Either Write or Do


I was speaking with a friend recently who is embarking on a very exciting new adventure in his life both professionally and personally.

On the former he is undertaking a much larger role with a newish organization that is growing like a weed and will be responsible for building the systems and strategy that take this promising venture to the very next level (and beyond). On the latter he is moving his family out of their comfort zone and into a new geographical area with the challenge of making new friends, new relationships, and without the long-standing local support network of family and friends.

Needless to say, it is going to be quite an exciting time for him and his family and is positively the right choice for him in so many different ways; I couldn’t be more excited for him as he gets things quickly underway.

We spent our last conversation catching up briefly but more importantly on what the technological future looks like for him – specifically how a blog can/will/may play an important role in developing his platform for his organization as well as communicating to his followers the important information that he wants to start sharing.

I have walked many people through similar conversations and apparently I’m enough of a reliable source of information and counsel that I keep getting asked about it. I will admit that the only thing that I have going for me as a blogger is the fact that I haven’t quit: This is the most important short and long-term consideration.

The second consideration is as simple as the first but equally as important and I have relied historically on the context of the situation and the person’s unique perspective to draw out advice that might be relevant. But on this occasion I summoned first the spirit of Benjamin Franklin who once said:

Either write something worth reading, or do something worth writing.

and then second F. Scott Fitzgerald who also had some choice words to share:

The reason one writes isn’t the fact he wants to say something. He writes because he has something to say.

I am not sure I could say it any better than these two (although I made an attempt to contextualize the advice in the presence of my friend). Franklin’s thoughts are life-altering and life-giving as they can relieve someone of the pressure to feel as if they need to blog. You see, I would imagine that many of you have struggled with the same feelings and have often wondered if this blog “thing” is really worth your time at all.

The point of what Ben is saying isn’t that one is better than the other but that you should be doing something of great import, period, full stop. And that you don’t have to be doing both, i.e. doing and writing about what you’re doing. Sometimes it’s just good enough that you’re doing something of value and allowing that to be all-consuming.

The struggle that many of us face is this ridiculous pressure to promote or to preach or to market not just what we are doing but the fact that we are doing something at all. Why is that? We are all so quick to point out to others that are doing great things that more people should know about it and that the social web is how one can do that better. Who said that that is really the case? Who made it a rule that more equals better?

We have come to believe that if no one will write about us then we must undertake the mission of doing it ourselves. We naively believe that we are our biggest fans and that what we are doing is as significant (or more significant) than what others are accomplishing and if only the world knew about it then we’d all be better for it.

What if the reality is anything but that? What if what we are doing is, in fact, of very little significance and not yet worth talking about? What if we have not yet learned to do significant things and thus we are not ready to be talked about nor have we earned the right to talk about ourselves in that way?

It is this question that we must wrestle with individually and independently because time spent writing could be instead invested in that which we must be doing. So how do we know if we are spending our time in the best way possible?

I think this is where Fitzgerald’s voice comes into play and is the subtle difference between wanting and having something to say. You will know the difference in your mind, in your heart, in your gut and in your very soul. You may choose the ignore the still small voice that tells you otherwise but I think this is a challenge to reengage that voice and answer them honestly.

You and I have tons of stuff that we want to say and the internet has allowed anyone to do just that. The democratization of publishing rights is one of the best things that technology has afforded us. But it also has showcased some of the raw idiocy that is possible in our human condition and thinking. I have read appalling pieces of work and I have read much that has neither enriched my life nor anyone else’s for that matter. We have an infinite number of personal soap boxes that we can craft and create at will. I’m not so sure everyone deserves or has earned the right to such power.

So much of writing is subjective and so much of it is pure emotion that it’s difficult to counsel anyone to start writing or to just wait and instead go do something worth writing about. My hope is that I was able to give my friend some advice worth the meal that he purchased for me during that lunch and that he makes the “best” decision because who’s to know what the “right” one is except for himself.

But it’s ok to say “No!” to the temptation to create yet-another digital platform just because it seems like the right thing to do and instead invest oneself solely in the business of doing great work. If time and interest permits one can easily start a blog within minutes, quite literally.

Otherwise, those minutes are precious, finite, and irrecoverable once used up and gone. Might as well be doing something else with one’s time than wasting precious hours trying to find the right “look” (e.g. WordPress Theme) or choose the best add-ons, plugins, and 3rd-party scripts. Hah, you’ve never done that, right?