Hat-tip to Holly Tse for organizing this interview!
Holly Tse: What would you advise them for someone to get started? What’s the quickest way to get started?
Sacha Chua: I think the quickest way to get started is to ditch your expectations. A lot of people think: Oh, I’m going to start a blog, but it has to be really interesting, and it has to get plenty of comments on the first day in order for it to be worthwhile. That doesn’t really happen. What you want to do is you want to write just for yourself. Whether you want to start off writing a private blog or a journal, or maybe you want to just go ahead and tell stories even if no one’s around to listen to them… It’s already worth it, just for you. It’s already worth it if you can write down a single thing that you learned that day, or once small thing that you would like to do better the next day. If you can keep doing that, then you’re going to get better at remembering all these little things that you would’ve forgotten. Being able to get a sense of perspective about how far you’ve come. Being able to figure out, okay, how can I build on these improvements further?
I think that if you change your expectations to that–so instead of thinking, oh, I’m going to write this, but then I have to be famous and then people have to comment, and get to be like a New York Times columnist–to: I’m just going to write about my life. Something small. It doesn’t have to be profound. It doesn’t have to be interesting. It’s okay to bore yourself. In fact, you might as well do that, because you have to dig deeper to find all these things that only in hindsight turn out to be interesting.
Anyway. It’s okay to bore yourself. It’s okay to write small, simple things, just slices of daily life, just questions and ideas to help you grow. That is totally okay.
You don’t see a lot of that advice in books about blogging because they’re all focused on–well, not all, but many of them are focused on how people can grow side businesses through blogs, or how they can change their search engine rankings. You know what? You can use a blog to just write, to explore, to ask questions, and maybe connect with other people, and that is totally all right.
HT: Now, it’s interesting that you mention that you may bore yourself at first. You said that you need to dig deeper to find the interesting gems. Can you share more about that, please?
SC: This is totally something that happens. You don’t understand these patterns until you start writing. You know how you end up talking about some topics again and again, because it turns out those are the things that you’re really interested in? Or you might think, oh, I think I’m going to be interested in sewing, but then if you look at what you actually do day by day, it doesn’t really rank high on your list. When you start capturing these things in your life in a form that you can look back on, whether it’s keeping track of how you’ve been spending your time or going back over your archives and seeing what you write about, the things that you keep coming back to–the things that you keep talking about, the things you keep writing about–those are the things that have a lot of interest for you. The more that you think about them, the more you learn about them. I can write about a lot of things again and again, and I’ll keep learning something about them. I can write about time, I can write about personal finance, I can write about cats… There’s just so much to untangle, to discover about these things. It’s okay to write about something again and again because there’s something more you can learn from it, and there’s something more you can share with other people.
Most of this will be boring, especially if you haven’t had a lot of practice writing. The first few times around, you’ll be thinking, oh, my grammar is kinda funny and I’ve got typos here and there, and it’s boring. No one is ever going to read this. I’ve looked at my blog archives. I sat down and read through everything–not in one sitting–but I read through every single post that I’d written. From 2002 to 2007, I was writing about technical things that were probably interesting to just me and maybe five other people. Anyway, it was there. It was only later, after I’d figured out more in this process that I realized that okay, here’s where I don’t agree with other people. Here’s where I want to explore something different. It’s only when you can write past that, when you can tell the difference between what you’re supposed to think and what you actually think, or where you are and where you want to be… And you don’t get there without thinking a lot about it, without writing it down.
Writing down is important. If you’re just thinking about it, you can fool yourself into thinking: this is what I’m really interested in, this is where I’ve got a clear opinion. When you write it down, you’ve got to be honest with yourself, and then you find out whether you’re making sense or not. Most of the time–especially in the beginning–you’re not going to make sense. That’s okay.