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 the biggest and best community for bloggers and readers is there. 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.