In my MVP announcement post, Mark Burns asked the following question in the comments section:
I am curious, and have been meaning to ask you about your daily writing here. it's got to be a logistical load on your day and life. How have you learned to accommodate this with everything else (career/family/etc.)?
I started composing an answer in the comments, but it got so long I decided to make it its own post.
Managing Daily Writing
It is a HUGE logistical load, honestly.
To this point, I've been writing outside of my regular full-time hours. Each article takes between 1-3 hours (depends on how many rabbit holes I end up going down while researching). I generally write in the evenings after the kids (the younger ones, anyway) are settled in bed.
Part of this is all of the extra pieces that go into the format I've chosen:
- Writing a title
- Customizing the URL
- Choosing appropriate tag(s)
- Writing the excerpt
- Finding/designing a cover photo
I realize now why Jonathan Stark recommends a daily email as a writing routine, rather than a daily blog post. With a daily email, you can forego all of those extras.
One thing that has helped tremendously is automating the process as much as possible.
I pay for the $20/month Zapier Starter plan. Every time I click Publish on a new blog post in my self-hosted Ghost account, a corresponding post is created on the following platforms:
Since most people spend the majority of their time on only a single social network, there is very little audience overlap.
Daily writing is definitely a grind.
It's very lonely at the beginning, and it requires a lot of upfront work before you see any payoff. By February of this year, I had published over 150 articles. I had been writing every day for five months. I was averaging 15 daily visitors to my blog.
I was spending roughly 20 hours per week beyond my normal work time writing these articles. I was seeing no tangible results. (I should say, though, that from the very beginning, the act of writing and publishing did sharpen my thinking and deepened my understanding of a great many topics.)
The benefits lagged far behind the costs.
The Hiatus (That Never Was)
I decided at that point that I had had enough.
I was missing time with my family. I was falling behind at work. I had nothing to show for what I had been doing. In short, I was done. I decided it was time to take a break from my daily writing routine. I could always come back to it later, I told myself.
In fact, I still have a draft article that I started writing 9 months ago titled, "Hiatus." It starts like this:
I have been publishing a daily article here since September 1, 2020. I've learned a lot from the experience and I have plans to continue writing regularly in the future. Unfortunately, I'm finding m
(Yes, I actually stopped writing mid-word.)
My wife saw the title of the article I was working on. She asked what I was doing. I told her it wasn't fair to her and the kids that I was spending so much time on my daily writing. I was going to slow down for awhile.
I figured she would be relieved, but she told me not to stop writing. She said she thought I was crazy in the beginning. She couldn't imagine why anyone would want to read about this stuff. But–for some reason she couldn't quite understand–people were actually reading it. She encouraged me to stick with it a bit longer.
Two weeks later, Wayne Phillips emailed me out of the blue and asked me to present twinBASIC at Access DevCon Vienna.
Seth Godin wrote a book, The Dip, that talked about this phenomenon of hitting a wall with a big project. From the book synopsis:
Every new project (or job, or hobby, or company) starts out fun…then gets really hard, and not much fun at all.
Winners seek out the Dip. They realize that the bigger the barrier, the bigger the reward for getting past it.
(Full disclosure: I've not actually read the book. 😋)
The Dip is the valley that most people never emerge from.
It's hard. It's boring. It's lonely. And there's no guarantee the hill will rise on the other side. You have to really believe in what you are doing to make it through the Dip. The best and worst thing about the Dip is that it is so difficult to push through.
"The bigger the barrier, the bigger the reward for getting past it."
About 8 months after I wrote my unpublished "Hiatus" draft, I earned the Microsoft MVP Award. During that time, daily visits to my site increased by more than 650%.
A lot of those visits were to articles I wrote in my first 150 days, before my blog had any traction or visibility. I was finally starting to see the compounding benefits of my approach.
Of course, a little bit of luck never hurt anyone, either.
I had no way of knowing in September 2020 that Wayne Phillips was quietly working on a modern replacement for VB6/VBA. Presenting twinBASIC at Access DevCon Vienna was a major break for my site. I got a big jump in website traffic directly related to that conference.
More important than the extra traffic, though, was the validation that people were getting value from what I was publishing. That's what really got me through the Dip.
The Power of a Streak
Finally, never underestimate the power of not breaking a streak. It's become a compulsion for me.