I published my first article just over a year ago, with the goal of pushing out one blog post each week. Now, roughly 52 weeks later, it’s time for a little resumé.
Effect on me
The mere act of writing and verbalizing your thoughts is already worth the effort, even if nobody reads any of it, and if you don’t hit a certain post count. Writing regularly has several impressive effects.
First of all, I feel I am more confident about certain views, because I have thought them through pretty thoroughly. I am ready to explain and defend them at any time, because I have done so “on paper” before. Writing sharpens your thinking, and is a great tool for learning. If you want to learn something, you should write about it. You can also create a presentation, or a video, or a podcast. It doesn’t matter. The important part is that you find your own words for what you learnt.
Second, I am more attentive to things happening around me, and to things I read. At the beginning, I was actively looking for things to write about. Later, this process became more subconscious. There are these moments when it hits you: “Oh, this is a great topic. I should explore this.” Writing is exploration, after all. Often, when you set out to write, you do not know yet where the process will take you.
Because I have more clarity in my head — writing clarifies your thoughts and puts them in order —, I am more ready to pick up new information and put it in relation to things I already know. An interesting side effect has also been that I read a lot more books (currently about two per month).
Third, there are these very satisfying moments when somebody asks you for advice, and you can point them to one of your blog posts instead of giving a lengthy answer. It is always a good idea to write about what keeps you busy the most, because that is something you know well. For example, I found myself explaining to people over and over again that they have to think differently about their productivity once they leave a purely-IC (individual contributor) role. So I took the time to write a proper blog post on the issue, and can now — in addition to telling them the short version verbally — just point them to the blog post.
It is best to write a little bit every day. I don’t quite manage to do that, but I usually manage to write on five days a week. Half an hour might be enough. It does not have to be brilliant or even good, but I have to put in my best effort. In order to write great pieces, you will have to write a lot of mediocre ones first — or, at least, writing a lot of mediocre ones is one path towards great ones.
Do I always enjoy doing it? Hell, no. There are mornings when I sit down in the train, my mind is a dense, blurry fog, and I would love to get some more sleep during the ride instead of trying to come up with something intelligent to share with the world. What on earth should I write about this week? But you know what? These might be the most important moments, because then you can prove to yourself that you are serious about this, and that bailing out is not an option. Professionalism is about doing what you love even on days you do not like doing it.
A simple way to circumvent the question “Should I do some work or should I skip it just this one time?” is sticking to a habit, or a ritual. If you make a ritual of it, you will not have to decide whether or not to do it. You just do what you always do. My ritual is: I enter the train, take off my jacket, get out my laptop, and start writing.
I don’t have a huge followership. I typically have a couple of hundred views per post, or even less than that. Still, a few amazing things have happened throughout the year. I got many encouraging comments. Especially many of my colleagues have been super supportive. I even received emails from total strangers thanking me for my work. Two of my articles were “This Week’s Favorite” on Software Lead Weekly, and others were mentioned in this awesome newsletter created by Oren Ellenbogen. I have even been contacted to appear on a podcast (I should ask Christian to switch out my picture…). Getting in touch with people interested in the same topics sometimes happens out of the blue, and blogging makes this a lot more likely.
I read an encouraging article by Julie Zhuo recently where she writes about her first years of blogging, and how a one-post-per-week schedule was not sustainable for her. Right now, I feel similarly. It’s not that it cannot be done. I can do it. The problem is just that coming up with one post every week leaves me too little time to do other work on my site, or learn technical stuff. It’s about time I focus a bit more on that again. This is why I will relax my schedule to one post every two weeks.
I will certainly not give up writing, however. Writing is creativity, it is therapy, and it makes you see everything more clearer. If you haven’t yet — give it a try.
This blog post took me about 2 hours to write.