The original intention behind Make Write Learn -- a blog about creating and grad school.

On this blog

This blog will become great [1]. But this is only my first post, so I thought I’d cover some of my initial motivations for establishing a blog. In a future post, I hope to share more about how I started this blog, if any of you are interested in doing the same (short version: I’m using WordPress on a Linode [2]).

Why I started a blog

I started blog for many reasons. The biggest reason is that I’ve always wanted to start a blog. Why? Because I enjoy the art of writing, and a blog, I believe, should offer me an outlet to write about whatever I like, however I like.

It’s been a remarkably long time since I have had this opportunity [3]. As an academic, I’ve needed to familiarize myself with the science of writing: a constant structure and formulaic prose to minimize cognitive load; a bit of redundancy to make a point stick; meta-comments to remind readers what they have read and what they will read next; repeating oneself so that a point remains in the reader’s memory; and, most unfortunately, no suspense.

Don’t misunderstand me, though: Learning the science of writing has made me a better writer. But I want to write for the pleasure of writing again. Doing so should help me become an even better writer, at least if Matt Might is to be believed [4].

The second reason I started a blog was to see if I could use it to generate passive income [5] for myself. I expect to chronicle, in detail, my experiences with making passive income with this blog and other planned endeavors. In the spirit of Pat Flynn, whose advice has helped me start this process, I hope to be open and transparent [6].

The third reason I started a blog was to build a stable audience for my work. Even in academia, it is not enough to do good work. To maximize impact, your work should be noticed: and what better way to be noticed than to be noticeable? In theory, good work should be noticed irrespective of self-promotion. In practice, that is not always true [7].

Why I started this blog (i.e., Make Write Learn)

But why did I start this blog? Make-Write-Learn is what I call the creation loop. This creation loop should be easily recognizable to any engineering graduate student, as well as anyone familiar with the maker and hacker culture. We push the boundaries of what can be made, write about how we made it, and learn from our experiences, which then feeds back into making.

I’ve spent most of my professional life improving myself on all aspects of the creation loop. Through constant self-experimentation, reading, and discussion with great makers, writers and learners, I think I’ve come a long way. I hope to share what I know about the process of creation. It’s the best I have to offer. I hope you find it helpful.


[1] My original first sentence was “This is my first post, so I thought it would be pertinent to share why I made this blog”. Then I thought: I cannot have the first sentence of this blog be so disgustingly boring.

[2] This is an affiliate link, meaning that if you click on this link and then sign up for Linode, I get a modest credit on my Linode account.

[3] I’ve been a Ph.D. student since 2011, and have had no will to write anything but the myriad scientific articles, fellowship applications, paper reviews, and research proposal documents that I must write as a part of my day-to-day job.

[4] Matt Might is, among many other things, a computer science professor at the University of Utah. He has a blog that is rich with information on how to be a better Ph.D. student. He is the reason I am using Linode for this blog. He also recommends that every Ph.D. student start a blog for the writing practice.

[5] Passive income is a bit of a buzzword, but has a specific definition: it is a way to make money without directly trading hours for dollars. If I have an hourly wage, I trade hours for dollars. My employer will pay me for the hours I spend working in a particular week, but once I have been paid, those hours that I traded in hold no more value. Conversely, if I write an e-book, I have invested a one-time cost in writing that e-book. It will continue to make me money as long as people buy it, with no additional effort on my part. In practice, there is always maintenance effort involved, but you get the point.

[6] I anticipate a monthly update of my passive income strategies and success. I expect these posts will be depressing for the first few months. Hopefully they will become less depressing over time.

[7] It can happen, though. I was oblivious to the first time one of my papers received press attention. I learned that The Atlantic had featured my work from an e-mail sent to a mailing list to which I was subscribed. I wouldn’t necessarily attribute this all to “good work”, though, as it was a paper I published as a data science intern at Facebook.

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