So, do you actually want to write?

There’s this collection of tales about people who use static site generators. The story goes something like this: someone decides they want to be a blogger. So they start researching static site generators, they go down the list, ask some friends, start comparing generators. They learn, wow, there’s a generator in their favorite programming language, and look at all the cool things they can make it do!

A few weeks later they’ve sunk 10 hours into their website project, hit the button to deploy, and gaze upon their inaugural post:

My new blog!

I just finished deploying my blog with Vanbi, a cool new static site generator that uses meknau technology and ropjar to florp pages fast with extensible plugins that allow for custom sisti functionality.

A year later, they post their second post on their website:

Blog update

I got tired of Vanbi. Now I use temtcu, an experimental platform that fixes a lot of the ergonomics of doing web design with meknau technology. Looking forward to writing some posts soon!

That post was made in 2022, and it’s 2024 now.

This is a true story, it happens quite a bit. Perhaps this is you.

Usually when this story is told, it’s with some quippy message about how people are spending all their energy building their site, and if they had just used some existing blog hosting platform they’d have been writing this whole time instead. I’m not here to repeat that punchline.

Here’s what I want to ask instead: If this is you, are you sure you actually want to write? Really, I mean that question.

i am not a game designer

When I got into programming I was really enamored with the idea of being a game developer. I liked video games, so I thought I would like making a video game. What actually happened is that I made something like 20 different toy game engines and graphics libraries, and then a small handful games. And what I realized is that most of the time, I wasn’t actually interested in making a game.

I liked writing the bones of a game, the technology that could in theory be used to make a game. I liked the process of implementing a game that was already a known quantity. I reimplemented osu!mania in Dart and then later in Typescript, ported Prelude of the Chambered’s graphics engine to WebGL, wrote a Bejeweled clone for the calculator, as well as a 2048 clone and a few other things. I only made one original game.

Writing a game engine did not sap me of the energy needed to design a game. I did it precisely to avoid needing to design the game, as a delaying factor. And because I thought it was a really enjoyable process in and of itself. When I ran out of things I was interested in putting in my engine, that’s when I abandoned the project, because that’s the point when I’d need a game to go with it to give it any direction.

i am a musician

When I got into making music, I was overwhelmed. I knew that I liked making music on some level, but you wouldn’t think it to talk to me about my projects. I hated almost everything I made. None of it sounded like what I wanted. I would spend hours working on a loop, and then quit FL Studio, pissed off and disgruntled, only to be back at it the next day for reasons I could not tell you.

Part of how I tried to cope with this was getting into writing my own synthesizer software. I thought, if I could understand the math behind sound, maybe I could figure out my problems, understand how to make things I liked.

Now I had two problems. It turns out that Digital Signal Processing is one of the hardest fields to break into if you don’t have either an academic background, or someone to point you at the right resources for it. So I gave up on writing my own synthesizers for awhile.

I did not consider myself a “music producer” for most of that time period. Observably, I was. I have hundreds of little ideas and sketches from that time, some of which I fucking love these days. I wanted desperately to make music, and so I tried to do that, and kept trying to do that even when I didn’t live up to my standards.

Now I make music I like, and I write DSP code, and those things are usually not as connected as I trick myself into thinking.

i am a writer

I keep fucking writing. It keeps happening. I was basically blogging on forums in bbcode before someone convinced me that my writing was worth putting on a website of its own. I have so many posts here, on other websites, in my personal notes; it’s something I’ll do regardless of which medium.

But you know what else I did? I wrote my own static site generator.

The deep lore of this website is that it was originally made with the Ghost blogging platform, which I will not link to because however many years on it’s a very different entity than it was at the time, and not one I like. But I thought writing my own blog would be fun, so I wrote bashyll, a weird stab at a static site generator created by someone who had never even used another static site generator in her life.

And that carried me for a bit. Then in 2019 I switched to Jekyll. And I’m still on Jekyll now. Not even an up to date jekyll; I’m using some version that uses ruby 2 and keeps telling me how my entire stack is End of Life or some shit.

It doesn’t matter.

I’ve actually mostly rewritten my website in a new generator I call site, which you will never see the source code for. One of these days I’ll feel like finishing that up and switch over to it, and then I won’t touch it for another 5 years. I’ve realized that I don’t really care about static site generators. I like the consequences of using a static site generator, enough to write my own to fit my particularities, but it’s not my main interest. I like writing.

so what

Do you actually want to write?

Ok. Then write. In a text file on your computer, in a pastebin, on a blogging platform, on neocities, on cohost or mastodon, on a copy-pasted template from github pages, in /var/www, on some forum that nobody’s looked at in 15 years. It really does not matter. Go write.

Are you configuring a static site generator to put off writing? Then it’s time to seek the depths of your soul. I ask again, do you actually want to write?. If you do, but it’s hard- I know that struggle. But I promise you that it won’t get any easier just because you switched blog technologies again. Your problems are somewhere else.

But, perhaps you don’t really want to write. Do you like tinkering with site generator tools? Then fucking tinker to your heart’s content. You don’t need to have an end goal where you actually put some thinkpiece or technical writeup on the website. Building it can be its own reward. Play with the styles, create your minimalist heaven, or your maximalist Y2K masterpiece.

Not that this is a dichotomy or anything, you can write and do web design. But why are we doing these things? You truly do not need to have anything to say to make a website. That is one of the best parts. Are you trying to write because you’ve been convinced that it’s a necessary part of having a website? I’m here to tell you: you are free.

If you love it, let it consume you. If you hate every moment you spend with it, why are you trying to do it? Real winners quit.