How Google’s failure helped me become a dramatically better writer

better writer

In 2013 Google announced it was killing off Blog Reader, by far the most-used, most-popular blog reading platform in the universe.

Why?

Who knows? Brian Shih, former leader of the Google platform, said it was political. In any event, it made no sense to kill it. Reader had dominant marketshare, it didn’t cost too much to maintain and it seemed to have at least as much utility as some of the Google apps that survived. Nevertheless, Reader joined a long list of Google technologies that have been piled into the dustbin.

And the death of Reader made me a better writer.

I had accumulated a collection of about different 75 blogs in my reader. Every once in a while I would do a purge but 75 seemed to be the constant number of blogs I was reading … well scanning, at least!

It was an interesting experience because scanning through the blog reader was like watching topics develop, rise up, and eventually crash upon the blogosphere shore.

Blog Reader was useful, but it also pulled me into its undertow. Eventually I would write about these same repeating topics too. Yes. I was part of the ECHO CHAMBER joining in on the choir of blog posts on every hot topic.

But that wasn’t a good thing.

The posts I wrote during this Reader-induced period were usually BORING. They were almost always unoriginal since there were already a dozen posts on the topic … but my, that current was powerful! I felt like those waves would just about knock me over if I didn’t join in.

But then it all stopped.

When the plug was pulled on Blog Reader, I did not sign up for another service (and I still haven’t). I re-subscribed to about 10 blogs and the rest were silenced.

I shut out the echo chamber and went my own way … probably the best thing I ever did as a blogger.

Now, I only have a vague idea of what is trending on the blogosphere. I write about what is most compelling to me without the self-inflicted pressure to keep up. Are other people writing about my topics? I have no idea. Do they agree with me? I have no way to tell. But this is what I can promise you. My writing became more interesting and more original because I stopped listening to the repetitive rat-a-tat-tat of the social media country club.

A way of blogging life

At first, this was a little dis-orienting. I had a fear of missing out! What if there were a social media wave I NEEDED to catch?

But I soon learned that if something important were trending, I would pick up on Twitter or some other way. I didn’t seem to miss out on anything.

When I had too many other voices in my head, I would start questioning myself or I would write in response to what others were saying. Neither of these situations was going to make me an effective blogger.  And I certainly don’t want to censor myself because I saw that somebody else already covered a topic. Of course I read and pay attention to the world around me. But, when it comes time to create, I now trust my instincts.

I’m not recommending that you stop reading blog posts (especially this one). I’m just reporting an experience that worked out for me. Reading less helped me become a better writer: more creative, original, and interesting.

Make any sense or do you have your own system?

Illustration courtesy Flickr CC and Christophe Pacquignon

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