Find your obsession.
Every day, explain it to
one person you respect.
Edit everything, skip shortcuts,
and try not to be a dick.
Merlin Mann, How to Blog
My Sunday morning was spent listening to a discussion between Merlin Mann and John Gruber that has this ridiculous title, “HOWTO: 149 Surprising Ways to Turbocharge Your Blog With Credibility!. The discussion happened at SXSW back in 2009. It is still as relevant today as it was then.
If there was a Hall of Fame for individual podcasts, this may be a member of the first class. It is incredibly insightful for not only writers, but also anyone looking to start up their own business. Every venture comes down to one simple equation according to Merlin: Obsession times Voice.
Topic times voice. Or, if you’re a little bit more of a maverick, obsession times voice. So what does that mean? I think all of the best nonfiction that has ever been made comes from the result of someone who can’t stop thinking about a certain topic — a very specific aspect of a certain topic in some cases. And second, they got really good at figuring out what they had to say about it.
These are two items that I am continually struggling to capture accurately. I definitely know I don’t have a single obsession like some people generally do, and it is difficult for me to pare down all of my interests into one broader category. I look at the archives of this blog and keep wondering, “Who is this guy?”
I have always believed that one single topic can become boring and may not be incredibly useful in the longterm. Read my manifesto to learn more about that belief. I bring this up because it was brought up in the discussion surrounding obsession. Both Merlin and John have a belief that narrowly-focused blogs will grow an audience, while blogs with a variety of topics may be ultimately doomed. I do have to agree with them that a single focus blog will shoot up in popularity quicker though.
The part about voice is something else I keep questioning with my writing. It is a forever evolving process. I will never know for sure if I captured who I really am here, because so very few people I know “for real” read what I write. I don’t have the same check and balances that some people may have with their friends, a partner, a mastermind group, and so forth.
Merlin suggested that the best way to discover your voice is to write to someone you imagine reading your site. John’s response is that he writes for an alternative version of himself. I thought I was doing the same thing, but now I find myself thinking about my daughter. What better way to capture my thoughts, what I found important at the time, and the trials of life I have gone through than with this blog to share with her when she is older?
Maybe it will help me find the focus that I am desperately needing here.
Reminder for the podcast via MacSparky
John Gruber’s thoughts afterwards: Obsession Times Voice
Roo Reynolds’ Panel Notes
Merlin Mann’s talk, How to Blog
Interview with CBC by Merlin on same topic, How to Blog