Why I Write – Then and Now

This is how you do it. You sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until it’s done. It's that easy, and that hard. Neil Gaiman

My good friend Toby Bloomberg went along with an invitation to play along on an ‘old fashioned’ blog meme or blog hop. As Toby says in her post Why I Write – Blog Hop “Old Fashion” Meme, blog memes were popular before blogs were social media. Those were the days my friends etc.

I’m not sure who started this particular meme, but Toby referenced Susan Foster, whose contribution to the meme is, appropriately for the master coach she is, Conscious Leadership: Why I Write.

So then Toby asked me and a couple other friends and colleagues to join in and we said yes too.

Main Reasons I Write

I’ve identified four main reasons I write:

  • to get clarity in my thoughts
  • to share what I’ve learned
  • to converse and engage
  • to promote my brand and services

And if I was asked more specifically why I blog, it would be the last of those, to promote my brand and services.

To get clarity

Working in the field of social business is a recipe for confusion. With ever more new social media platforms and applications emerging and existing ones undergoing continual change, and with opinions and prejudices being declared as irrefutable facts, it is often difficult to make practical sense of it all.

So some of the blog posts I write are primarily written as exercises in getting clarity for myself, with a related hope that someone else who might have been as confused as I was on a particular matter will find my exposition helpful to them too.

Sharing what I’ve learned

I come from a longish line of schoolteachers and in the early days of my career I was a high school teacher myself – English and History. The compulsion to explain, and to share what I’ve learned, is pretty instinctive.

And again, in our social and business environment of constant and often bewildering change, there is always something new to learn, or something to learn again in its latest manifestation. So by writing about what I have learned, and how, whether that is in a blog post or on, say a LinkedIn Group discussion, and hoping that one or more others will find what I’ve written helpful, I feel that I’m saving them the learning time it has taken me and making a contribution, however modest, to their effectiveness and success.

To converse and engage

Just over two years ago an article in the New York Times, “The Flight from Conversation”, summed up one of our contemporary dilemmas:

We live in a technological universe in which we are always communicating. And yet we have sacrificed conversation for mere connection.

For me that is both true and not true.

It’s true in that many people do seem to have sacrificed conversation for mere connection.

It’s not true insofar as the technology provides a means for me to have conversations with people around the world, with an efficiency and economy that were for most of us not thinkable twenty years ago.

My writing is not a substitute for conversation, but it is the background to and often part of the conversation I have with many people. Sometimes those conversations take place on the phone, or on Skype, or Facebook, or in a discussion forum on a LinkedIn group, or in webinars and teleseminars.

Because of what I write, many people who converse with me mainly or exclusively online know more about what I think and how I think than do many others I meet face to face, with some of whom I may have had at best a desultory exchange about the weather, but not real conversation.

The conversations I have with people I connect with mainly online are real and often very rich. For example, the phone conversation I had last night with Becky McCray in Alva Oklahoma, the first live conversation we have had in many moons. But there is a broader conversation going on between us via blog posts and social media, such that we can click into a live conversation very quickly and personally.

To promote my brand and services

I wrote a lot before 2003 when I started blogging, but it was a different kind of writing.

And it provided little or no scope for fun.

As a government official I wrote, and wrote, and wrote.

Policy papers, position papers, reports, briefings for government ministers, letters on behalf of the government (mostly letters telling people they couldn’t have what they wanted but assuring them that the government had their best interests in mind!).

For a long time I found a sense of worth in being able to wrangle difficult policy issues into a recommended course of action, or being able to win approval for projects I thought were worthwhile, or to help break a logjam of political indecision and allow a project to proceed.

The writing then was not without satisfaction.

So far, so good.

But then I had a “What am I doing here?” moment when, explaining to a more senior official why I had withdrawn my application for a higher, more “inner circle” position in the central policy department, for which I was pretty sure I “had the nod”, I said that I had realised that in that apparently enviable post, I would on one day be writing a justification for a government decision (I mentioned a hot political issue of the day) and the following day, as the political winds changed for the matter in hand, I would be put to setting my wits and writing skills to work so as to help justify the opposite position. The more senior person found this hard to accept and I realised later that my comments might well reflect the realities of much of his working week.

