Thursday, April 3, 2014

Why you should write

It's easy to be a consumer of information.  Since the advent of Google, most people can now find the content they want, whenever and wherever they want it.  The great thing about information on the internet is that it's the gift that keeps on giving: for essentially zero dollars lots of people can access it and it costs them nothing, plus it doesn't disappear when someone reads it.

The problem with this is that it leads folks to never contribute.  Oh sure, lots of people post Facebook updates and tweet.  But substantial information requires time and effort, and the internet seems to have made us lazy.  Why bother writing? 

1. Your story is unique.  While you may think you're just another cog in the wheel, the reality is that you have a unique story.  Your background, your career, your hobbies, and everything about you is different from everyone else.  No one wants to read cookie-cutter articles that sound the same, and you don't have to worry because when you write about your experiences, it's going to be anything but routine.

2. You don't know who may benefit.  I have met a lot of people through this blog.  While there are plenty of negative comments (see any post I make referencing the Chief's Mess) they are well overcome by the number of positive comments I get via email.  I've had contact with people all over the US, from ROTC units to deployed personnel in Afghanistan, that thank me for a post I made that helped them solve a problem. 

3. You expand your influence.  "Culture change" is one of those buzz terms that people like to throw around.  The military is used to following orders, and we get a lot of our culture from the CO/XO/CMC that is at our current command.  Writing helps us reach out beyond that by giving us an audience with a lot of people who may take our idea and run with it.  As a CO, you only get two years to change one command of people, but if you post a well read essay at USNI, you could reach thousands in a single month.  For example, my "House Hunting Leave" post has been uniquely accessed over 2300 times, meaning that I likely helped over 1000 people be a little less stressed finding their home after a PCS move.

4. It makes you better.  Yup, writing a lot makes you better.  Besides making you a better writer, it makes you compose your thoughts in a coherent pattern.  It makes you think carefully about how what you say will be perceived.  It makes you look things up because you want a blog post to be right.  It gets you out from your day job and makes you think big.

Unfortunately, we can come up with all sorts of reasons to not blog, to not submit essays to USNI, to even not send letters to the Navy Times.  Maybe we're afraid of what the critics will say, when we need to remember that nobody built a statue to a critic.  Maybe we think we don't have the time, as our Candy Crush Saga is calling us.  Or maybe we're lazy, because it's easier to sit back and throw darts at other people's ideas without offering our own.

Whatever the reason, I'll offer a challenge: send me your story and I'll gladly post it here.  I'll help you refine it and make it into a post.  Maybe it'll be your only ever blog post.  Maybe it'll suck (I doubt it).  Or maybe you'll be surprised, like I was a few years ago, and realize you have a lot to contribute and you'll make it a passion of yours.  No matter what, the invitation is open.