A year ago I challenged myself to write one blob post a week. Here are some of the things I discovered over the last year.
Writing is hard
Getting better at anything requires practice. Writing a blog post every week gave me a lot of practice, but did I get better at it? In some sense I did. I have a much easier time starting a blog post. I can more easily work out the structure I want, the details I’ll need and the points I want to capture.
I also find myself being a better editor. Once I have a post written, I review it (usually more than once) and revise the text. I will simplify things, remove unnecessary words, fix spelling and grammar, etc. I didn’t do that very much when I started a year ago, but I do it a lot now.
The actual writing? Yeah, I still struggle with that part of it. I would say, 1 in 4 posts are ‘good’ posts. The other 75% are still valuable because they capture ideas and procedures I can refer to in the future. Sometimes just finding the syntax or steps to get something working can be worth its weight in gold. But I don’t kid myself and think these are well written posts.
I guess I feel like I am better, but I’ve got a long way to go before I am consistently creating good material.
Ideas come in waves
Sometimes it was a struggle to come up with something to write about. I would set aside time each week to write, but I would find I didn’t have anything come to mind. I kept a log of post ‘ideas’ to try to remember things that pop into my head. But it was hard at times to convert an idea into a post.
But… there were other times when the ideas flowed like water. I would have two or three ideas clear as day in my mind and couldn’t get them out fast enough. I learned to try to take advantage of these ‘waves’ of ideas because there would be times when I could use an idea to get my one-post-per week published.
Tools aren’t everything, but they help
I have had a ‘blog’ on the internet for close to 10 years. But I would have a few posts and then months of gaps. 4 years ago I bit the bullet and got my own domain for my blog and got a WordPress site setup for me to use. I knew this was going to be the best way for me to create more posts!
Well, it turned out it was not a good process for me. The editor experience never seemed to work for the type of posts I wanted to write. I could never get the code samples to work the way I wanted. I had to fiddle with a bunch of administrative stuff I didn’t care about. There were a (seemingly) constant barrage of updates, plugins, security fixes, and I got hacked on more than one occasion by a very nice off-shore company wanting to sell drugs through my site.
So I stopped posting. My blog went stale because I couldn’t be bothered to deal with all the noise. I just wanted a simpler experience. So last summer I started a ‘new’ blog using GitHub Pages. I was super simple. I created a Git Repository for my posts. I wrote them using Markdown, and I could preview it all locally before publishing them. I would then push them to GitHub and it would publish them to my site automatically. I no longer had to deal with all the noise. And the code samples could not have been easier.
I can’t say that having good tools makes you better at being creative, but it definitely helps. Having the ability to focus on just writing and not having to deal with the other parts of hosting a blog made me stay motivated. I could sit down and start writing. I could finish a post in a fraction of the time it took me before. That has made a big difference.
It served its purpose
Why did I challenge myself to write a blog post once a week? A couple of reasons really. I wanted to find a way to practice writing. I need all the help I can get! But mostly, I wanted to create an archive of things I had learned. I can refer to these things in the future, or refer co-workers if a post might help them as well.
And I have referred back to some posts several times throughout the past year. I even sent a few co-workers to a blob post or two. I look back at the 50 or so posts and see a lot of ideas, steps, procedures and references I can use again and again.
I feel like I’ve completed my challenge and now am considering what to do next. Should I continue writing one-post-per week, or should I try something different? I could try to make higher quality / longer posts, but I don’t think I could do that at the same pace. I’d get burnt out pretty quick.
But I do want to challenge myself to do even more with my blog. I might try to make the website itself more appealing. Start adding more images to the posts, maybe look at branding it as well. But that is not something I’m sure I want to tackle just yet.
For now, I think I am going to continue with my cadence. One post per week. Capture ideas, and make posts I can use as reference in the future.
Looking forward to the next year!