Writing Over the Years
I’ve always enjoyed writing. Over the years I’ve gone from writing by hand, to typing, to using a word processor, then using a computer, then printed newsletters. By the late 1990s my writing was distributed by email as a monthly email newsletter. In recent years, I’ve been putting my writings on the web as articles. Most of these are on the ResourcesForLife website.
The Invisible Author
Over the past 20 years, much of my writing has not been in first person, but instead written to avoid the presence of the author’s voice or comment in the writing.
Some of my writing is technical and instructional which lends itself more to an encyclopedia-type of writing style. For other writing, I try to keep it subjective, sharing various views on a topic – so it’s not just a writing style but a mindset of staying open to ideas and presenting them in a fair and balanced way. Being more removed helps.
For web pages that create the structure of a website, the style of writing needed is relatively dry and informative without the need for opinion.
For these reasons, I’ve used an approach to writing where the author is invisible in the writing.
Creating a Personal Presence Online
A few years back, I launched the AboutGregJohnson.com website as a place to share more personal writings and have a personal presence on the web. The broad social commentaries and technical writings still go elsewhere, but the more personal writings or sharing of photography goes on the personal website.
The personal website is also a place to solidify what people refer to today as their ‘personal brand’ – which is a fancy business-like way of talking about how people come to assess what you’re interested in, what you value, and what your values are.
With a personal website I can distance myself from my writings on politics, religion, or other controversial topics by putting them on the Resources for Life website along with a lot of other writings.
I don’t put those on my personal website because people who don’t know me may begin to form an assessment about who I am and what my views are based on just a few writings – not knowing that I sometimes will write strongly in support of various viewpoints.
My writings are often not meant to make a person believe what I believe, or manipulate them into doing what I want, but more intended to get people thinking deeper, and opening up to understand the views of others. It’s as much an exercise for myself as it is for the reader.
I try to avoid satire and sarcasm in my writing, especially writings that I plan to have on my personal website because it’s easy for people to misunderstand or take things the wrong way. Some articles stand on their own, but often a reader needs to have a broader understanding of the author and what they’ve written before to better understand what’s being written.
Something that’s kept me from having a personal blog over the years has been that question that we all probably ask, “Who would be interested in what I have to say?”
One way I’ve been able to get over that hurdle is to realize that maybe nobody will read what I share, but I should write anyway if I enjoy it. Think about the process of keeping a journal or writing poetry that you never share with anyone. We shouldn’t measure the value of something based on how many people will see it.
One of the reasons I like journaling and logging life experiences through writings, photography, and digital scrapbooking is because it provides me with a way to better reflect on the past.
Considering the Audience
Over the years, I’ve become friends with a broad range of people with different viewpoints and interests. When I write, I try to think about how various people might react to what I’m sharing, and I write accordingly which helps me be more fair and balanced with my writing.
Information Overload and Inbox Relief
One of the reasons for my monthly newsletters was to relieve people from having too much in their inbox from me. I thought it would be nice to have a single email each month on a variety of topics so people could catch up on news without receiving a bunch of messages and clutter from me. I thought I’d be more likely to be heard if I only said something once a month. This has become even more important with the flood of social media content. So, I continue the monthly newsletter as a way to share what’s most important from the past month and for the month to come.
As much as we complain about a lack of civility in the online world, with cyber bullying and other problems, a trend that’s made people more civil in their online discussions and writings is removing anonymity. Years ago, it was common for people to use anonymous online personas and profiles. This gave rise to people being less civilized because they couldn’t be judged or criticized for what they were saying and doing online. Today, Facebook, Google, and others have helped to establish the standard of having user accounts that accurately represent real people.
I think when we write from a personal blog, under our own name, we’re motivated to make an additional effort to be considerate of others.
Casual Clothes are Comfortable
Just as casual clothes are comfortable, writing a personal blog post is more comfortable. When I’m writing an article for a website with more exposure, on a topic likely to raise some interest, there’s a little more pressure on. With a personal blog, the audience is smaller, and typically among friends and family. Occasionally a typo will get past me. Someone (usually my brother Sherman) will thankfully let me know. It’s a place to write a little more freely in that regard.
Building a Collection of Writings
Sometimes I write an article in response to a question someone has, such as “What’s the best printer to buy?” I’ll do some research, write an article, and send the person the link knowing that others will likely find the article of interest as well.
Sometimes I’ll write on a topic that nobody has asked me about, but later I’ll have someone ask and it’s nice to be able to say, “Oh, I’ve done some research on that and wrote an article. Here’s the link.” Sometimes the timing is uncanny. I’ll be in a conversation with someone, and they will ask about a topic, and with a surprised look I’ll reply, “I just wrote an article about that yesterday!”
If I’ve taken many hours to research a topic, and provide links to resources, then these articles can help save people time and access a greater amount of high quality information.
Organic Responsive Writing
Even after posting an article, I’ll often go back and expand on a writing to clarify a point or add some additional commentary. Sometimes this is in response to feedback I’m getting on an article. This kind of ‘workshopping’ helps make my writing better and engages those who read to influence and shape the final outcome. Another technique I use for refining my writing is to use the text to speech feature on my iPhone and have articles read back to me. Often we will hear something in a writing that we might overlook if reviewing it visually.
Keeping a Writing Journal
During the day, I might think of a topic I want to write on. I’ll sometimes just write a single sentence and maybe a few points. Then later I might add to that note. Once I’ve considered the topic sufficiently, I’ll spend time writing on that topic. Sometimes, I’ll wake up in the morning, and have a topic come to mind that I want to write on even without previously exploring the topic, but I’ll write on it anyway. There’s a momentum, energy, and effectiveness found in writing about a topic you feel an increased interest in.
My preferred time to write is in the morning around 5AM after waking up before the business of the workday begins. It’s a time when my mind is clear. There are no interruptions and fewer distractions. I’ll often have a single topic that comes to mind that I want to write on. Sometimes a few topics will come to mind, but usually one that I commit to. It could be something related to current news, or a general topic of interest. Sometimes it’s a topic I’ve been thinking about for a while or exploring in my writing journal.
I appreciate everyone who takes time to read my writings. Thanks for taking an interest. I hope you find them helpful.