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Should You Only Blog if You Have Something "Original" to Say?

Unique Kate Quinn, who I met through our 31 Days to Building a Better Blog challenge, has stopped blogging. In addition to time constraints and work frustrations, she says she made her decision because she felt she had nothing "original" to say:

As a wise person may have once said, “If you don’t have anything original to blog, why blog at all”. 

With over 120,000 new blogs being created per day, it is easy to see how each individual is just a drop in the vast ocean called the Blogosphere, and I regularly asking myself what, and if, I can produce anything unique.

I keep thinking about Kate's decision, wondering how many other people silence themselves because they think they don't have anything original to say, wondering also if this is a reason to stop blogging. Kate is, of course, entitled to stop blogging for any reason she wants. Blogging requires passion and if you've lost that feeling, for whatever reason, it's probably good to pack it in.

What bothers me about Kate's decision (if "bother" is even the right word) is this whole concept of blogging because you have something original to say. Should that really be a pre-requisite for blogging? Do we even know what we mean when we talk about being "original" or "unique"?  I'm wondering about this for a few reasons. . .

In some sense, we are all unique--even if I have the same opinion as 1,000 other bloggers, how I express that opinion will be unique to me. No other blogger will say something in exactly the same way that I do. So really, I'm always going to be saying something unique or original--I have to, unless I'm copying another blogger's post, word for word.

I think that when bloggers talk about being "original" what they're wondering is if they're "adding value" to the conversation--are they doing something more than saying "yeah, me too"? I would argue that sometimes we aren't the best judges of value in that regard. I may think that I'm completely unoriginal in my posts, but there may be some snippet of what I say that resonates and connects with you in a way that no other blogger was able to do. Unless you comment to me, I don't know this and I may feel I'm not adding value as a result.

I also wonder what's so bad about "me too" kinds of posts. As human beings, we are always seeking to make connections and form community based on shared interests. "Me too" is one of the major ways we do this. I think about the posts I'm most  compelled to comment on when I'm going through my feed reader--they are the ones that echo my own experiences, that make me say "YES, I've been there, done that and it's good to see that someone else has been there, too." And judging from the comments I get on my own posts, I'm not alone in this.

Part of my concern about the issue of blogging because you have something original to say is that this is based on a premise that this is the only good reason to blog. But blogging is only partially about your audience. It's also about you and what you learn from the experience of regular writing on a topic that interests you. I would blog even if no one read what I wrote--although I admit that it's more motivating to write when I feel like I have an audience. I would do this because I know that blogging has forced me to reflect on my work and how I do it in ways that I never did before. That in and of itself is a powerful reason to blog and to continue the hard work that goes with it--at least for me.

That said, I know where Kate is coming from on all of this. I've had many days where I seriously considered why I continue to blog when it feels like everyone else has said it all, and much better than I ever could. To some extent, I think that's the nature of writing itself. We all struggle with wanting to feel that we're creating music with our posts, not adding to the cacophony that it sometimes feels we're living in in the blogosphere. But maybe the issue is that we're creating music in our own little corner of the world and we don't even know it. Or that because each person is creating his/her own symphony as they surf the Web, we can never know what music is being created outside our hearing.

These are some ill-formed thoughts for me right now. Mostly a way to work through the discomfort and sadness I felt in reading that Kate stopped blogging because she thought her voice wasn't unique. I'm wondering what you think about all of this.

Should we stop blogging if we feel we don't have anything original to say? Do you struggle with the same issues Kate did? How have you handled them?

Photo via Ahmed Rabea


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Blogging can be a very important part of personal knowledge management using Web tools. It helps you make tacit knowledge more explicit. Like many others, my blog is part of my outboard brain and I use it to keep track of my thoughts about what I have read or experienced. There's always something original to add when it's your own knowledge artefacts that you're creating. A bonus is that it helps someone else.

I also wonder what's so bad about "me too" kinds of posts. As human beings, we are always seeking to make connections and form community based on shared interests. "Me too" is one of the major ways we do this. I think about the posts I'm most compelled to comment on when I'm going through my feed reader--they are the ones that echo my own experiences, that make me say "YES, I've been there, done that and it's good to see that someone else has been there, too." And judging from the comments I get on my own posts, I'm not alone in this.
Yes! I know exactly what you mean!
To answer the original question, I'd agree with the point that you make that most posts are original, as it's the individual's perspective on things that make them worth reading.
Just as in a face to face setting we can all discuss the same event/ whatever with our own viewpoints - or just agree and say "yes, you're totally right"

I have had the sense that I am repeating things that have been already said, but I see it as passing things along from one audience to another ie I read a lot of posts by people in the 'e-learning' field. I comment on them and pass on the information which is picked up by midwives. These midwives may never have accessed this information through the e-learning portal. Hope this makes sense.

What fascinates me about this is do we worry about saying something 'original' when we talk? Or when we teach or train? It seems to me that the human condition is a continual hashing and rehashing of our collective experience, and a quest for making meaning out of it all.

It's not that I don't feel the pressure to be original, or witty, or to offer great value in the blog posts I write, it's just that I stop writing when I put that kind of pressure on myself. And then I think about how much I get out of all the other blogs I read, and really how many of them are just snippets of conversations that I gather. The greater value comes from the collective; the sentence from one post I combine with two from another, mashed up with something that happened to me walking down the street.

