"The great new tool for writing a book today is a blog ..."
In a recent episode on The Engaging Brand podcast, business coach Anna Farmery interviews Mark Sanborn, author of You don't need a title to be a leader, on the topic of self-confidence. Farmery says many people have aspirations to write a book, but lack the self-confidence to do it. Sanborn says you can use a blog as a tool to build confidence and write a book. Sanborn explains,
Book writing is more about initiative and effort than confidence and creativity. ...
Confidence is acquired in tiny doses... You ski a few feet on the kiddy hill after you get some good instruction ...
The great new tool for writing a book today is a blog. I blog on a regular basis. .... Part of the reason I blog is to discipline myself to continually be thinking and writing. When I can do a 50 or 100 or 200 or 500 word blog and bang it out and realize that I can always go back and polish, improve, and change it later, no harm done, that's a good example of skiing 3 feet without falling down on the kiddy hill....
Writing a good book that you're proud of, that finds you standing on top of the mountain with the ability to make it all the way down, comes from doing all those little things, those tiny doses. Because if you don't start small, I guarantee you 99 out of 100 people will never start. (17 min. mark, "The Art of self-confidence, show #130")
In other words, writing a book may be too challenging of a goal in itself, but writing a blog post is easy. If you write scores of blog posts during the course of a year, you'll build up the confidence to actually write a book.
If you compile your research into little blog posts, the blog can also function as a tool for writing the book. Although blog posts individually probably don't cohere into a book, you'll have all the research ready -- the facts, quotes, and ideas -- which you can then print out and arrange on little index cards (or whatever) so you can write the book. (It's not as if you can just string together the blog posts into a book, unless you're writing them as mini-essays that magically link together.)
I wrote about the topic of blogging and writing a book earlier with this post, Guy Kawasaki's Impossible Burden: After Blog and E-mail, There's No Time to Write the Book. For Kawasaki, the blog is a distraction to writing a book.
But the blog can be a tool you use any way you please. You can use it to write your book, post by post. You can use it to distract yourself from writing the book. You can use it to gather feedback from essays you post from the upcoming book. You can use it as a chapter-by-chapter fiction writing project. You can use it to compile your research. Or you can use it to write about everything and nothing. Blogging is essentially writing.
What I like most about Sanborn's point is the approach to tackling large problems. At this time of year, everyone makes grandiose goals -- lose 25 pounds, write a best selling novel, be elected governor -- whatever. These goals might be more easily accomplished with little steps.
Personally, I want to write engaging non-fiction essays, and were it not for this blog, I would probably devote more time to them. My goal for the upcoming year, then, is to use this blog as a tool for creating the kind of non-fiction essays I want to write.
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.