The Appeal of a Personal Blog

There is more to a personal blog than just sharing your thoughts with people in text format. Writing serves a purpose, not just to the reader but for the writer as well. To write is to think and thinking leads to learning.

My obsession with personal blogs has been growing since I started journalling in early 2020. Once I got one year into the habit, I thought it would be great to start my own blog. With all the supposedly great thoughts I was having, I thought it would be great to share them and get some validation on them. "It would be a great dopamine boost", I thought.

Fast-forward and here I am on this journey of writing on my first personal blog. But why personal? There are many websites like Medium or Substack that are great for blogging. They have great templates, amazing fonts, no writing code and even algorithms to recommend your articles to other people. It seems like a no-brainer to get started on those.

My view is that a personal blog offers so much more, it's simply personal. I will break this concept down using the following points:

1. Limited by interests, not topics or niches

Conventional blogging advice suggests that you must find a niche topic to write about for a specific target audience. You start by picking a topic area like woodworking. From there, you assess whether there are people who would like to learn about woodworking. You segment them into various groups such as beginners, intermediate or advanced. You select what region you will focus on like East Africa or Europe. Once you have gone through this process, you have a niche and you can start writing blogs for beginner woodworkers in East Africa. Now you have a blog.

To a number of people, this is fine if they want to become creators and make a living. It will also work for someone with a carpentry business and is looking to absorb talent or offer training. But what about people who just want to share their thoughts online.

A person has more than one interest. They can be a finance analyst by profession but do some woodwork as a hobby on the weekend. They could be a software developer but love to keep dogs. By following conventional blogging wisdom, such people would have to start a blog for each interest. There lies the problem, no one wants to manage to two blogs, especially at the beginning of their writing hobby.

Personal blogs offer an excuse to have multiple interests. Why? Well, it's about you after all. It is expected that your blog will have a wide range of topics. People don't come to learn a new skill but to read your opinions on a topic they are interested in. They are looking for their tribe of like-minded people. By having a personal blog, you are connecting to people on an interest-level, not a topical-level. If they connect to one of your interests like woodworking, they may be interested to learn about your work in finance.

It also stems that by writing about your interests, you realise your niche in the process. You realise that other people are just like you. They like the same weird things and have the same weird thoughts.

2. Writing is thinking

I have two questions for you:

By writing your thoughts down, you take your blurry ideas and pass them through the narrow pipe of words. In doing so, you get to what is truly essential by synthesizing the murky thoughts and turning them into a stream of characters that can be understood by other human beings. For as long as you have no telepathy, no one can understand your thoughts.

Writing is more powerful than speaking as it makes you think more closely about your thoughts. Speaking is quite natural from an evolutionary perspective and therefore easier to stream your thoughts. Simply put, it is a wider pipe that allows murky ideas to flow through. You can mumble through your speech and not notice. On the other hand, writing requires more processing power to pull off. You have to think about the words to use, their spelling, the hand coordination and so on. That makes ideas harder to put down but it ensures that what is put down is essential.

Editing is required for any first draft that you make. At the end of the day, some murk always passes through. The only thing you can do for your writing is make it less murky.

Through this process, you refine the construction of your ideas and how they connect together. By writing, you notice blindspots in your grammar, thought process, biases and later, your interests. I like this quote that summarises the point on interests:

“Of all the books I have delivered to the presses, none, I think, is as personal as the straggling collection mustered for this hodgepodge, precisely because it abounds in reflections and interpolations. Few things have happened to me, and I have read a great many. Or rather, few things have happened to me more worth remembering than Schopenhauer’s thought or the music of England’s words.

A man sets himself the task of portraying the world. Through the years he peoples a space with images of provinces, kingdoms, mountains, bays, ships, islands, fishes, rooms, instruments, stars, horses, and people. Shortly before his death, he discovers that that patient labyrinth of lines traces the image of his face.”
\ - Jorge Luis Borges⁠, Dreamtigers ⁠Epilogue

3. Own digital real estate

In my country, Kenya, we love buying land. It is always on our checklist of things to own. There are the usual reasons to own land:

  1. It always "appreciates" in value
  2. To be closer to our roots by owning land in our ancestral area
  3. To own an asset that can be passed down to our children
  4. To build a retirement home
  5. To setup rental apartments
  6. To start farming

The list can go on but those are the ones that come to mind.

Kenyans dwell on owning a part of the physical world and I can say the same for any other cultures. People have fought over land since the days that hunters and gatherers decided to settle down and farm. We want to hold our claim on this world and make it in our own image.

As the digital revolution came about, the internet was born and it opened up a new world, the world of bits. Unlike the world of atoms, the world of bits is limitless. The concept of the Turing machine[1] (horribly summarised) can process and display anything imaginable. This plays on information theory, which could be the base of our physical world (Simulation Theory and a story for another day). In short, we can build a whole new world with no limits that can express our humanity and what we represent.

Blogs are just one way of doing that but there are so many others like social media platforms, publication sites, tubesites like YouTube and so on. However, personal blogs are a form that allows the user to own their data and display it in the form that they want. Platforms such as YouTube or Medium have a cookie-cutter style for each user's page. There is not enough room to express eccentricity apart from changing your display photo, cover photo and theme colours.

No one wants a cookie-cutter home, especially if they want to leave in it for a long time. Our home are an expression of ourselves. Each item from a painting on the wall to the TV brand that you have. All are an expression of our values and what we believe in. Our homes in the real world are an expression of ourselves. Why not do the same for your digital home? Why keep paying rent for the rest of the digital life? Own a piece of the digital realm. It is going to be here for a while so make yourself comfortable.

4. Stand the test of time

Once writing was invented, knowledge and ideas could be passed down from one generation to the next with minimal corruption to the ideas in question. From clay tablets that had the Tales of Gilgamesh from Mesopotamia to the papyrus pages that held the writings of the Dead Sea Scrolls, writing has been a great way to preserve knowledge over hundreds and even thousands of years. However, the clay tablets and the scrolls can easily be damaged and they are hard to replicate. With digital technology, copying, transferring and distributing knowledge has never been easier.

Having a personal blog is a great way to pass your knowledge to those who come after you. Our modern equivalents of Isaac Newton and Leonardo Da Vinci are people like Paul Graham, Chris Dixon and Sam Altman (All YC guys). These are people who are accomplished in their fields as entrepreneurs, investors and builders of next-gen technologies. What makes them even better is that they have personal blogs that they use to share knowlegde with the world. Millions of people have read their writing and have been inspired to be build tech companies that create value for customers and shareholders. I have no doubt that their work will become increasing important to people after they are gone.

You can leave a legacy by publishing your thoughts online and inspiring the next generation. Go for it, they will thank you for it.

Rough Notes

  1. What is a Turing machine? A Turing machine is a hypothetical device that manipulates symbols on a strip of tape according to a set of rules. It is a mathematical model of computation that was introduced by the British mathematician and logician Alan Turing in 1936. A Turing machine can be thought of as an abstract representation of a computer capable of solving any problem that is computable by executing instructions recorded on its tape. ↩︎