As always--great food for thought from everyone. You make a good point, Sarah, that in sharing what you learn with different audiences, you're creating new knowledge and information with that group that they might not otherwise find or know about. That's actually a role I've often played in my work, particularly related to technology, so I understand exactly what you mean.

When you compare blogging to face-to-face, as both Christine and Emma pointed out, then we can see that it's silly in a way for us to worry about being "original." In fact, most of our conversations (especially among women) are based on the "me too" of finding common ground and pulling together disparate pieces of information and thought into some new understanding.

Thank you everyone for your comments--they've helped me clarify even more my sense that "originality" shouldn't necessarily be the measure of whether to start or continue blogging.

I'm catching up with posts after Thanksgiving now.

Building on what Harold said, I think if you're learning from your blogging, then it doesn't really matter whether it's "original" or "unique." Making connections in knowledge and with people is sufficient reason to blog.

A while back, someone actually emailed me and asked if I thought there was room in the blogosphere for another blog about e-learning. He was clearly prepared for me to tell him "nope, the party's full, go somewhere else." Of course I told him that there was always room and I'd never tell someone there's too many bloggers in a field.

Blogging is a practice that I see as being as much about my personal professional development as anything else. So what if I'm just figuring out things that someone else understood years ago? It's still new to me, and the process of learning is important.

One of the big questions with evaluating blogging is whether you're looking at the product or the process. If your focus is on the product, you're more likely to worry about whether it's original. I think everyone who commented here is focused on the process--how we learn together and connect with each other through writing.

Christy--GREAT point about product vs. process. I think that many individual bloggers have recognized that it's a process thing. The real challenge is for people blogging for an organization, where there's a sense that if you aren't producing original, quality product, there's no point to blogging. But I think there's plenty to be gained from process blogging at an organization. It's the whole point behind the radical transparency issue we discussed earlier as it relates to companies becoming more transparent to customers. It's through making process visible that people really learn. It's not in the "what" but the how. We need more organizations to be willing to support the process of blogging and to make reflecting on process a part of what they do. It's the essence of a learning organization.

To my mind, the redundancy of "me too" is a necessity. The repetition carries its own signal, namely that the message resonates with other people. This is a core element of network learning.

It's unfortunate that some people are discouraged by their believe that their blogging output must be fresh and new. The irony is that the act of blogging and wanting to create fresh views will put our minds in a frame where it's likely to happen. The punchline is that we generally need to continue blogging in order to get to that point.

Hi Michelle,

This is a fantastic discussion of what is "original".

I had been struggling to think of something to write about for over a month, and in the month's before that I had been struggling to get any posts out, with this looming guilt over not updating regularly. In this frame of mine, I didn't want to blog just to satisfy the guilt - I wanted to say something more profound. Even a "me too" post can be profound, but I felt I couldn't even produce that.

I think one of the problems for me is that I have kept my blog as "e-learning, culture and technology" and as my interests diversified I began to need a different - and more personalised - platform for my thoughts.

I do think there needs to be "originality" in a post, or in an author's voice. Your blog Michelle is very original, the topic of this post - of which I'm sure there's hundreds - is still original in the questions it raises and the voice that you use. I do believe there are too many fickle "me too" posts out there - what I'm thinking of is, for example, the proliferation of "Hey, I bought a Mac!" posts as opposed to the deservingly "me too" posts you might find in the edublogosphere of people discussing, say, LMS system politics.

Harold (comment #1) had a good point about the blog being his "outboard brain". For a long time I felt the same, but distance grew between my blog and I. I did lose the passion - for, not blogging as a whole - and as the passion was lost so was the originality in my writing.

I still want, nay, need to blog. However I'm taking the time to write down my ideas, and will take my time to write longer articles that do have more meaning, and I intent to put these into a new context that is based around myself as a whole and not just myself the educational technologist. I don't want to write "Hey, I bought a Mac" but I do want to write "Hey, I bought a Mac and installed this fantastic application which lets you do this great thing". This is what I see as the difference between being a drop in the ocean, or being the part that the sun is glistening upon :)

Take care, Kate

Aloof--I think you're right that we sometimes have to write ourselves to fresh views of things. That goes back to the excellent process points made earlier.

Kate--Like I said in my post, I COMPLETELY understand where you're coming from on this. I've periodically taken breaks from blogging for the same reasons and think that it's a good sign if you question why you keep doing it. Plus, it's supposed to be enjoyable--if you're struggling all the time with posts, why do it? :-)

I think that the excellent point you're making here is that when you don't have the passion for a blog anymore then you need to rethink things. I'm glad that you still intend to blog and hope that when/if you start a new one, you'll let us know. And thank you for giving us all something to think about. This has been a really interesting and fruitful discussion.

Michele--Thanks for posting on this topic. For one reason or another, the "value" of blogging and bloggers has been on my mind quite a bit over the past few weeks. I keep encountering a monolithic conception of blogging that just doesn't ring true for me.

In a recent Associations Now article, Andrew Keen characterizes bloggers as a sort of "great unwashed" against which the elite must defend themselves. (For anyone interested, I comment on this at ). A posting I stumbled across on a blog I don't usually read listed a dozen or so cynical definitions of bloggers including gems like "A nobody that always wanted to write and thinks people will finally notice their talent online." Even Jakob Nielsen ( comments that "Blog postings will always be commodity content."

I understand how someone might arrive at the opinions these writers express, but I think your points about the uniqueness of individual views, the relative nature of "adding value," and the importance of blogging as process as much (or more than) product are spot on in countering these views. --Jeff

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