Cory Doctorow is an opinionated activist, technologist, futurist, and insanely prolific writer of novels and short stories, essays, speeches and Twitter threads. He’s also been blogging for more than two decades. To say that he gets a lot done would be a gross understatement.
Interestingly, Doctorow suggests that blogging hasn’t taken away time from his other projects. He believes that the blog is just a commonplace book (or better yet, a memex) that’s made available to the public, giving the writer a natural incentive to be a little more organized. It’s a tool for kicking around thoughts and opinions, assembling and tending to them until they’re ready to become a story, an essay, a book. It’s an idea generator.
Like those family trip-logs, a web-log serves as more than an aide-memoire, a record that can be consulted at a later date. The very act of recording your actions and impressions is itself powerfully mnemonic, fixing the moment more durably in your memory so that it’s easier to recall in future, even if you never consult your notes.
The genius of the blog was not in the note-taking, it was in the publishing. The act of making your log-file public requires a rigor that keeping personal notes does not. Writing for a notional audience — particularly an audience of strangers — demands a comprehensive account that I rarely muster when I’m taking notes for myself. I am much better at kidding myself my ability to interpret my notes at a later date than I am at convincing myself that anyone else will be able to make heads or tails of them.
Writing for an audience keeps me honest.