From his reaction I was pretty sure that those words of mine could then be filed under “public service career-busting speeches” and inevitably started to look for other fields of endeavour.

And then in business for myself as a consultant I wrote.

Many proposals for consultancy work, many reports, policy and program reviews, manuals of operation, training needs analyses, training programs.

I was paid well, if not consistently.

Then one day I reflected that, with more of my reports and other writings than I cared to think about it seemed that the clients, apparently happy enough with my reports, were not following through on my recommendations.

Where was the satisfaction in that?

Which led me to look at coaching. And my reinvention as a business coach.

And that in turn led me to blogging via a Coachville conference in San Francisco early in 2003. In a session titled “Become an E-celebrity with Blogging” (or close to that) my mind was opened to the branding/promotional potential of blogging.

It was not that I wanted to be a “celebrity”, at least not as that word is currently understood, but that I wanted to take my coaching practice beyond Sydney, Australia, to the world.

So I took up blogging and have never regretted it.

Actually, more than “took it up”. I got religion about blogging: for a time I called myself a Blogging Evangelist.

Not that I have ever been one of those bloggers who could compose a blog post or three in a thunderstorm while running, cycling, etc in a triathlon!

To this day I am often challenged about what to write or how to write it.

But while there are days or nights when I find it a struggle to put together a blog post – the dreaded “bloggers’ block”, for example when I tried to start this post last night and spent more time looking at the screen or walking around than actually writing – there are other times when my main challenge is to not write too much. As now for instance, today, when I am enjoying teasing out this topic and thinking of the regular satisfaction and frequent joy I get from writing for one of my blogs or one of the other blogs to which I contribute.

Blogging for my own and others’s blogs, and related activities such as building the now erstwhile but once dynamic LinkedIn for Bloggers group, finding a wonderful international group of friends and colleagues through blogging, podcasting and other social media, and establishing myself as a social media and LinkedIn strategist and coach, have enabled me to realise that picture I had in San Francisco over 11 years ago.

Adapting the catchphrase common in the 90s in these parts, “it didn’t happen overnight, but it did happen”. And it started with blogging.

So to sum up, Writing has been good to me for many years. It is now also much more enjoyable and satisfying, if not always as immediately lucrative, than in those far off days as a government bureaucrat. Or as a consultant, writing reports that people liked but often did not act upon.

So if asked “Why do I write?” the short answer would be “Why would I not?”

In the spirit of the meme, I have tagged three more friends and colleagues to join in, each an exemplar to me of leadership in her or his own way.

Becky McCray whom I have mentioned above, is a cattle rancher, proprietor of a retail store in her small town, a small business adviser, a dedicated promoter of the delights of small town and rural living and co-founder of Tourism Currents. We met at a BlogWorld and New Media Expo in Las Vegas several years ago and have been chatting up and down the social web ever since. Check out her writings (and podcasts) at the rural and small town resource, Small Biz Survival

Sheila Scarborough is a writer, speaker and consultant specializing in tourism, travel and social media; co-founder of Tourism Currents, NHRA drag racing fan and U.S. Navy veteran. one of my friends I have yet to meet online but with whom I have ongoing conversations – sharing ideas, insights and always with a dash of fun, across the social web. Read her contribution to the blog hop, posted today, What am I doing here? Why I write .

Tripp Braden is an executive coach, strategic alliance advisor, and a business succession and growth consultant, and a fellow alumnus of Society3 Academy (previously Social Media Academy), where we both delved into the finer points of social media strategy. Tripp is another friend and colleague I haven’t yet met online but with whom, as with Becky and Sheila, I have stimulating and thought-provoking conversations, especially about his specialty, leadership. Watch for a post for this blog hop at his site Developing Serving Leaders.

And finally, Dear Reader, why do you write? And if you don’t, would you care to share what is stopping you? And would now be a good time to start?

Quote in image, from Neil Gaiman

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