For 2022, I wanted to find different ways to challenge myself throughout the year. I've done meditation, reading, and streaming on Twitch, to name a few. In July I tried to write one blog post every day. Let's look back at how that went.
I've always believed that the ability to write well is one of the best skills someone can develop. If your writing is good and it reaches its intended audience, it can have a continuous return on your time investment. Verbal communication with others is also useful, but it's point-in-time (unless it's recorded). Once you've said what you've said, that moment is gone. But the written word persists, can be easily searched when digital, and if published online, is immediately accessible to the estimated 5 billion people around the world with internet access.
Writing itself is not particularly difficult. Writing well – in a way such that your point is clear, concise, and understood – is much more difficult. The latter is what drew my focus. Specifically, I wanted to focus on two things:
First, I wanted to write in a more creative style than I typically would. I do plenty of writing at work, but it's almost exclusively technical writing: explaining how something works, documentation on configuring a developer work environment, steps to reproduce a defect. Creative writing doesn't have a place in this domain.
Secondly, I wanted to take ideas I've gotten from life and from reading and crystalize them into something more concrete. We could probably call this a blog, except it doesn't fall into the traditional "web log of my life" that we would typically associate with blogs. Perhaps it's better to call it a newsletter.
Looking back at the challenge, I think part of my motivation was to also show that I do have thoughts and opinions that others may find useful. I've spent a lot of my life feeling that I don't have anything to say or that what I have to say isn't valuable. This challenge would be able to address at least the former of those.
My goal for July was to write one blog post per day. There was no minimum word count, no minimum number of readers, nothing like that. Just one post needed to go live each day and be sent out.
So how'd I do?
- Published Posts: Including this one, I published 26 posts. This was mostly a success (we'll talk about why below).
- Pageviews: I got about 40. Not great, but this was never the point.
- Email subscribers: I got one new one. Again not great, but this wasn't the point.
There were three main issues that popped up over the month that impacted those fe missing posts, all of which are 100% addressable by me:
- I didn't have a proper accountability system in place. For previous challenges I used Beeminder to hold me accountable to actually deliver what I said I was going to. I could have easily set up a system on Beeminder to watch my website for new posts, and if I didn't it would charge me money. As someone who hates spending money when he doesn't have to, this is a huge incentive for me.
- I was reading less this past month. Less information coming in means less thoughts forming, which means less ideas on what to write about. While I did continuously contribute to my wiki, what I was collecting didn't really fit with what I was aiming to write about through the month.
- I started focusing too much on the numbers. I firmly believe that goals should be internally driven rather than externally driven (for example: "I will publish one post per day" is internal, but "I will get 50 pageviews every day" is external). At some point I started looking at email newsletter subscriber counts, pageviews, and Twitter interactions, seeing almost no activity, and getting disheartened, despite knowing full well that none of those had anything to do with my goal.
If I was to do this again, the best thing I could do is set up the accountability system. It helps get rid of looking at pageviews since the important thing is to publish (and keep money in my bank account). More reading would definitely help, but I bet that having the accountability system in place would encourage me to write about things that normally wouldn't make the cut.
Overall, I think this was a successful challenge. It's something that anybody can easily do too. You don't even need to publish your writing online even if you don't want to (although you totally should) – a pen and paper will do just fine.
So what's next? What will I do with this site? Will I keep posting daily?
Well, no. At this point, posting daily is simply too much of a commitment for me that isn't long-term sustainable. While I look up to writers like Seth Godin who put out one post daily, they have years more experience writing than I do. I would like to keep posting, but I think the approach is going to be different.
I think a much more viable strategy would be to treat this like a weekly newsletter. Posting weekly gives me a longer timeline to produce a creative piece, and making it newsletter-style means I can also just chat about interesting things that I find online or what's going on in my creative life. This style is very similar to what Ali Abdaal does with his newsletter. If I have a desire to do microblogging, then Twitter is probably a better medium.
I'm glad I tried this out for a month. I learned I can write more if I am pushed to do so, and I gained some valuable insight around how I can take in information to then use it in my own writings.
If you're looking for a challenge that's a low barrier of entry, I think it's a good challenge to try.