So you’re thinking about starting a blog. Fantastic! Many bloggers say starting a blog is the best thing they’ve ever done. It gives you a sense of purpose, an outlet, and something on which to focus your thoughts during downtime. It might feel as though you don’t have any time for it, but consider all of the moments throughout the day when you can think about your writing, even subconsciously meditate on it–they add up. Then, when you sit down to write, you have the benefit of all the time you’ve spent away from the computer, thinking. Daydreaming has become rather undervalued these days.
When I recently had the impractical urge to start an eclectic blog, I googled the question of whether to write on one topic or many and saw this on shoutmeloud.com: “If you’re blogging because you love to write and want to write about multiple topics, and any consideration of earning money from the blog is secondary to that, then by all means write about anything and everything you wish.” The thought that I would be making money from these musings is laughable. So why not write about whatever I want to?
When starting a blog, you should consider whether limiting yourself to one topic would stimulate you to become, or become more of, an expert in that area, or whether on the other hand you would get bored. If your blog’s URL is something like johndoeblog.com and the title is “Random Musings” (already in use by numerous bloggers, as it happens), then you wouldn’t have to shoehorn every post into a narrow topic. You could even focus on one topic for a few months and then change course if you leave the URL and title open-ended at the outset.
There is a parallel between figuring out what your blog will be about and addressing some of the primary questions in life. What do you love? What will you pursue? Which in turn address the question, Who will you be?
As Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi wrote in Flow, the terms amateur and dilettante are “slightly derogatory . . . But originally, ‘amateur,’ from the Latin verb amare, ‘to love,’ referred to a person who loved what he was doing. Similarly a ‘dilettante,’ from the Latin delectare, ‘to find delight in,’ was someone who enjoyed a given activity.” Implicit in “amateur” is that the pursuit generates little or no income, but if writing a blog were your career, would you enjoy it? If it could pay me enough to cover my mortgage and student loans, I’d be writing 100 hours a day. For me, it needs to be a hobby. Implicit in “dilettante” is a lack of focus or depth of knowledge–but why should either be necessary to enjoy something?
If you’re interested in a variety of subjects, why fight it? I drive myself crazy by never reading only one book at a time–and the magazines keep coming in the mail–and the blogs I follow keep sending me email updates. Yet if I really hated living this way, I would change. Michel de Montaigne, one of my heroes, considered himself a réfléchisseur–one who reflects, ponders–not a writer. He describes his thoughts as “a horde of fantastical chimeras and unearthly forms, all pell-mell on top of one another, without clear order or connection” and says that to “face this absurdity and strangeness with a cool head, I began to commit them to paper.” (See Stefan Zweig’s Montaigne, trans. Will Stone.) There is something calming about reflecting on the things I like to read and analyzing my thoughts, jotting them down, and thereby putting them in some kind of order.
Enjoy the process, tame those fantastical chimeras, be a réfléchisseur. Have a blast and savor the odd reality of having an online extension of yourself.