I started this blog in June of 2015. At times I have taken months or even a year in between posts. However, what once started as an offshoot of a grad school project has turned into an act of public humiliation/vulnerability that I have now done 100 times. This is my 100th blog post!
For my 100th post, something that never crossed my mind when I registered this domain, I decided to write about why I am doing this (and why I think you should too).
I have always been a bad writer. It started early; I have a vivid memory of my first-grade teacher, Ms. Hudson, teaching us about the shapes of the letters b and d. She was using a baseball bat and a baseball as a visual to remember how to make the letters. For b, the bat came first and then the ball; for d, the ball came first and then the bat. I remember thinking, “Who cares? There are bats and balls in both; it doesn’t matter.” It was all downhill from there.
My ambivalence for the shapes of letters snowballed to include grammar and spelling. My ignorance led to frustration which shut down my brain when Language Arts (and later English) time rolled around. I had ideas in my head for the papers I was supposed to write, but my teachers often had to use more red ink on my paper than I did black.
Over time, with the assistance of spelling and grammar checks in word processors, I could make my submitted papers passable.
Through my adulthood and professional career, I had to write so much that I finally valued the skill of writing. I realized that the time and effort to “get good” at writing was worth it. Turns out my six-year-old brain didn’t make the right decision.
Not one to take half measures, I took some inspiration from the Vikings. Instead of burning my ship to prevent retreat, I decided to put my writing on the internet and have it be very clearly attached to my name. Not quite as visually dramatic as a flaming boat, but just as terrifying to me.
Once I committed to writing online, I still needed to figure out what to write about. I decided to take the easy route and just write about what I know and do, almost all of which I had to teach myself via many disparate resources. I figured that I could save others some time by combining those various resources into one and use my projects as examples. I could practice my writing skill while helping others, a perfect win-win situation!
What I did not anticipate were the additional time savings I could get out of this project. When people in my life asked for help with something technological, I would answer their questions and write a post about it. The next friend who needed help getting photos off of their phone and on to their computer would get a link with a detailed step-by-step answer. As well as a helpful conversation.
Building a Digital Paper Trail
In addition to helping others and improving my writing skills, this process has resulted in a robust online presence. I don’t mean that I am some type of Instagram influencer or YouTube star. My name doesn’t ring out in the streets or anything. Instead, I am talking about creating a lasting, positive online presence.
My blog is not at the whim of the most recent social media platform, not limited to a certain amount of characters or format. I can create content that is interesting to me and organize it the way I want to. No one needs to create an account to see what I am doing; it’s just there for people to find. I also don’t have to start from scratch every 3-5 years or deal with companies I don’t like (looking at you, Facebook). Avoiding the ephemeral nature of social media is one thing, but the future is another.
While I am thrilled with my job, I am thinking purposefully about my next one. I have been interested in instructional design for the past few years, and I am starting to think seriously about making a change.
When the time comes for a new career, I will have at least 100 posts showing who I am, what I do, and how I work. I have to imagine years of dedication to learning, teaching, and growing on public display will be an asset to me.
Serendipitously, as I was getting close to writing this post, one of my favorite YouTube channels had a video called “How Writing Online Made me a Millionaire.” I did not create my blog for that purpose or think it will have that impact, but I watched anyway because I like his content.
I am so glad I did because the video is actually about a book called “Show Your Work.” Which, it turns out, explains more completely and elegantly what I am trying to explain in this post.
I felt the first 90 seconds video of that video in my bones.
You might not have a lifelong learning deficit to overcome or an aversion to social media platforms, but I would encourage you to think about showing your work. I agree with Austin and Ali and think a personal website is the best way to do that, but pick your platform and start showing your work.
It took me 100 posts to believe that I should be showing my work. I hope this post, the video above, or the book helps you learn this message faster.