The reaction to my post on the game of tech blogging the other day was fascinating. About half of you found it to be an honest, insightful account. The other half seemed to think I was an arrogant prick. Fair enough. Obviously, I was going for the former.
But the latter reaction honestly did surprise me. It’s not like I was saying anything crazy. If you’re close enough to anyone in that industry, they’ll tell you the same thing. If they don’t, they’re either lying or they simply don’t have what it takes to be the best at their job. Harsh, but that’s what it comes down to.
I didn’t mean to suggest that all of tech blogging is a trivial and can be easily gamed. But based on dozens of discussions I’ve had throughout the years, I’ve found that the best in this space channel one or more “games” to keep them going. It’s all about the drive.
Perhaps “game” is a poor choice of words. I simply mean some motivating factor. In this way, tech blogging is no different from many other professions. Would Michael Jordan have been the greatest basketball player ever if he didn’t have that drive? That killer instinct? Something motivated him beyond simply playing for a crowd. It elevated him.
So when I read Hallmark-vanilla like this, I have to laugh. Yes, we all want to be the best writers we can be to inform our audience. We all can say we want to hold hands and change the world. That’s the winning thing to say. But it doesn’t actually mean anything.
The only way you can affect change as a writer is by achieving greatness; by becoming the best at your profession. And you can’t do that without that drive. You need something pushing you to get to a place where you’re in the position to do something fantastic. You need something pushing you to go beyond where your peers can go.
I’m sorry, but writing a post teaching someone the best ways to utilize Google+ for marketers ultimately doesn’t mean jack shit. If you’re writing that post, it needs to be as a means to an end. You write that post to increase your audience by one, to widen the reach of your next post. And so on.
It’s a grind but you power through and you don’t look back. You chalk it up to the game.
I’m reminded of a favorite back-and-forth from the film Gattaca:
Anton: Vincent! How are you doing this Vincent? How have you done any of this? We have to go back.
Vincent: It’s too late for that. We’re closer to the other side.
Anton: What other side?! You wanna drown us both?
Vincent: You wanna know how I did it? This is how I did it Anton. I never saved anything for the swim back.
About 10 percent of the writers I talk to are Vincent. The other 90 percent are Anton.
“If you think of life as a game, you will always lose.” — That’s some intense fortune cookie fodder right there. Unfortunately, it’s also false. I didn’t lose.
Call it a game, call it motivation, call it competitiveness, call it whatever you want. It’s all about drive. To be the best, you need it.
“Writers are competitive,” fictional Ernest Hemingway tells Gil in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris. “If you’re a writer, declare yourself the best writer. But you’re not as long as I’m around, unless you wanna put the gloves on and settle it.”