Takeaways from blogging for 29 days straight (more than I had for the past 3 years)
Last month, I wrote more blog posts in 29 days than I had in the entire years of 2013 and 2012.
My average was about two posts per month for all of 2014. Then in December, I ramped up with a hockey stick curve.
Why? I committed to put up a blog post every day. Here are a few takeaways that I learned from the experience.
1. You define the scope of your writing.
Originally I thought that all posts had to be these lengthy, heavily researched, analytical pieces with numbered lists and headers and different sections. Those pieces can be fun to write and research, for sure.
But posts can also be short and still valuable. Length isn’t the real issue anyway. It is harder to write a short essay than it is to write a long one. The key is to recognize that you have the ability to define the scope of your posts.
You don’t have to let the topic extend to places where you don’t want it to go. I found this incredibly empowering. It puts you in the driver’s seat so that you can say, “This is what I’m choosing to cover, at this level of granularity, in this style.”
2. Don’t cater to devil’s advocates and trolls who will criticize you no matter what you write.
You know what’s really annoying? No matter how great your argument is, there will always be someone who says, “Well you didn’t cover THIS.” Or “Well what you’re saying doesn’t apply to THAT.”
Many times I let those comments be my excuse for not posting. I’d start thinking of all the counter-arguments, all the edge cases. I wanted to proactively defend against people bringing up points that would weaken my argument.
The scope of my post would get bigger and bigger. Soon I was being reactive and catering to an invisible group of people out there who would criticize no matter what I wrote, instead of confidently asserting my opinion and backing it up where necessary.
If you want to find an exception, you can always find one. Stick to the original spirit of what you wanted to write, and write that.
3. A lot of posts sitting in my Drafts folder were good enough a long time ago.
I had 37 posts in my Drafts folder. One day, I was really tired from work, so I came home, turned on my computer, and thought, “I wonder if there’s anything in this folder that I could build on for a quick post today.”
Well! I was very pleasantly surprised to find some awesome drafts that I could publish without any further edits. I actually couldn’t believe that I hadn’t published those sooner.
It made me realize that a lot of what I had written had always been good enough. It didn’t need more editing. I just hadn’t seen it for what it was: ready to ship all along.
4. Forgive yourself when it feels hard.
I would sit down to write, and sometimes I’d get in the flow and lose track of time because I was in the zone. I remember one day when I came up with ideas for a few future blog posts, and another time I even wrote an extra one for the next day. That was pretty exciting.
Other days, though, I would rack my brain for ANY possible topic….and still come up dry. I just couldn’t think of anything to say.
I know that professionals don’t depend on inspiration to strike but they still produce seemingly amazing work. I don’t know what their secret is - they’d probably say they don’t have one, and I think they’re telling the truth. I suppose my lesson here is to forgive yourself when it feels hard.
Know that it’s supposed to be variable - certain days will feel like a breeze and other days won’t. That’s normal and that’s okay.
5. When you have to ship, you find a way to get it done.
This is kind of like waking up for work or school in the morning on a gloomy day when all you want to do is stay in bed. You still get up because you have to. It’s hard to have that same level of discipline for things that we do that are motivated by gain (getting healthier, improving yourself) versus pain (flunking out of school or getting fired).
When I had promised to blog every day and there was social pressure from people expecting me to do it, I somehow did it. I found a way. I’m not sure how, really, because I felt incredibly uninspired on most days.
But when “can’t” isn’t an option, then sometimes “can” steps in.
6. Most importantly, I became more confident at shipping and expressing my opinion in other areas of life.
This was unexpected and probably the best result of blogging everyday. As a perfectionist, my definition of “good enough” was too polished for what the work required most of the time.
While I take pride in having high standards for myself, I had to admit that part of my reluctance to ship because I was afraid that people would disagree or not like my work.
Having to ship a blog post every day took away the luxury of hiding behind that fear - not just in the realm of blog posts, but beyond.
I’ve gotten a lot more done and out the door as a result of blogging for a month. If I have to draft a proposal to riff on with my manager, I send it out sooner now or speak up earlier. It gets the ball rolling and is a lot more productive than waiting and aiming for incremental gain from working on something longer.
When I committed to writing a blog post every day, I got used to the action of shipping, and soon it felt more normal than it had ever felt before. I must have convinced my own brain that if I had done it 29 times before, I can do it again now, and I should.
The experience showed me that maybe this is who I am. Maybe I’m someone who ships.