Write The Internet You Want To Read

In the past, I used to obsessively worry about the things I shared. For a long time, I would just keep my creations in the drawer, somewhere only I know it’s safe from others.

Those are my works and I would love to show everyone, especially people who are closed to me. They matter to me just as much as my work. A nod of approval, a pat on the back, and an occasional praise would mean the world to me.

But I didn’t show anyone. I didn’t want to expose myself to unnecessary scrutiny and criticism. I always deemed my work to be not good enough. I was benchmarking against people I admire, people who have produced and continue to produce great works. An unfair comparison perhaps, but that didn’t stop the self-defeating thoughts.

Adopting A New Mindset

This closed up mentality needed to be fixed. When I read about creatives, however great they may be, are constantly struggling with their internal self. It dawned on me I’m not the only one in this war. There are many others like me. The more cases I read, the more I discovered even the bests have doubts about their abilities.

The idea is not to supress them, but to limit their influence on hindering us from doing and showing our creative endeavours. Instead of worrying about what others might think, we focus on making something for ourselves. Alone with our thoughts, it’s our overriding purpose and passion.

The Thrills and The Woes

When I started Mintype, the idea was to concentrate on design and technology topics, with spotlight shining on minimalism and typography. Two years ago, I was just getting started on typography and I figured this place would be a good resource to share what I learned. But even with a clear direction, there were other issues troubling me.

Should I post only original articles written by myself? How long should the articles be? Is it ok to be posting linked-style blog like Daring Fireball? Should I post video on the site, or keep it clean and consistent with just words and occasional pictures? Should I link the pictures away or post them here? Should I create another blog for something that doesn’t fit into the philosophy of Mintype?

Short of keeping me awake at night, these were the things that occupied me most. Instead of focusing on doing what I’m passionate about, I was being bogged down by unnecessary distractions. That can’t be good.

At the end of the day, I asked myself, Who am I writing for? Myself.

I don’t have to seek approval from others. Since I’m doing something I enjoy and passionate about, why should I care about what others think? I’m not writing for them, I’m writing for myself. If we constantly think about what people think, we will never make the great things we love. We would be constantly weighed down by the burden of fear. It can be paralyzing and hinders us from having fun.

Discovery of Fun and Trust

The flipside of fear is trust. Trust is an empowerment and a powerful force in enabling us to go on and do what we always set out to do. It’s also about knowing that what we do is worthwhile. In creative endeavours, trust and fun goes hand in hand. It’s a bond knowing that we can produce the best works while enjoying ourselves.

Patrick Rhone coined the term of writing the Internet we want to read during his conversation with Shawn Blanc. Shawn then came back to this and added his input:

There is something freeing about creating for yourself. When we take hold of that baton and create for that second version of ourselves, it’s like having a permission slip to do awesome work. And what better way to have fun than to do awesome work? There’s an inverse truth here as well: most of our best work comes from the place of delight.

Having fun is liberating. Enjoy the process and awesome work will follow.

Now, I want to touch on posting those seemingly off-topic posts that doesn’t fit in with the values of the site. What exactly constitute to the consistently of the site? Having a clear direction is definitely one, but it’s not as important as the voice behind those words. Readers are attracted by the tone, the prose and the way it’s written.

Shawn Blanc doesn’t just write about on software and technology topics. He’s also a coffee fanatic and his enthusiasm is infectious. Some of my favourite posts from him are personal stories like how his iPhone got scratched on the airplane. We come to know a little more about his personality and the man behind this voice. He’s honest, direct and having fun doing what he likes. As a reader, we can sense that and that’s why there are so many people like myself returning to his site and respecting his inputs.

Frank Chimero doesn’t just share this thoughts on design. He wrote about the horse in the apple store, and that’s how I stumbled on him as an interesting person and not as a brilliant designer. Likewise to Khoi Vinh and Jack Cheng, the world and conversely their blog doesn’t just revolve around technology and design. I learn a lot from Jack’s piece on habit field, a really well-written article that has nothing to do with his area of expertise. As for Khoi, we get a glimpse into the live of a loving husband and dad. Craig Mod covers a diverse range of topics from traveling bliss to publishing industry and each time, the style is distinctly his and I’ve enjoyed and bookmarked most of his works.

I shall finish off with this golden nugget from Nathan Kontny, creator of Draft.

You‘re on Reddit, do you only read a single sub-reddit? You read any other news sites? CNN? The frontpage is filled with pics and stories about dogs, sports and war. Grab a magazine. The random one next to me is about business, buying jeans, the lives of mayors, Peter Dinklage from Game of Thrones, and on and on. When it comes to things like reading and content, it is my belief and my experience that people more often want variety. Most of us have completely varied interests. If you were an incredible expert that many people already knew was the best at making Infographics, then yes, maybe you should just create a single site that only makes infographics. … Back to the example of Basecamp, they have Signal vs. Noise, a blog of a variety of things for like 15 years. They finally now have created a new “magazine“ with a very specific focus, The Distance: behind the scenes of businesses that have been in business for a very long time. But it‘s only after they‘ve built up an incredible audience already.

[…] There are far too many people that talk about starting a blog, and then 5 years later are still talking about starting a blog.

While I used to write in hope of recognition and incentives, such thoughts are diminishing. The process of writing and the joy of reading my posts offers me something I’ve never experienced before – self fulfilment.

As with anything worth doing, it’s probably worth doing for a long time. A lifetime, maybe. Just two years into this site, I’m only getting started.