On daily blogging

I’ve been blogging daily for the past month and plan to continue doing it. Some people get a high off running, I get it off publishing.

I was writing a longer post last night that I decided not to publish to meet my “quota” because I didn’t feel it was ready, and this got me thinking about a question a reader asked recently, “how do you balance daily blogging while also trying to write lasting work?”

All things said and done, it’s probably better to have 50 brilliant essays than it is to have a few years of daily blog posts. Some people can do this. There’s a humbling anecdote about Ayn Rand from Nathaniel Branden’s intellectual biography. He says she wrote her famous essay, Faith and Force: The Destroyers of the Modern World, in the car on the way to deliver it as a speech.

If I could write an evergreen essay like that every time, I would. But I can’t, not yet at least. Given that admission, I’ve got two options. One option is to take few swings and publish infrequently only things I think are near perfect. I’ve tried that and it doesn’t work well for me. I’m never fully happy with the stuff I do publish and in the end I’m left with very little published writing to show for it.

The other option is to swing all the time and publish daily, hoping the process brings me closer to the occasional home run. In my experience, it does. I read something from Seth Godin about this recently:

If you know you have to write a blog post tomorrow, something in writing, something that will be around 6 months from now, about something in the world, you will start looking for something in the world to to write about. You will seek to notice something interesting and to say something creative about it. Well, isn’t that all we’re looking for?

I need to write something that is complete on a daily basis to stay sharp and putting it out in public holds me accountable to regularity and a level of quality that I can feel pushing me towards work that I could consider “lasting.”

I use daily blogging for personal and professional updates, challenges like 30-days of Newspaper Blackout Poetry, to further develop thoughts I’ve been having, to “test” content topics with my readers, and anything else that fits under the category of Derek Magill that might interest me that day. The daily blog is a workshop, not a fully finished product.

That “developing of thoughts” is particularly important. I’m working on some longer pieces now that only got started because of something shorter I did for a daily post. Montaigne describes this effect in writing nicely:

…the very act of using my voice, draw from my mind more than what I can find there when I exercise it and try it out all by myself

So the daily posting is in some sense a totally necessary means to the end of producing a lasting body of work. And if at the end of the day, nobody remembers what I wrote, I’ll at least have the posts for myself.