A month ago, I decided to publish something every day for at least thirty days.
I read a few others who did something similar, and discussed all the benefits. I've found myself struggling with creating something and then making it public. (Public here, on another project, or at work.)
I also had a bit of a backlog of ideas or a scattered few paragraphs on a topic. In my head, these would all turn into comprehensive tomes that would be the end-all resource on a subject. With those expectations, I would never, ever write them.
So, here we are, thirty one published posts later (this is #32), and in no specific order, is what I've learned:
Writing every day is time consuming.
I didn't pre-write anything, though I did regularly add ideas to a running list of potential posts, so every day I'd sit down and write, format, edit (sometimes) and publish in one sitting. I rarely finished anything in less than 30 minutes.
Much of what I wrote felt self-indulgent, or low-value.
Since I was just firing off whatever popped into my head (more or less), I wasn't using any external indicators of what would be useful to readers.
Writing begets writing
I started this project with ten ideas I wanted to "clear off my plate". Thirty posts later, my list of things to write about is now thirty items long. Oops.
I care a lot about metrics, but have very little to show for it
I got 20-50 unique visitors a day. Here's my good-sounding reason for wanting visitors:
I want to create something useful and valuable, and if something is useful and valuable, then I can be more useful in the world by reaching more people.
Here's the more selfish and accurate reason:
I want to think of myself as someone who creates useful and valuable things, and look to the external validation of high numbers of readers.
There's a bunch of other benefits to me of "traffic", so I'll unashamedly say I want to grow my audience.
(I put "traffic" in quotes because it's not traffic, it's people giving a minute or two of their day to me. This is a pretty big deal.)
I don't want to rely on any external source/platform for traffic
For now, the only metric I care about is email subscribers. That means that until that person unsubscribes, that person is willing to have me in their inbox, and my ability to talk to them is not linked to the search algorithems of any ofther tool. Facebook is notorious at showing things you post to only a few other people, and Twitter is moving in the same direction.
Specialization will allow me to help more people.
If I want to grow an audience, I can, they just need to know why the heck I'm writing, and if they want that, they'll subscribe, and if they don't, they won't.
That's not possible right now, as I'm not focused on any particular thing in my writing. This might change down the road, but for now, I don't plan on niching down into a specific domain.
I've already got a platform for writing about climbing (and can generate thousands of page views a day linking out useful things (like a video about core strength) to reddit.)
Honestly, writing every day distracted me from work I was doing for The Climber's Guide. I began working again on TCG after I started writing on here every day, though, so I still strongly believe that creating begets creating. I was struggling to write regularly, so I started writing every day, and all of a sudden had a bunch more things to write about.
It was only after I was writing regularly that I got the idea to film a video course of dealing with fear while rock climbing. I'm officialy transitioning from writing here every day to writing more for TGC Fear Course (not the finished title.) Punch in your email address there (or here, in the top-right corner) for updates as we go.
Lists get views, or at least good article titles do
The top-performing posts of the month were Lessons Learned from cooking in 36 Kitches in the last year and 62 Lessons Learned after one year of full time travel. Only two data points, but something made it click a bit more. I think they are far the most interesting things I posted in the last month, but they also had good subject lines. And had numbers in the titles.
As a counterpoint OK, Some New Books is not exactly a riveting and enticing subject line.
Doing anything challenging for a period of time is a rewarding challenge
I'm quite pleased to have completed this 30 days of writing. When I look at my archives page, I'm pleased to see a lot of items for this year. I wrote that. It's a little flag planted on my tiny corner of the internet, and every single post was at least loosly aimed to be helpful to others. So, this wasn't complaining about things that annoy me (though I talked about American Airline's poor UX). I'm reasonably pleased with putting words down.
I don't know what it looks like to find "your voice", but I don't think I need it
Lots of people talk about needing to find "your voice" as a critical step to... something. This might be true, but I don't believe it to matter much. I write for fun (on this website) and sometimes for what will some day be for profit (Climber's Guide) and I write plenty for work (to coworkers and to customers, both in email and much more durable, lasting ways). None of this has been held back by me not knowing what "my voice" is.
Maybe some day I'll look back and say "ah, I found my voice right there!" and stab a date on the calendar. I think what that really will mean is "I became comfortable with the written word, and others found value in what I created."
For example, I've made a few videos to help climbers in a few different ways. I've gotten quite a bit of positive feedback from it. I wanted to say "ah, that there, was written in my voice, and that's why it was so popular."
Except that's not true. Things that are valuable are valuable because they convey useful information. My skills with the written word are incidental. (Copywriting is enormously valuable, but that's not "finding your voice", that's "the psychology of persuasion").
Distractions are everywhere, and I get crushed when it's just a few keystrokes away.
Self-control (the app) is awesome. As is focus.io. Coupled with Alfred and the right workflow, you can lock yourself out of distraction with just six keystrokes. (for me it's cmd-space, then "f-o-c" to enable Focus).
Someday I'll embrace editing, but it's not yet.
This is probably obvious. I write things filled with errors, poorly-worded sentances, exessive use of the passive voice (see what I did there) and lots of other mistakes that would cut it in a professional setting. This isn't professional, so here we are.
Make more asks.
I'm going to ask things more often, or make more requests.
Here's my first request:
Will you give me your email address? In the top right corner of this page is a box for your email. Put it in there, and next time you get an email, send me a reply. I'll put more instructions in the email then.
Until next time (but not tomorrow, because I'm done writing every day),