I've had Tom Critchlow's "Small b blogging" open in a tab on my phone since February.
I kept meaning to go back to it, to digest it but, along with a few items stubbornly marked as unread in my RSS reader, I've not done so.
And I wonder why?
Critchlow's post frames exactly what I've been working towards over the past couple of years so why wouldn't I want to analyse it, pull out the salient points, write some form of response?
Jack Baty recently said that he would no longer take his phone and AirPods whilst walking to stop "piping other people’s thoughts into my brain" and I think that points towards the reason.
It's one thing to connect with others, to feed off each other's ideas in order to form some kind of movement, consensus; it's something else when the thoughts of another are so close, so perfectly encapsulate the ideas you are grappling with, that to internalise them would lead to a struggle, an uncertainty of where you end and they begin.
I think there's an element of wanting to retain sovereignty over your thoughts, to not be unduly influenced to the point of losing originality. Why should this matter?
There is a curious paradox at play. Truly original thought, maybe something "out there" and unusual, can be met with responses like "well that's just your opinion" and "where's your evidence?" Citing others and building on their ideas, however, is seen as derivative with demands of new or seminal.
Balancing the two is hard - it shouldn't be that way.
"When scale is the endgame the whole process becomes bogged down in page views, followers, and likes rather than the freedom to explore and experiment with your ideas online."
In such serendipitous fashion, Groom's post was inspired by none other than Critchlow's. Things had turned full circle and perfectly illustrated how this should all work:
"Small b blogging is learning to write and think with the network. Small b blogging is writing content designed for small deliberate audiences and showing it to them. Small b blogging is deliberately chasing interesting ideas over pageviews and scale."
Ideas are the seeds we plant; some may fall on stony ground but the lucky few find the fertile soils of curious minds just as our minds become incubators for the seeds of others.
As these ideas grow so we take cuttings and offshoots, replant them and let them develop in new, interesting ways. Sometimes they will seem the same but there will be nuance. They may share language or tread the same ground but there will always be variance, just as different cuttings from the same plant will adapt to conditions in a new environment.
It's a metaphor I've used before and come back to because it works.
We shouldn't be afraid of the cross-pollination of ideas, shouldn't be ashamed to build off those of others so long as we offer something new, even if it is just nuance or a different way of looking at the same thing.
We also shouldn't fear losing our thoughts among those of others for, just like the cuttings, they will grow uniquely in the soils of our own minds.
This wasn't the post I originally set out to write - it grew organically, following its own path to the light - and for that I'm glad.