Guy Kawasaki's Impossible Burden: After Blog and E-mail, There's No Time to Write the Book
Brian Oberkirch has interviewed some really cool people over in Silicon Valley. In this podcast from Oberkirch, Guy Kawasaki reveals some thought-provoking dilemmas about his blog habits. Guy is a big name in tech — former evangelist for Apple, now a venture capitalist. During the first 20 minutes they talk about startups, why some succeed and others fail (basically no one knows), they cover Guy's previous books (The Art of the Start, Rules for Revolutionaries, Selling the Dream), and then the subject turns to blogging.
Guy started his blog about a year ago, at the pressure of his friends, and has been diligently posting every since. To date, he says, he has written 281 posts. He spends about 2-3 hours a day writing his posts. To write a serious post, it takes about 5-6 hours.
Guy knows he should be working on his next book, but between e-mail and blogging he can't find time to write it. If he could eliminate blogging and email from his life, he could surely get it done, he says. But after posting to his blog, answering his e-mail, spending time with his family and playing hockey, it's 11 p.m. and he's too tired to write.
He even hired a virtual assistant to help him, but he's convinced his problem is a lack of discipline.
At this point the interviewer makes a penetrating, insightful suggestion: why don't you write your book in your blog? Little posts each day, over a long period of time, will form the basis of your book.
Guy absorbs the idea as if it's a mind-blowing revelation, but eventually dismisses it because while it would take 5-6 hours to write a serious blog post, it would take much more time to write a book chapter. He doesn't entertain the idea that perhaps a week's worth of posts can comprise one book chapter.
Guy also says that if he can make hundreds of thousands of dollars from his blog, he would never write a book again. Clearly the published book has financial value beyond the blog. But the blog is just so darn rewarding, he can't give it up. The blog is essential to marketing your book, and withdrawing from email is unfathomable. Hence the dilemma.
Despite the apparent obvious solution (writing multiple posts that eventually comprise a book chapter), I think that, given more time, Guy might have articulated other reasons for preferring the blog to the book. The rewards of blogging are immediate. You write a post one evening, and by morning you've already got several comments. If you're as cool as Guy, who is in the top 100 Technorati blogs, you receive dozens of comments each day for each post. Guy calculates that at most his blog receives 37,000 visits a day.
In fact, I just just checked, and his daily pages views total surprass 7,000. This does not include the hundreds of people who read his content via feedreaders.
Here's why I think blogging is so alluring (at least more so than writing for print publications): Blog posts tend to be "tangential," an adjective the interviewer users. They address a variety of topics, and the form serves our shorter attention spans. In contrast, to write a book is to lock yourself into one topic for months, to write mostly in solace, to spend time researching endlessly in the library (or elsewhere). When you consider the social, collaborative, ever-changing Internet landscape, in which your blog is a portal that connects you to everyone else, it's not hard to see why one might prefer the blog to the book.
Blogging is opening up a new phenomenon. While it isn't replacing the library, more people are writing regularly on their blogs. Guy refers to daily blog posting as daily nutrition, or like working out. I may have sneered a little at Guy's comments, but the podcast interview is fascinating, and indicative of deeper social trends. I find myself enjoying online media more and more over print. I get more enjoyment out of blog posts than journal articles. I like feeling connected. It's also a bit of a thrill to think that my post might even be read by the interviewer, Brian Oberkirch, or by the interviewee, Guy Kawasaki. Blogging is interactive on a whole new level that print can never be.
About Tom Johnson
I'm a technical writer based in the San Francisco Bay area. In this blog, I write about topics related to technical writing and communication — such as software documentation, API documentation, visual communication, information architecture, writing techniques, plain language, tech comm careers, and more. Check out simplifying complexity and API documentation for some deep dives into these topics. If you're a technical writer and want to keep on top of the latest trends in the field, be sure to subscribe to email updates. You can also learn more about me or contact me.