When I was learning to ski for biathlon in the mid-nineties, I didn’t start with expensive, awesome tools.
My first skis weren’t full-capped Rosignols, my first boots weren’t high-end Solomons. My skis, boots, and poles were hand-me-downs. We called these hand-me-downs rock skis because they’d been chewed up with use, and having lost bits of their undersides to rocks on the nearly off-season tracks at the end of the previous year. They sucked – but using them convinced me I was worth better tools.
I spent the first season on that hand-me-down set of equipment, struggling through every foot of snow. Don’t even get me started on my rifle – cadet issue vostock .22 caliber rifle, the only left-sighted rifle the squadron had. It was a pain to sight in, and had a single-shot action, which meant I lost time reloading for each shot manually.
Learning to succeed without the benefit of skill-enhancing tools is important. I worry that not as many people go through this process as used to especially for creating media.
When bloggers are new to the game these days, they’ve got access to ways to make themselves immediately awesome, like;
- Premium themes
- Self-hosted wordpress blogs
- All the tutorials you could want
- Expert advice in a plethora of LinkedIn communities, Facebook groups, and paid areas like ThirdTribe and Blog Topics
- Plugins like ScribeSEO to handle their editorial foibles
- With just a couple hundred dollars, today’s media creator can look like they’re launching the next Problogger or Copyblogger – whether they can back up the awesomeness of the design and platform with their content or not.
I’m not saying this is a bad thing.
Being able to set ourselves up to create excellence from day one is awesome – however, it’s incomplete as an experience. Some of the best bloggers out there have been around for a long time – experience counts for some of their innate awesomeness, but there’s another part that comes from having started with rock skis.
When I started blogging in the late nineties, all we had was LiveJournal. What we now call RSS, back then was LJ’s friends system. Those of us who spent a lot of time creating content created what we called a ping-free environment; because computers weren’t that great at running a lot of programs, we’d turn on Winamp, and turn off our messengers, and just write. By having nothing but our soundtracks and our text boxes available to us (we didn’t even have tabbed browsing back then – the horror), we were blogging with rock skis on. We were working with the best tools available, and gaining very specific skills because of that.
We can sill blog with rock skis today, if we try!
Some of the best new bloggers I’ve seen began on wordpress.com or blogger, before moving on to bigger and more extensible platforms. Working with these very tightly specified tools is like learning to write with the AP guide – you’ve only got so many chances to look awesome without artificial reinforcement, and you have to take every opportunity to be recognized as doing good work.
Blogging with rock skis on these days has to be intentional – the way not going out and buying a brand new set of Solomon boots is for new biathletes.
I’m not advocating for every would-be blogger to deprive themselves of great tools. However, there’s only so far those tools can take us without knowing what their functions are, and where the enhancements are actually coming from.
Every so often, turn off all the perks – write the hard way, ping-deprived – and see how much you can improve your practices with some rock skis.
How far can we take this improvement? What do you think?