I think labelling things accurately is an underrated pursuit. If every label slapped onto every thing in this world was given careful thought, we would save a lot of time and energy on explaining ourselves. And for me, the label “blog”, which I have used to refer to this website for the last 5 years, is starting to feel dated.
A blog sounds calculated
Gone are the days where a blog was meant to be something completely personal. Nowadays when I hear the word “blog” I think of a company’s attempt at inbound marketing.
For a long time, I saw this personal website exactly as that - an inbound marketing platform for my online identity. I quietly enjoyed being google-searchable. I think I was trying to have an arbitrary feeling of being discoverable by potential employers.
What I’ve enjoyed the most over the last 5 years of publishing online at nickang.com is the ability to have a link I can readiliy send to friends. I’ve mostly been sending my General Assembly Singapore review article to people I meet who tell me that they’re interested in learning to code. That always leads to interesting follow-up discussions, and they also often end with the receiving party walking away with something important to think about. I thoroughly enjoy that.
But I want to move beyond this phase of blogging. I no longer feel a need to be searchable. I now feel a much stronger urge to be prolific. What I mean by prolific is to be someone who produces a lot of things. Short essays on what I have been learning living away from home, observations about humanity, even courses to help people cross the technical bridge to do more programming-empowered work.
I realised at some point that it is much more important to consistently produce and publish, even if the stuff being published are not polished, than it is to try to take calculated steps every step of the way. As I recently migrated this blog to Gatsby after using WordPress for 5 years, I realised how little coherence there is in the things I have written. But here’s the kicker: instead of wishing that I had wrote less and focused only on publishing useful articles, I found myself wishing that I had wrote a lot more. There are 360 posts on this blog at the time I’m writing this, and those are spread over a period of 5 years. Had I wrote and published more, I believe I would have already found my own niche audience, so to speak, in this vast world. And a bit more coherence.
What I’m saying is that I have not come forward and openly knowledged that I am still trying to figure out what I am about, what I am good and horrible at, and how I can contribute to people’s lives. My silence on this has forced me to pretend like I am some kind of an expert on every topic that I ever write about on this blog. That’s why I have written only 360 articles in 5 years. That’s why the posts I have written quite often sound like they come from a place of knowing rather than guessing. I want to change all of that, and I believe the first step is to openly admit that I am a work-in-progress and that I am not your guru. I am just a guy tending to my digital garden, experimenting with this and that seed, this and that watering schedule, this and that potting mix. Eventually, I’ll learn what works and find that niche.
A digital garden is personal
Like a gardener, I alone choose what I want to grow in this space. If you don’t like it, and that seems probable, you are free to visit other gardens. I do not take responsibility for how my garden makes you feel. The world is vast and my garden is small and I want it to be personal.
Perhaps a point of clarification is needed. Personal does not mean that I aim to produce self-gratifying articles. No, I still want to refrain from writing things that only satisfy my own soul and ego. “Personal” here just means that I retain the license to be creative, bold, whacky, stupid, or fancy in here. I don’t intend to be fancy but I just wanted to say that even that is something I retain the right to. I would still like to write things that click with some people. Like someone’s backyard garden that you happen to walk by, I hope that this digital garden puts a smile on your face because it just looks so… human.
Welcome to my digital garden
So, I’ll start referring to this place as my digital garden because of the reasons above. It is just a more accurate label.
As it happens, my wife and I are very into growing plants right now in our apartment in Berlin. We have never had the green thumbs but we are managing alright. I spend at least 15 minutes everyday now watering, inspecting, and appreciating the growing plethora of plants around us. They bring me a simple kind of joy that I have been missing in my life until now.
I hope that by changing labels from “blog” to “digital garden”, this place will bring about more joy to me and the few of you who may decide to come visit once in a while.
EDIT (25.05.2020): I thought this quote and illustration that I found on twitter is relevant to the idea about consistency, so I’m inserting it here.