I recently claimed that my blog posts always have a point to make, however trivial. Ironically, I did that in a blog post that I wrote without knowing what the ‘point’ of that blog post. I knew while I was writing it that there were lots of thoughts in my head that needed to be put down. Surprisingly, even though I started without a conclusion in my head, I reached one while writing the post.
What is surprising, though, is that I felt much more satisfied after having finished that blog post than I would normally feel for a blog post that I knew had a point to make. (I may be hinting at the fact that because I made a choice to write a blog post without a goal, it gave me more satisfaction). But given this realisation, I feel it is worth exploring this kind of writing a little more.
In Praise of Half-baked Thoughts
One of my main arguments for blogging has been that it gives space to people to share half-baked thoughts and half-formed ideas. When sharing, they get an opportunity to explore their thoughts and may be in the process they are able to ‘fully bake’ those thoughts. If not, it allows for a serendipitous discovery to happen. There may be readers who may have the other half of that brilliant idea you just shared on your blog.
Ribbonfarm, a fairly popular blog written by Venkatesh Rao, is a good example of a blog where lots of half-baked ideas are shared. He usually writes long 2000+ word blog posts and many times the blog posts are a compilation of the multiple thoughts he has about that topic. He usually has a point to make but he writes in a manner where the point he makes hardly matters. He gives his readers so many interesting half-formed ideas that even if you don’t read the whole blog post whatever time you spent reading seems worth it.
In The Pipeline, one of the most popular blogs about drug discovery written by Derek Lowe, recently completed 10 years. The success of Lowe’s blog is not just from the niche that he has created for himself in the blogging world but also because of a rare distinction that it has earned as ‘one of (the blogs with) the highest signal-to-noise ratios in the entire world of blog comments’. He considers the many comments he gets on his blog as ‘rivers of gold’ and indeed they are because his readers are ready to explore the half-baked ideas that Lowe shares with them.
In his 10th anniversary blog post, he writes, “I compose quickly, and type quickly, which helps keep blogging from becoming a chore. It really doesn’t add much time to sit down and write up something about what I’ve been reading and thinking. It helps, in fact, to clarify my thoughts – I’m sure that I retain a lot more information for having blogged about it.” Here, I think, he is hinting at being able to confidently publish ideas even if he hasn’t quite got a grasp on them. He uses writing as the medium to understand it better and try to retain what he has been thinking.
Why fear then?
I realised that sharing half-baked ideas can be intimidating. We are acutely tuned to judge ourselves before others can. And, of course, if some ideas don’t even make complete sense to us then, surely, sharing them in public can only make things worse, right?
Well, not really. Consider these two blog posts, here and here. Both the blog posts have more than the usual number of comments my blog posts get. But one is a blog post where people have only commented to appreciate the writing and the other one is where people have commented to express their thoughts on what I wrote. Of course, both kinds of blog posts make me happy and proud but the one with others thoughts gives me more satisfaction – I get new ideas to write about, I am called out on things that aren’t clear to me, I am faced with opposing views, and with all that I grow.
If half-baked thoughts can start a dialogue, sharing them becomes worth it. Of course, this is not an argument for putting forth thoughts without having put in the effort to explore the thoughts. Even if it’s an incomplete idea, it is important to make your case to your readers as clearly as possible (which I’ve done here, hopefully!).
And in the spirit of the idea of sharing incomplete ideas, I am going to leave you with these half-baked thoughts. I hope you will share what you think about it and, together, maybe we can grow.