You may have noticed that this blog does not feature many of the trappings of modern blog design. There’s no sidebar, no archive lists, no comments, no share buttons, no tags, no ads. The post design is uncluttered, featuring simply a title, a date, and the body of the post. Color is used sparingly. Categories do exist, but they are tucked away on individual post pages. Why, you ask? Why ignore so many of the traditional elements of blog design? Well, I didn’t ignore them. I deliberately chose not to include them. Everything about this blog – the things that are there and the things that are not – was a deliberate choice.
Over the past year, I’ve become increasingly frustrated by clutter in every aspect of my life. I was frustrated by the clutter in my closet, so I inventoried it, cleaned it out, and gave a bunch of clothes away. I was frustrated by the clutter on my bookshelf, so I assessed my collection and got rid of two shelves worth of books and notebooks. I cleaned out my desk and my bulletin board and my other bookshelf. I labeled and organized and inventoried my inbox. I had some posters and photographs on my wall that I had taped up, not because I particularly liked them, but simply because I had them and putting up posters on blank walls is a thing people do. I took them down. I’ve always been a meticulously organized person, so to an outside eye, my room probably doesn’t look much different. But to me, it feels much lighter. And I don’t miss anything I gave or threw away.
The problem with clutter is that it is a burden. Clutter represents failure. It signifies everything you have not done. “I’ll read that book someday.” “I’ll make that recipe someday.” “That dress still fits; I’ll wear it again someday.” Someday, someday, someday. Even if you don’t actively think about clutter, it’s there in the back of your closet, the drawers of your desk, the bottom of your bag – little reminders of your failure to read more, cook more, be more fashionable, more intelligent, more connected and well-rounded and healthy and educated, etc. etc. etc.
This is true for physical clutter as well as digital and design clutter. Had I included comments on this blog, they would have been un- or underused, serving only as a reminder of my lack of audience. The same goes for share buttons, which likely would have lain unclicked. A monthly archive would have been a symbol of my failure to write regularly, a category archive a sign of my failure to write widely. Why subject myself to such burdens? Was the weight of these features/failures a necessary evil in my quest to create a successful blog?
To answer these questions, I first had to define ‘successful blog.’ What is success? Is a certain number of posts per week? Is it a large consistent readership? Is it a certain average number of likes, favorites, and shares? Is it a thoughtful, engaged comment section? Is it a certain amount of money earned from ad deals and sponsorships? Is it writing a post that goes viral? Is it fame? I think a successful blog could have many of these things or none of them. Perhaps the more pertinent question that I needed to ask myself was this: what do I want to accomplish with my blog?
In thinking about this question, I decided that my primary goal for this blog is to get myself to write. Just write. About anything. With thoughtfulness, care, and some regularity. I have always enjoyed writing because, for me, I do my best thinking when I am writing. Since graduating from college a little over a year ago, I have written less – and thus, thought less – than ever before. I miss writing essays. I miss critical thinking. I miss reading (by which I mean ‘reading’ as defined by an English major, more to do with thinking than consuming). Internet culture is obsessed with consumption. Content creation is king. Virality is the measure of success. But I’m not interested in creating content to be consumed. I’m not interested in getting a bunch of likes or going viral. I’m not interested in audience. I’m interested in writing and thinking about the things that interest me. Sure, at some point, I’d love to have an engaged audience – who wouldn’t? – but right now my primary goal is simply to write.
So yes. I do not have a sidebar or a comments section or archives or share buttons. I deliberately stripped them away to allow myself (and my nonexistent readership) to focus on the most important aspect of this blog: the writing and the thinking behind it. Design is about choices. It’s about deliberateness. It’s about defining what is important, figuring out how to make it work more efficiently, and eliminating the rest. The same goes for other art forms as well. Writing, music, film, painting, and photography are as much about editing as they are about creating. Art is as much about what you choose not to include as it is about what you do include. Knowing what and when to cut is the most difficult part of any art creation, but it is also the most rewarding because it forces you to dig to the heart of things and recognize what is most important. And for me, right now, here on this blog, that is quite simply, to write.