I recently hit my 100th blog post with Book Notes on David Epstein’s “Range.” 100 posts is no big deal for experienced bloggers, but for someone like me who starts, sputters, and stops a majority of projects, 100 of anything is a big deal. My original plan was to cultivate the blogging habit by posting three times a week. I soon discovered that even three posts a week is challenging (even if one of those weekly posts is little more than a link roundup). Nevertheless, I squelched any internal objections and told myself to just forge ahead and hit 100 posts before considering any changes in posting frequency. Regardless of any interim grumbling or initial misgivings, the experience has been positive and I’ve learned a lot in the short time since starting this blog.
A very short list of things I learned since starting this blog:
- Write for yourself. I have no lofty goals for this blog or expectations when it comes to readership. I created it as a way to chronicle things I’ve learned and create what is effectively a note-taking repository that happens to be public-facing. The fact that others find information in this blog useful is a fantastic (and gratifying) side benefit. Had I based the success of this blog on amassing any kind of audience, I likely would have quit after the first month. The fact that this blog has personal utility generates a ton of momentum and purpose for its continued existence.
- A plan makes blogging manageable. It seems so obvious and yet I meet so many people that don’t plan effectively (including myself!). Planning is the blueprint that will help you get from point A to B. If you have a project and want to complete the project, there’s no doubt that planning is critical to identifying a path to a successful outcome. Some people think plans are too rigid, but nobody says planning must be rigid. Make your plans flexible and iterative. Personally, I love having a plan because it focuses my mind and gets me working on individual steps for a project before I even get to the main tasks of the project. For instance, I keep a maintain a schedule of posting topics for the next four weeks. This allows me to think about and start gathering ideas for this posts well in advance of publication. If an idea isn’t gaining traction in the lead-up to writing a draft article, I’ll shelve that topic and replace it with a more promising topic.
- A routine facilitates planning. I find that a routine really helps facilitate the planning process which in turn makes the writing process much easier. In the case of this blog, after fumbling to come up with a plan for what to write about for the first month, I quickly decided on a weekly posting schedule. Not only did the weekly schedule define the days I would publish new posts, it also established some basic dimensions for what I would post. Mondays were my “Book Notes” day, Wednesdays were my “free topic” day, and Fridays were for my weekly link roundup. Once I had this routine in place, figuring out what to write about became a breeze. The routine more or less dictated the constraints which made decision-making much, much easier.
- Breaking the writing process into its constituent parts is critical. The ability to deliberately chip away at a problem (of any size) makes progress much more manageable. I no longer hold a mistaken belief that writing must result in a finished product in a single-sitting.. Writing is iterative and incremental. Planning and routine are helpful pieces of a productive writing system; I covered this topic in some detail in a post titled My Five Step Writing Process.
- Keep an open mind. Find ways to learn from ideas or people that might otherwise upset you or evince an emotional response. Objectivity is difficult to maintain but is an essential part of the learning process. Being able to detach reason from emotion and having the patience to withhold judgment until as many facts and perspectives as possible are evaluated is an important part of developing wisdom.
- A wide ranging catalog of content is a kind of flywheel. Creating a content archive results in a virtuous cycle. The more I write, the more I discover, through the act itself, new things to write about. I might, for instance, make note of a tangential question that arises from one post that I hope to pursue in greater depth at another time. I might change my mind on a given subject and wish to revisit or revise my thinking on the matter. I might discover an interesting commonality between two topics that I hadn’t seen before. The possibilities are endless but they won’t reveal themselves until you begin to amass that body of content on which to reflect and ruminate.
- Write your ideas down. It’s hard to anticipate which ideas you might want to recall in the future. However, I do know that if I don’t write an idea down, I’m reliant on my memory and my memory isn’t always great when it comes to recall. I wrote about the importance of this habit in a post titled Superhabits: Write Things Down (Especially Your Ideas). I hope to revisit this topic again since it’s a difficult but important habit to develop.
- Practice builds skill, endurance, confidence and problem-solving. Slowly but surely, practice will make you better. I wouldn’t say things get “easier” per se but practice equips you with the skill and technique to overcome future obstacles. Milestones that used to be challenging (for instance hitting an arbitrary 1000 word-count for an article) becomes much easier.
I’m still in the beginner phase with respect to blogging, so I know I’ll learn a lot more in the coming year. I look forward to the challenge and the lessons that will be uncovered in the next 100 posts.
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To be fair, the first four articles are relatively new and, in part, haven’t had a chance to amass the same page views that the most popular articles have.
Google Search is far away my biggest referrer by more than an order of magnitude. Google’s Chrome browser is used by over 60% of site visitors. Device usage is split almost equally into thirds between desktop computers, laptops and mobile/tablets.
As much as I’ve enjoyed working on this blog, I’ve realized that I need to ratchet down the posting frequency. I’ve decided to move to two posts per week starting next week (Tuesdays and Fridays). Tuesday posts will alternate between book notes and topics of interest. Fridays will continue to be my weekly roundup (the format and content of which I hope to experiment with more in the coming months).
There are several reasons for the schedule changes:
- I enjoy the Book Notes series and it happens to also be the most popular content on the site. I want more time (certainly more than a week) to digest and summarize the books I read. Right now the weekly schedule makes it impossible to tackle certain books due to the time constraint.
- Frees up more time to address a number of tasks that I haven’t been able to do like improve the legibility of the site (text layout and formatting needs work) as well as its visibility. While I’m loathe to do a full on content marketing push, I would like to do some social media posting.
- There are features for this site I’d like to explore like either message boards, comments, and a newsletter or email list.
- More time will allow me to improve the posting quality (I hope) and to go back and fix or polish some of the articles that were rushed in haste to keep to the schedule.
- Less frequent posting will afford more time for other interests I have that I’d like to pursue (like learning how to write fiction).
I’m not stepping away from blogging but I am going to change my schedule to accommodate for other personal projects and exploration. Naturally, I’ll adjust and tweak the new schedule based on my experiences with it over the next few months (after all, I believe in flexible plans).
A Final Thought
I can’t say enough good things about blogging. It has brought me tremendous joy along alongside all the lessons and learnings articulated above. If you are on the fence about starting your own personal blog, I highly recommend jumping in and getting started. Make it a habit. Don’t worry about the page views or audience, write what interests you and start posting your thoughts. Keep at it for a week at first, then a month and then longer. At some point you’ll look back and think “wow, that’s a lot of content and I’ve only just started!”