"[Blogging] gave me the freedom I spent most of my adult life searching for, the same freedom I believe we’re ALL searching for, in one way or another."
Blogs. We all know what they are, but few of us truly know how to harness the power of a blog to transform our lives. But as Hugh MacLeod argues in his recent book, Freedom Is Blogging In Your Underwear, the power isn’t monetary, it’s freedom. A decade before the publication of his book, MacLeod was a struggling cartoonist. He knew he was talented, and was smart enough to realize that sitting around waiting for his cartoons to be syndicated in newspapers was futile. So he established his blog, GapingVoid.com to showcase them. Through sharing his talent and passion with the world, he quickly gained a dedicated following and became one of the first visual artists to launch his career entirely online. It’s quite a feat, but you too can do the same… if you bring enough passion and dedication.
Your Own Electronic Croft
"Thanks to the Internet, we all have a little electronic 'croft'—an electronic smallholding—to call our own: what is commonly referred to as our own digital identity, which we can cultivate, like a small farm, however we see fit."
I love the analogy that MacLeod uses for blogging because it’s so apt: “My grandfather was a Scottish highlands “crofter”—i.e., a small-time, mostly self-sufficient tenant farmer with his own little patch of land, who raised sheep and grew potatoes, turnips, and other stuff.” The internet allows us to have our own “croft,” a little plot of land to call our own and do what we want with it. So much of the freedom of blogging is that the potential of an internet audience is so vast that we can be as unique and specialized as we want (unlike a plot of land, we don’t have to worry about whether something will grow or not). If you want to blog horror movie reviews, you can. If you want to share gluten free recipes, you can do that too. Blogging offers us an “electronic identity”. But, as MacLeod warns, this isn’t an identity separate from your professional identity: they are all one. While certainly the internet gives us a great deal of anonymity, those who truly benefit from it know that it’s an extension of your professional life. When harnessed properly the two will work in concert with one another, and many new and exciting opportunities will reveal themselves.
Cheap. Easy. Global Media.
"CheapEasyGlobal is the big story. And it’s here now. It has arrived. And it’s permanent. And there’s not a damn thing anyone can do about it, save for a nuclear holocaust. And yes, the changes will be vast. In fact, they already are."
Guess what? Your croft is free! Blogging allows us to get our “art” out there to an audience for next to nothing; your biggest investment is time. As MacLeod writes, “…I use the Internet to sell it [my art]. I don’t do galleries or get my stuff in newspapers. I just publish it on my blog, I post it in my online gallery, I send it along in my daily newsletter, and then people buy it. Yes, it’s easy. Compared to getting discovered by the New York Times, United Features Syndicate, or a blue-chip New York art gallery, it’s REALLY easy.”
Blogging has truly levelled the playing field, and we all need to take advantage of it. In fact, as MacLeod so bluntly puts it, we’d be stupid not to. He quotes Clay Shirky as saying, “So forget about blogs and bloggers and blogging and focus on this—the cost and difficulty of publishing absolutely anything, by anyone, into a global medium, just got a whole lot lower. And the effects of that increased pool of potential producers is going to be vast.”
The possibilities are endless, and the journey that cultivating our digital croft can take us on is completely unknown. In fact, while writing this piece, I took a short break to visit one of the blogs I frequent and discovered that the author was given an opportunity to write an essay for an internationally published magazine because one of the editors stumbled upon her blog. That alone is inspiring! Where will your journey take you?
Put In the Time
"But no matter how easy it gets, art still remains an expensive, time-consuming, labor-intensive, pain-in-the-ass thing to make. I still get up early in the morning and get to work, every day. I still do the long hours, every day."
Hugh MacLeod is quick to point out that blogging takes work. A lot of work. If you’re looking to make a quick buck then go elsewhere, because you’re going to learn, very quickly, that successful blogging is about the long haul. It’s like any job– passion is paramount. Your readers’ will easily detect when you’re “faking it”. As Hugh pointed out in the quote I used to lead this GEM, despite the fact that his office is in his home, he still rises early and goes to work. He has a set routine, and he sticks to it. The “office” may be down the hall, and he may be able to show up in his underwear, but it’s still where he goes to work and to create things. As someone who has dabbled in blogging, I can attest to the fact that this can often be the most difficult aspect of blogging: the self-discipline. To be truly successful, you need to devise a schedule for yourself so that it feels as though you’re working a 9 to 5. Set aside a spot in your home, whether it’s a small nook under the stairs or a writing shed in your garden – a place that’s dedicated only for your blogging – if you intend to make a career out of it. Do whatever you can to approximate “showing up at the office”. When it seems real, you’ll put in the time and see real results.
To be honest, Hugh MacLeod’s Freedom Is Blogging In Your Underwear isn’t the book I anticipated. If you’re looking for a book that will give you advice on monetizing your blog, how many blog posts you should write a day to keep your audience interested, and ideas on how to aggressively build your audience, then this book isn’t the one for you. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a fun, quick, irreverent read (replete with MacLeod’s signature cartoons on the back of business cards!), that will light a fire under you to get that blog you’ve always wanted to write going, then pick up this book. Blogging, when done for the right reasons, can mean true freedom artistically and offer an incredibly flexible lifestyle. And, if you’re so inclined, an opportunity to show up for work in your underwear.