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How (and why) I Blog

2012 July 1
by Greg Satell

So anyway, I was drinking scotch one night a few years ago and, in between various fantasies of world domination, I thought, “Hey, why don’t I start a blog?”

I didn’t know what I was getting into, but I had started posting in LinkedIn groups and began to receive fan mail (I was more than surprised, I thought they were nuts!). So, after a few more drinks, I had bought a domain name, downloaded WordPress and next thing I knew, I was a blogger.

Thankfully, it’s turned out pretty well.  I have attracted a large following, met a lot of great (and smart!) people, learned a ton and been featured on major media outlets. Lately, I’ve started to get a lot of questions about how I go about it and still others about why I do it at all.  So I thought, “Hey!  There’s a good idea for a post!”  Here we go…

The Spark

Like most people, I have a lot of ideas.  They come randomly.  Sometimes they’re triggered by something I’m reading, by a business problem I’m working through, by something stupid someone says at a meeting or even just waking up in the morning.

This is not unusual.  In his new book about creativity, Imagine, author Jonah Lehrer explains that new ideas usually come when we’re relaxed, not when we’re concentrating hard.  Scientists have suggested that alpha waves in our brain are responsible.  Whatever the reason, I’ve found it to be true.  I just wait around and ideas come… eventually.

Once I have an idea, I immediately write an outline, with sub-headings, connecting ideas and references.  These outlines can sit for weeks, so I try to include as many reminders as possible.  I still sometimes stare at the outline later on and don’t have the foggiest notion what I was thinking, but usually I can pick up my train of thought if the outline is good.

Research and Background

Despite what a lot of people think, I rarely do significant research (e.g. more than an hour) for my posts.  I do a lot of Googling, to firm up the references in my outline and sometimes I have to hunt through a few books trying to find something I had read years ago, but rarely do I do more than that (probably a few times out of 300 or so posts).

The reason I don’t do research is that I write what I know.  I’ve run a variety of businesses in four foreign countries and read 30-40 books a year, so that gives me a lot of material. On the rare occasions that I do end up doing significant research, it’s usually something I probably would have done anyway, writing a blog just helps me structure it.

What’s really important is not the little factoids, but how concepts relate to each other.  I’ll often find that what something I read in the business press will remind me of something Dostoyevsky wrote, or Einstein discovered or… well you get the idea.

Grinding It Out

Another thing that Lehrer points out is that the act of creation is much different than than the event of inspiration.  While ideas come to you randomly, following up can be a bit of a grind.  Sometimes I will struggle with a post for weeks, dropping it a few times before I get it right.  Other times I find the original idea unworkable and abandon it altogether.

Whatever the case, I usually follow a regular process.  First, I write the post.  Then I read it over some time later (usually it sits anywhere from a few days to several weeks before I come back to it again).  Letting it sit is absolutely crucial as I’m able to be more critical after I get some distance.  Then, after it’s been loaded into WordPress, I give it a read through aloud.

In contrast to research, I spend a considerable time editing.  One reason is that I’m a pretty lousy natural writer, so I make lots of mistakes.  Another reason is that it’s important to write for reading and thoughts don’t usually come out in a way that other people can digest them easily.  It takes a few run-throughs (at least) to get it out in digestible form.

I maintain a consistent posting schedule even when I’m swamped at work or encounter the occasional drought. The secret to achieving that is maintaining a healthy reserve, so I never have to post something at the last minute (I shoot for a month’s worth of posts, but can’t always hold to that).

What’s the Point?

I still get a lot of questions about why I do it.  After all, it takes a lot of time and effort and it doesn’t earn my living.  With a demanding career, it is sometimes a struggle to keep it up.  One reason is obvious: self promotion.  My blog is widely read by people both within my industry and outside of it and that’s opened up some opportunities.

The not so obvious reason is that it gives me a chance to think through all of those little sparks and turn them into workable concepts.  It gives me a rich database of material that I often return to, which has become a valuable resource.

And that is probably the biggest benefit.  I write for myself.   Before I started blogging, I often encountered business issues that I had previously thought through, but couldn’t remember what I had come up with.  Now I have an archive.

I put my ideas out in the marketplace where they are tested, argued with, added to, deepened and enriched. I also feel that (to paraphrase G.H. Hardy) I have somehow made a contribution to knowledge that differs in degree, but not in kind, from that of better men and women.  That’s rewarding.

Sometimes, the best thing about writing a post is finding out how it ends.

– Greg

13 Responses leave one →
  1. July 1, 2012

    Terrific set of comments on why a blog. For me I’m usually impatient to get the blog out so although I have many ideas bubbling along or just quietly simmering away I suddenly feel that need to publish it………..and be dammed!

  2. July 1, 2012

    Your last sentence alludes to the end. Do you feel your post ends with what you write above — or with what I and others write below?

  3. July 1, 2012

    Good point. I guess that depends on the post:-)

    – Greg

  4. July 1, 2012

    I can see why. Your posts are excellent!

    – Greg

  5. Nathan Schor permalink
    July 1, 2012

    “to paraphrase G.H. Hardy” – is a perfect example of why I consistently read this blog. Where else on an blog alleged to center around marketing are you going to find a reference to one of the leading mathematicians of the last century?

  6. July 1, 2012

    Thanks Nathan! I appreciate the support.

    Have a great week.

    – Greg

  7. July 1, 2012


    Wrote a very similar piece 2 years ago. It forced a little introspection around motivations and objectives. Amused to see some similarities between our two posts. Great minds? Mmmm…

  8. July 1, 2012

    I enjoyed reading yours. Thanks for pointing it out.

    – Greg

  9. July 2, 2012


    Nice post! Blogging your content (ideas, thoughts) you are looking for context (relations) and then for the new knowledge.

    This agnosticism (a stance about the difference between belief and knowledge) of our Hi-tech life is the passage to Hi-hume technologies.

    Blogging is the way to clarify quickly the issues by regarding the very simple context.


  10. July 2, 2012

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts Sergei.

    – Greg

  11. July 3, 2012

    Hi Greg,

    Your thoughts resonate with my own motivation for starting and continuing to write my own blog.

    For me, it took me a few years to start my own. Like you, I have no problem coming up with ideas, so I took the challenge of writing for the startups I was a part of in topics that I was no expert. That’s was my start.

    Pretty soon, soon my friends were telling me that I should start writing my own blog so I could “dump my brain somewhere”. As far as I can remember, I’ve started 11 blogs in different topics.

    Adding to your list of “reasons to write a blog”, I also took it as a challenge to attack one of my known weaknesses:

    1. Communication. For those of us who jump from one topic to another as freely as a group of jazz people improvise musical notes, communicating our thoughts in a structured way is a challenge. It is the Achilles Heel of every Iconoclast, and I’ve enjoyed attacking this challenge. I know I’ve improved, but I’m not where I want to be.

    Another reason is that, like you, I’ve met and have collaborated with smart people I never would have met or known about. This is the biggest payoff for me. The learning and feedback priceless.

    Sorry for the long comment, but your post really hit a nerve as I’ve never written a “why I blog” post of my own.



  12. July 3, 2012

    And what a great blog it is! For those of you who don’t know Jorge, check out his blog at You won’t be disappointed!

    btw – great point about using a blog to improve your communication skills, especially with complex topics. It really helps organizing your thoughts.

    – Greg

  13. July 3, 2012

    Thanks Greg!



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