7 minute read
How I write blog posts every month
What I've learned after writing regularly for half a year.
Back in September of last year I started this blog and seeded it with a few posts. I wrote in my first post that my goal was to write one blog post a month, and that has turned out to be a pretty good cadence for me. I think if I had tried to do any more than that, I would have fallen off the wagon immediately. Carving out 2-3 hours on a Saturday once a month is doable. I’m pretty happy with the posts I’ve written, though I’d like to get even better. It’s pretty cool after working with WordPress for 10 years to finally have a blog of my own that I maintain.
I wanted to take this month’s post to go over my writing process, what an ideal blog post looks like for me and how my focus and the subjects I write about has shifted. While I’m certainly not a blogging rockstar with tons of traffic, I’m writing this because this is the type of blog post I love to read from other people. I like learning about how people live and work.
Only needing to write one post a month gives me a lot of time to think about and generate ideas. I keep a list of potential blog post ideas in Dynalist and can quickly sketch out the outline of a post from there. I try to have the major beats of the post outlined before I sit down to write.
When writing about web development, there is no way a blog post I write is going to be on the scale of something that would come out of Smashing Magazine. I just don’t have the time or inclination to try to write posts of that scope here. Also, while I certainly am very good at my job I am not someone who lives and breathes web development and lives on the cutting edge. Work/life balance is important to me. Most times I’m not going to be the guy who is writing the primer about some brand new cutting edge technology that just came out. There are a lot of people putting out that kind of content, and while I think I could compete if I really made it a focus, I’m just not willing to. So when writing technical posts, I focus on small practical functionality, or giving broad primers on things. But I also don’t want to cover ground that has been covered a million times over, because then the whole exercise is pointless. It can be a little tricky at times.
After choosing my subject and feeling confident in my outline that I have some value, I sit down to write. Usually on a Saturday morning. I love that saying “I hate to write, but I love having written.” That’s how I feel every time I sit down to write a post. The first 30 minutes are usually full of wailing and gnashing my teeth. Sometimes I start writing and completely abandon my outline. Or I get stuck writing the first paragraph for an hour. Eventually the post starts to come together. I’m not going to lie, sometimes it is a sprint to the end.
I give myself a 3 hour time limit for a blog post, which includes finishing the outline, writing and editing and creating a photo. So after finishing, I do a quick proofread and choose a photo. When I designed this blog, I thought a lot about whether or not I even wanted to have featured images. It can be pretty difficult to figure out what image to choose for a topic like “blogging” that isn’t a hideous, generic stock photo. What I have settled on recently is using duotone images. They add a great splash of color and it goes with the aesthetic styling of the site. Choosing an image and editing it has become the most enjoyable part of putting together a blog post for me.
Then I hit publish! Having a new blog post up on my site feels really good. Because I know that I am living up to a commitment I made to myself to maintain this blog and I’m helping other people in the process.
Changing focus & goals
When I started this blog, it was to complement my portfolio. I wanted to help people and raise my profile and Google search results. I still think that’s important, but in my personal life I have changed my focus from taking on a lot of freelance work and trying to build myself up professionally to focusing on self care and self improvement. Instead of spending my nights and weekends coding, I go to the gym and cook a nice meal. Hang out with friends. I’ve been traveling more. I just got back from spending a week in Guatemala and visiting a friend down there. It’s all been really cool and positive, but has changed the things that I think about a lot and want to write about. Instead of a WooCommerce code snippet, maybe I’d rather write about how I prep my meals for the week or how I’ve improved my productivity. But if I am expending the time each month to do this, I’d really like it to help improve my professional profile and prospects. It’s a delicate balance.
The truth is, a lot of my life feels in flux right now. I’m not really sure what I want my next steps to be professionally and personally. This blog is a reflection of that. I’ve considered everything from moving to a different country to building my own startup. I’m still figuring it out.
I don’t have any specific, concrete goals for this blog. Like I don’t hope that it helps me get to a certain keyword ranking on Google, or gets me to a certain conversion rate. Right now I’m content to just keep writing each month. Later this year I would like to see if I can write some guest posts for other blogs and generate some backlinks and organic traffic, but if I do that it’s going to be in a very limited capacity.
Doing better going forward
There’s always ways to improve, and I know there’s a lot I can do to do better with blogging. Firstly, I want to write better. I feel like my personality doesn’t come through in my posts often enough. I could be more expressive and write some jokes—it doesn’t need to be so dry. I’d also like to improve my grammar and spelling. I know sometimes I publish this stuff with small errors.
I also plan on eventually tweaking the design of the blog to support things like photo galleries and try to improve readability for long content. I don’t think my current blog design is the most legible for long form reading. So that would probably include switching to a serif typeface for body text.
I also want to promote my posts better. See if I can get links back to my posts when I write them after I hit publish. I haven’t done a great job in that area.
So that’s it! That’s how I write my blog posts. As always, I hope you got something out of this that can help you in your own endeavors or at least found it interesting! Maybe I’ll do this again when I hit a year.