Today is the four hundredth post on the blog! I have always tried to celebrate milestones: the first twenty five posts, the first hundred and so on as it’s important to measure our success along the journey. These posts have tended to be introspective, reflective, looking at what i have learnt from the process, and this will be no exception.
I started the blog, rather impulsively, on the first of January last year. Since then, most of my preconceptions have proved to be wrong, providing me with the first valuable learning: you don’t know what something is going to be like unless you do it! When i started, i thought that the challenge would be about finding time to write and finding things to write about. As it turns out, the challenge is finding time to write about all the vast range of things that spring to mind. And finding time to write? Well, it’s just written into my routine, but as a category like ‘breakfast’ and ‘clean teeth’. I don’t approach it like work, i approach it as something i do everyday, part of who i am. It’s the first thing i do most days and on the days i have to write later, it leaves me hungry like missing breakfast.
But it’s easy to be busy, harder to be productive, so i have to ask myself, ‘what is the point of blogging’?
In a simple word, it’s about learning. For ten years of my professional practice, i felt that i had been trading on academic work from the past and on experience gained as i went. But i was taking no time out for reflection, to develop my practice. My ideas may have been ok, but they were being recycled. What started as a frustration when i looked outward at others and felt a lack of energy and innovation ended up as an introspective exercise where i realised that it was me who was stale. I realised that my internal book had been stuck for a long time, full of good intentions, but not getting any longer.
The blog forced me to write, liberated me to write and, in the process, uncorked the bottle. Because the thing about writing is that the more you write, the more you want to write. The ideas that you uncover and develop are not static: i’ve come to feel emerging ideas as highly fluid, evolving and developing over time and through multiple iterations, and that is the point of the blog for me.
It’s a semi formal rehearsal space where i can present ideas in embryonic form and then work them over again and again as they take shape. Many of my ideas about my professional practice have been born on the blog, shaped through delivering webinars and podcasting, reworked in the blog and learning forum and then finally released to the world, changed, evolved and, hopefully, more complete.
And blogging is a true social learning experience. When you write, you join a community and, over time, your interactions with the members of that community become more important to your own development. As time goes by, you get a feel for the landscape, you learn who will give you feedback, who will provide challenge, who will provide support and encouragement. And, in turn, you find that you are drawn back to the work of different people too, people whose views you trust, whose work you admire.
In the truest sense of the phrase, writing is something that changes you one word at a time. Up until this sentence this year alone, i’ve written eighty four thousand, two hundred and sixty four words in this blog. Much of this is superfluous, but in those words are the kernels of ideas that i’ve developed further, writing over forty five thousand words for the book, which is entirely inspired and shaped by ideas from the blog last year. And a further forty thousand words already on a second text around ‘methodology for learning’, which is something i’ve cared about for years, but never had the confidence to write. You see what i mean when i say that the challenge is not knowing what to write, it’s finding time to write it all!
One of the most significant things that the blog has given me is a global community. I feel today that i work and write in a widespread group. Something like five hundred people are connected to the blog in one way or another, which gives me a totally different perspective from when i used to just work in an office. With so much feedback, support and critical review, how could it be otherwise?
Last week, when the book was released, i felt a strange pang when someone bought the first copy. It was the first time that i’d put a price on content, and it felt uncomfortable. I guess that the world of blogging is so open, so much about sharing and learning that charging for content felt alien. On the flip side, i was incredibly exciting to feel that i had been able to pull together a longer narrative, a coherent (hopefully) set of thoughts on one subject, in a format much longer than i would ever have had the confidence to do before.
And this feels more than ever like the start line. The more i learn, the more i want to learn, the more i want to share and the more i feel the benefits of the community that i sit within. The most common question i get asked is ‘how do you find the time’, which is hard to answer, because the answer is simple: because i make the time. I simply stop doing other things that i used to do. And, weirdly, i feel no pain from the things i stopped doing, which makes me wonder why i did them at all for the previous ten years.
So if there is one lesson i would want to share from the first four hundred posts, it wouldn’t be to encourage you to start something new, but to stop something old. What do you do that adds value, what do you do just because you’ve always done it? And, once you’ve freed up that time, what will you spend it on? You could always start a blog…