September 4, 2014 by jimstogdill
Bringing back Limn This
I’ve been writing at the Radar blog for the last few years and as you can see, have allowed this personal blog to languish. Maybe I’m part of a trend though, because it seems that there is a subtle renaissance building in personal blogging.
I’m reviving mine mostly for control. First, I just want to have control over what I write, and by owning the control, own the constraints. When I write on other people’s properties I absorb the limitations of their brand, or their editorial direction, their voice, or whatever. Self censorship follows close behind – a kind of self restriction that tamps down on creativity by narrowing the field of addressable topics, or one that whispers “You don’t know enough about that to write with any kind of expertise.”
I loved writing for Radar (who wouldn’t want to write for an audience that Tim O’Reilly built?). But with the audience came some expectations that were hard to fulfill. Tim is a great writer. He can go from amorphous idea to clean well-thought-out essay in one draft (and probably one hour). I can’t do that. I’m not a particularly talented writer and it takes me time, coffee, and an internet router with the plug pulled to find the space and clarity necessary to turn out something readable.
But it’s not just a question of focus. Sometimes it was hard to write for Radar because of the unspoken expectation that you were supposed to be like Tim and write some kind of world-changing essay every time you touched the keyboard. I mean, no one put that expectation on me, I did it myself by absorbing his audience’s expectations.
By the time I started writing on Radar Tim wasn’t posting very frequently, but the things he did post were deep, essay-like, and frame changing. I might have one of those in me a year (if it’s a good year) but I like writing more than one post per year.
Anyway, since it’s hard to write The Definitive Essay, and with Twitter acting as an escape valve for partially formed ideas, the pressure rarely built up enough to get me to push the more complex pieces out the door. In short, I didn’t write as much as I wanted to, because of this unstated need to be making a definitive statement – the frame changing piece that would wake an audience up the next morning viewing the world through a different lens.
The funny thing is that, short of a few important pieces, Tim didn’t really write that way either, or at least not always. The Radar blog when it started out looked more like Twitter. Looking back at his Radar posts from 2006 this one seems pretty typical. Basically Radar back then felt a lot like Twitter with room for a bit more color. Frankly, it makes me wish Twitter was more like Google Plus…, but that’s another story.
So, back to Limn This. When I started this blog back in the way back, I named it that because I saw it as a place to ask questions, to find, not make, explanations. I imagined it would be a place where I posted partially formed ideas and where the feedback would help me make them better. Blogging didn’t always work that way, but I still see this as a place to think out loud and I hope that framing it that way will make it easier for me to post more frequently, to keep the “post” button threshold lower.
I should add that I was somewhat inspired to do this by reading Dan Hon’s newsletter. He’s been writing a daily newsletter to hone his writing skills and to find something to say every day. I’m more comfortable with a pull rather than push model for my own writing, but I like the idea of a space where I can write whatever comes to mind and not worry about whether it fits the remit of someone else’s site.
So, here goes…