning experience 15 years ago, that has little relevance to learning how to code today – another topic!

2. Being you

You have personal experience and a history that gives you a unique (even if similar) perspective. You can talk about what it’s like to learn the topic from various angles: in 2022 vs the old times, as an x-year-old instead of a y-year-old, with an ε-background instead of an δ-background, etc.

My writing will be embarrassing

Embarrassment about your post is overthinking; you can’t be embarrassed about your post if you aren’t thinking about it.

I find that the longer a post sits around in-progress or on the backburner, the more my enthusiasm wanes and doubt starts to build. I have some half-done posts that have been sitting around for a year, and when I read them now I just think “this is dumb”. They will never get done and I should have reduced my scope and posted them while they were fresh. These days, to avoid the build-up of doubt over time, I do my best on a draft, revise it a few times, post it, and then never read it again.

My writing will be a waste of time

Publishing posts isn’t a waste of time because it gives you motivation to keep writing and to try your best. As an extra bonus, at the same time you’re improving your thinking and writing skills, you are potentially helping the occasional reader who may find helpful tips, inspiration, or enjoyment.

Post ideas

Here are some ideas to get started:

  1. Make it very short. Even one sentence is fine
  2. Write about your current (lack of) understanding of a topic, even if you think it’s wrong or you have to guess. You can come back later (another post!) and correct yourself. If you’re the type of person that wants to wait until you feel 100% comfortable with a topic before writing, it will probably never happen because you won’t ever feel 100% comfortable
  3. Write about your previous posts and what you could have done differently
  4. Write book or post reviews. If being objective is easier than giving your thoughts, then you can just summarize what you’ve read
  5. Write about your plans to write or learn something
  6. Write about your job. This introduction from a blog post summarizes it best. Note that “EA” stands for effective altruism but the advice applies generally:

If you have a job, you are one of the world’s foremost experts on your job — at least within the EA community, which is not large.

Jobs are a useful thing to know about. We spend more time on them than anything else, and most of our impact comes from jobs + their outcomes (e.g. salary).

Thus, I think people should write more posts that talk about:

  • How they got their jobs
  • What they learned in the process of getting hired
  • What it’s like to work at their job, day-to-day
  1. Extending the previous idea, you can write about your daily life, e.g. what you do day-to-day, hour-to-hour, what you want to do, etc.
  2. Write snippets of your autobiography
  3. Write tutorials on how to do easy things, i.e. How to do X when you have Y. As an expert, many things are obvious and don’t warrant explanation, but as a beginner or someone who doesn’t even want to learn anything and just wants to do X, your guide can be helpful
  4. Have a debate with a (real or imaginary) friend, then record and comment on how it went