When I asked my friend, Verena, to help me design this site, she started by asking me a very basic question: what is the purpose of the site? To quote Bill Hicks: you stumped me.
I mean, it is a blog. It is one step up from sitting under a bare bulb in a basement writing angry letters to the government. Does it really need a purpose? But she was of course right. A website (blog or not) by its very nature is for people to visit. And having a carefully considered purpose gives people reason to visit. We spend our whole lives screaming into the void, I don’t suppose that I need my blog to do the same.
With Verena’s help, I managed to better articulate my vision of the site. It all boiled down to that I am curious about a lot of nerdy stuff, mostly old computers, and want to celebrate that passion by sharing what I learn. I congratulated myself on a successful one-person focus group study, and when Verena presented the lovely design for the site, I didn’t give the site’s purpose much more consideration.
Fast-forward about six months and the jury is still out about not only if this blog will survive, but if anyone is actually reading it. Regardless, I find myself reconsidering its purpose. Though I still delight in sharing things I learn from my projects, I somehow only recently realized how much joy the simple act of writing this blog brings me.
It took me a long time to realize that I actually like to write. As a child, I found the act of putting printed words on a page laborious. As a youth, I found writing themes in English class tedious. As an adolescent, I put off writing term papers until the Sunday before they were due. Never did it occur to me that I actually ENJOYED writing. I was so single-mindedly focused on my science education in order to start a profession in technology to the exclusion of other disciplines.
In my freshman year in college, when other classmates realized that I could write and I had a waiting list of people wanting me to proofread their papers for them, I finally occurred to me that maybe I had a redeemable skill of some kind. Though that was not enough to distract me from the career in tech that I had foreseen for myself.
Only after years of working as a peripatetic consultant did I realize that one of the things things that I consistently enjoyed about the job was writing the documentation. Business process repots, memoranda on system optimizations, and architecture analyses: these documents made the themes that I hated to write in middle school look like Yeats. I took a strange delight in expressing dry, technical details in a structured and approachable manner. In short, I enjoyed writing what no one wanted to read. There could be no more perfect prologue to a blog.
Considering just how long it too me to realize that I had a passion for writing, it shouldn’t be a surprise that I didn’t initially consider that a purpose for this site was simply to be able to write. And not only is it an opportunity to write, but more importantly it is a motivation to write. It gives me a reason to write and do it regularly.
Life can be distracting. We have obligations to work, family, friends, and just surviving day-to-day. It can be easy to overlook things you actually enjoy. Try to take the time to let curiosity lead you somewhere unexpected. Explore the little things that delight you. Or try something new. Take a pottery course. Learn a new (programming) language. Stat a garden box on your window sill. Build a book case. Sing in a choir. Start a blog and do a poor job of humblebraging about how good you are at writing. I believe curiosity is its own reward and a defining virtue of humankind, but it is never so delightful as it is when it surprises you. Let yourself be surprised and stay curious.