If there is one thing that has eluded me over the years I’ve had this site it is a consistent habit of posting new content. Instead I mostly work in spurts with a month or two of regular writing followed by many months of no posts at all.
It’s time I changed that.
Why is a blogging habit so hard?
In truth I love writing, which begs the question, why don’t I do it more often. I’ve spent a lot of time on that question lately and I think it comes down to three things.
First, I worry about perfection rather than creation. If my site isn’t perfect I simply avoid it. I’ve seen evidence for this in how I tend to hit a writing spurt right after a site update and back away as soon as I find a perceived flaw in the site itself.
Second, I’ve lost track of who my audience is. In this case I either focus too much on analytics that don’t matter or, as has happened lately, I turn site analytics off altogether and lose track of who I’m writing for. Over the years this site has had some really good traffic with plenty of days with over 20,000 visitors and most of it has been driven by search. When I lose site of that traffic I also lose at least part of my reason for writing in general.
Finally, I’ve fallen victim to the fallacy that my voice doesn’t matter. I tend to think of a topic to write about only to remember something I’ve read on it elsewhere. When this happens I immediate think that the other author has covered it “better” so the topic isn’t worth it for me to cover at all. This is a real momentum killer for someone like myself who tends to write about tech topics.
Removing obstacles to build a blogging habit
Seeing the problem is the easy part. It means nothing if I don’t change anything to deal with it. Given that, here are the steps I’m taking to help encourage my blogging habit.
Stop worrying about the site design
First and foremost, I need to stop worrying about my actual site. In the past a single “off” link could send me off into a rabbit whole of code and tweaks. That means that, rather than writing a post, I’m writing the code for the site and never actually get to the content.
This week I switched to the Blocksy theme. That’s not to say I won’t write code for the site but rather that the code I write in the future will be for projects I can share rather than just endless tweaks in search of a perfection that doesn’t really exist.
Of course I’ll still tweak my site, but now that I’ve removed the temptation of letting a site tweak prevent me from writing content. I chose Blocksy because now I can tweak elements in minutes instead of hours using the WordPress customizer.
Now from a menu change to a whole new layout, I can tweak to my heart’s content without navigating away the dashboard. Staying on the site will, I hope, mean I use those same tools to write for it far more than I tweak.
I’ve reintroduced analytics
Forgetting who your audience is, or even that you have one, can really kill any motivation to write. If this was a personal journal that might be different but it isn’t. I’m a teacher at heart and I enjoy scratching that itch through my writing.
In order to remember who my audience is I’ve added Plausible Analytics to keep track of who is visiting the site and what is resonating with people.
Why Plausible? Because it offers simple analytics that won’t become a distraction on its own. In addition, unlike Google Analytics or other packages, Plausible respects your privacy. I can now see how many people are reading my content, how they found it and what they’re reading but I have no ability to identify any of those people nor will the data collected ever be used for targeted ads or other toxic garbage.
In two days I’m already finding the insights helpful.
Bonus: I’m going fully transparent with the stats I collect. You can see all the stats for this site yourself by visiting my stats page or by clicking the “stats” link in the footer of this site.
Write first, question later
As is the case with so many things in life, I am my own biggest enemy. Writing is no exception. It’s all too easy to ignore a topic simply because someone else has already written about.
While I don’t know how successful this will be, yet, my new motto is “write first, question later.” This means that I’ll switch to writing about a topic as it comes up rather than reading more later which is what inevitably convinces me to give up.
I need to remind myself that everyone has their own voice and approach and my own take may make more sense to someone that than that of another. It’s going to take some practice but if I can force myself to simply “write down” every idea first than I should be much more successful of molding those ideas to posts without worrying about what someone else might’ve already written on the topic.
My Blogging Toolbox
Of course these plans sound great, on paper, but if I don’t actually build a blogging habit than I can’t call it a success. To help ensure I do actually start writing it’s time I implement a few tools.
Taking better notes
First and foremost I need to take better notes when I have a topic idea. I tend to think of an idea one day only to forget about it the next time I sit at my computer. That doesn’t help.
This year I’ve moved to iPhone and added an Apple Watch to my own tech collection. The built in notes, messages and reminders tools are great places for me to jot quick ideas for review later and it is time to start using them.
It might be true that no idea is a bad idea but any idea really is no idea at all if you can’t remember it when they time comes to implement it. Better note taking will help me eliminate this problem.
Get external support
While practice may make perfect there are much better ways to find support and gain feedback to help keep motivated. It’s time I look at courses and groups to both improve my writing and to help keep me motivated to practice on a much more regular basis.
I haven’t identified any specifics yet but I do have some ideas where to look and I plan on spending the next week choosing a course and/or group to help keep me honest going forward.
Finally, we come to the most important tool in my blogging toolbox and the one tool that I do believe that, if used right, can really help me make a better habit out of blogging.
It’s time I made full use of WordPress.
For over 10 years I’ve built plugins and dev tools without ever taking the time to really learn the tool for what it was originally intended to do: manage content. I’ve become so obsessed with the tool itself that I’ve failed to actually use it.
I feel like the person who built a gorgeous home gym only to never use it. The truth is I enjoy writing in WordPress and it can do so much more. This is where that comes in. I need to learn to trust Gutenberg and the Blocksy theme to handle the site itself and use them to empower me to build the content that the site is here for, not just tweak the site itself.
Will all of these tools and tricks work? I really don’t know yet. I do know that if I want a chance to build a habit out of what I enjoy I need to change my attitude towards this site and WordPress in general and these steps and tools will let me do that.
Now to get writing.