Five learnings from half a year of blogging
On January 17th 2016 – roughly 7 months ago – I revived this blog. I originally launched it in 2014 but I didn’t get off the stick back then. In 2014 I yielded only 4 posts; in 2015 I didn’t write a single one at all. And moreover, I noticed that in 2015 I could not even find any time to work on own projects (besides work), which eventually frustrated me a lot.
During christmas break I reworked the whole blog and set out to publish posts regularly from then on. I published 17 posts in the last couple of months (including this one) and now I think it’s a good point in time to draw a conclusion on where this “experiment” took me to. These are my five key takeaways:
I earned great benefits from blogging
I learned a lot from blogging: On the one hand, my writing skills have improved by a great measure. On the other, my ability to concisely communicate an idea or a story increased and I feel much more confident in doing so.
When it comes to handling a topic, being bounded by the length of one blogpost helps me to find a meaningful scope. This is something that I predicted in my “kickoff” post and it turned out to be very true:
Constantly recurring deadlines will help me to bring my ideas and thoughts into an order, slice each topic into a bite-sized chunk and get that finished.
But not only my skillset evolved, at the end of the day I just enjoy working on topics and putting them into words alongside. So, although the title of this post is “haftime”, I don’t intend to terminate my activity by the end of this year.
Writing is a lot of work
Although I don’t run a stopwatch while I’m writing, I can roughly estimate that the amount of work for creating one post ranges between 3–5 hours. This includes:
- draft or jot down notes
- research a topic
- write the actual text
- choose and edit pictures and other resources
- final check and publish
I prefer things to be put in a nutshell: For me, a good and self-contained blogpost is to be read in around 4–6 minutes. (There are, of course, exceptions to this.) The average reading time for my blog so far is 4½ minutes per post, which I am pretty happy with.
My choice of technology also did pay well, since it offers few distractions and helps me to focus on the actual writing. And yes, I still love to host the blog by myself and present my content in my very own “handwriting”.
I set my sights too high
My initial resolution was to write one blogpost every week. This was a good intent in terms of motivation, but in the end this frequency turned out to be too ambitious for me. This very blogpost is number 17, which means that I just made slighty more than half as much. (It’s 0.55 posts per week, to be precise.)
In the beginning of the year I sometimes feeled stressed by my goal, because I put pressure on myself to deliver. I eventually noticed though, that my blog project is not a commitment to publish in high frequency – instead it’s meant to be a fun and valuable experience for me.
I still cherish the idea to write on a regular basis, publishing at least once or twice a month. But in the end, my initial goal was rather symbolic and eventually arbitrarily chosen. Today, I understand it more to be a motivation to keep up my own projects and invest time in topics that I am interested in.
It’s hard to spread the word
I put few effort in promoting my blog or the posts as yet. I shoot a tweet for every post that I publish and some people find my blog via the links on my Github or Twitter profile. But that’s pretty much it. And indeed, my blog is sparingly visited: According to Google Analytics, the average post is read 17.4 times (some more, some less). Also, I receive very little feedback on what I write; if any, then it is verbal feedback from people I know in person.
Since I maintain this blog for myself in the first place, audience and range have never influenced my motivation. But on the other hand, I certainly enjoy feedback of any kind and would like to know, whether people are interested in the stuff I produce.
As a consequence I recently started to crosspost on Medium, since there is a big community for bloggers. However, my personal website will still remain the “primary source” of my blog.
It took some time to find my own style
In the beginning I was not sure which topics I wanted to write about and which style I would prefer. I experimented with several approaches, but I quickly realized that it works best for me to just write about what I am busy with. I didn’t want to tie myself down to one specific approach, e.g. running a tutorial blog that explains certain technologies.
Today I consider my blog to be a living document of topics I work on. This might be a tutorial post about keyboard customization, but it can also result in a conceptional story about deployment in a PAAS environment.