I tried to get into blogging a couple of years ago, and I wrote a few posts but I did not keep it going as a regular thing, and I stopped. My motivations for blogging back then were a few: primarily I wanted to market myself, to help get into freelancing. I'm also a big fan of knowledge sharing, and it felt great to be putting something out there, that could possibly either help somebody or that they might find interesting. Lastly, since I do enjoy writing I also relished having another opportunity to practice it.
But as with all things requiring long-term input that you try to get into, if you go in with the primary motivation being something that is not in line with your core values or sense of purpose in life, you will probably not continue doing it for long. And for me, I believe in a person's value coming from within, rather than judging it based on what I think other people might think.
Now I have started blogging again, this time with the acknowledgement that activities like this have most value when they are done consistently. From my point of view the benefits of doing something consistently are:
You become habituated to doing it
The more you do something the more normal and internalised it becomes. It becomes more a part of you and your identity, and a regular part of your consciousness — something you may think about and plan ahead for during quiet moments, or think over for creative ideas.
You will generate new ideas for the activity spontaneously or even whilst sleeping. These are just my own thoughts, but there's also that famous quote, effectively linking habituation to a task to excellence in it, which I remind myself of often, especially in moments of self-doubt!
Your skill in it improves at the quickest possible pace
To me it seems like your gains in a skill do not increase just linearly with the time you spend on it — but regularity helps you to build on previous sessions, so that you gain disproportionately quickly through regular practice.
Another aspect of consistency that is more specific to writing is that writing has is greatest value when it has an audience — and an audience receives most value when it can depend on what it is consuming, so that it can plan ahead and spend less time looking for new sources of stimulation. Therefore for me regularity should be important if I care about generating things that might be useful.
My target has been to write at least one post per week. Or rather to publish at least one per week, on a Friday — I have a calendar event for this. Writing can be time-consuming and your availability to write vary from week-to-week. Your motivation and generation of ideas varies too.
Therefore one other key idea I had in mind was to write whenever I could, and just stockpile the posts, so that I'd always have something to publish each week. This has worked out great for me, and also gives me extra time to review what I've written and fix mistakes or make edits.
Lastly, as soon as I come up with a new idea for a blog post, I write it down (I am using an Evernote note). My list of ideas has remained around 15-20 points long, and when I have the time and the will to write something, I just choose what feels like the most interesting from the list.
New motivations and benefits
My motivation for starting up with blogging again was the realisation that I spend a lot of time thinking, and I needed an outlet for some of those thoughts. In software development there is so much to think about, new ideas going around in the community and so many personal lessons that you learn over time, and you try to assimilate and incorporate the best of everything into what you do.
So I realised that just writing things down, even if I had no audience, could help to crystallise my own thinking. This has proven exactly the case for me. The posts are also a record for myself of my thinking over time, and a reference that I can look up for certain things.
I've also discovered some unforeseen (although they seem pretty predictable now) benefits of blogging:
- Publicly publishing your thoughts makes you much more critical of them.
- The research you do to get a background on something or backup a point, leads to lots of extra valuable learning, and healthy correction of misconceptions.
- It helps to guide your own learning — you are often discovering things you didn't know about, some of which you can add to your list of things that you want to learn properly.
This time around blogging is working out very differently — I am always looking forward to doing it, I am coming up with lots of ideas, and I am learning lots of important things. For me these reasons make it extremely worthwhile.
I'd definitely recommend blogging regularly to anybody who enjoys writing, likes to think about things and loves to find new ideas and inspiration for learning.
A lot of my ideas for my new approach came from reading this book which I can recommend reading for any software developer.