When I realized this was going to be my 100th blog post I wanted to do something special. It seemed appropriate to do a bit of a "meta blog", a blog about blogging!
So here we are. This post is part reflection and part advice so it's worth noting up front that everyone's preferences are different and you should absolutely do what works for you.
When I first started blogging I had no idea I'd reach this milestone. In fact, if you'd asked me, I probably would have laughed at the possibility. 100 posts is a ton! i wrote my first post for my company blog because they asked for content, I had no intention on making it a habit.
You don't need a plan to get started
People will talk about a weekly or even monthly writing habit, but very few people start there. And some people never do that at all! It's ok to write a single post and see where it takes you.
And that first post? It doesn't need to be perfect! A lot of people worry about putting something out in the world that has typos, or has a mistake, or isn't the "best way" of doing something. My early posts have all sorts of errors! I'm sure my recent posts do too.
Your writing will evolve
Every post is a snapshot in time of where the author is in their learning journey. This goes for both the content and the writing style/clarity. You can only get better by practicing, which requires that you start somewhere.
The best way to get started is to write. The best way to procrastinate? Deciding to build a custom website to host your blog 😂. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm writing this on my custom website. But I didn't do that when I started, that came later. Is it cool to build your own site? Sure! Might it create fodder for things you want to write about? Without a doubt. But it also isn't a requirement in any way.
Use whatever medium you have
Is it Dev.to or Hashnode? Another Forem like Code Newbies or your company blog? Did you decide to submit as a guest author for CSS Tricks or Digital Ocean? There are a ton of options out there that can help you share knowledge without having to build something to get started.
Back when I used to commute to the office I'd take the bus every day. When staring out the window listening to my ipod (yes, I'm serious), I'd think up conference talk titles. Over time, that transitioned to blog post titles or topics. These days I don't get much bus time but I've developed the muscles that make it more likely I'll recognize a potential blogging topic in my daily workflow. And then sometimes I don't and I go for a while without something I'm excited to write about.
How do you develop those muscles? It depends. Wow, what a cliche!
The ungooglable bug fix
The most valuable posts in the world are very quick solutions to problems that the author had to figure out for themselves because they couldn't find a good example via Google. My post on migrating webpack plugins is a great example. Angie Jones was talking about how her posts like this are always incredibly high traffic.
Haven't solved many bugs yet? That's ok! I'm sure you're in the process of building something. Talk about it. I did a long post series, early on, about building this very site.
Write about what you're currently working on so you can remember it. If it helps someone else that's a bonus.
Once I started writing I developed my own style and everyone's style is unique, but I'm happy to talk about the things that work for me.
I write like I talk. It comes naturally to me and I'd rather not fight it. Does that mean some people may not enjoy my writing style? Of course it does.
Keep it bite-sized
It's tempting to want to write one big post about the full suite of stuff you're working with. I'd caution against that. Scope your topics so that they're small and use as much detail as you can. Add examples, and various use cases, etc. Doing this makes your write-up more approachable and more applicable to a larger number of people.
Moderate your language
People read blogs to learn things they don't know, even if it's a refresher. Making sure you don't talk down to them is important, even if you don't mean to. Words like "simple", "just", "easy", etc can make people discouraged. It takes practice, but you'll learn to leave them out.
If you could do me a favor, whatever your style is, please try and follow recommendation #8! I'm on a mission to make this industry, and its learning resources, a better place.
Of course I couldn't write a post about blogging without talking about SEO/marketing/whatever else you want to call it. I want to preface this section with a few things. First, it takes time to grow your audience and the size is actually the least important piece. It's far more important to match your content with the right audience, even if that audience is only you. Which brings me to my second point. You are your most important reader! This is essentially a blog of things I learned once, will forget, and will want to come back to.
That being said, putting time and energy into content often means you want to share it. And you should! If you're hoping it will reach more people than just you, there are some things you can do to help that along.
Twitter is your friend, so is LinkedIn depending on who you are. If you tweet out your post recognize that many of your followers won't see that particular tweet. So be sure to tweet it out a few different times. A couple in the same day, a few times over the course of that week. And don't be afraid to retweet old content you want to resurface.
Hype your own posts
If you're blogging on a site that has emoji reactions, react to your own stuff! It helps jump start them in the algorithm on most sites.
Guest posts are big for audience
Writing for established blogs is typically the best way to ensure an audience for the things you write. That being said, depending on your comfort level with technical writing, you may not want to start there.
I can't talk about the algorithm without mentioning things like comment sections and any other mechanism for feedback. Not all of this will be positive. Some of it can be outright abusive and anonymous. Your comfort level is up to you and it's entirely fair to choose to write things and keep them to a smaller audience, to a place without any possible comment section, etc.
Before I conclude this 100th post, I wanted to reflect on how I got here.
The main reason is that it was fun! I enjoy writing. I like having a public trail of what I've learned. To be honest, it's better than any resume I could ever write.
But as I mentioned earlier, I never anticipated I'd get to this point. And there were so many wonderful surprises and opportunities along the way.
Because of blogging I became an egghead instructor.
Blogging has extended my reach in I way I didn't really know was possible. It helped me scale far beyond the conference speaking I was doing. It helped me learn how to be a better teacher, a better communicator, and a better community member.
If you're in the content creator community, or even observing it, there can be a pressure to work harder, create more, keep up with everyone else. I'm giving you permission to walk away from all of that. Content is unpaid and often thankless. Do the things you're personally motivated to do.
Don't want to blog? That's ok!
Only write once or twice a year? Also awesome.
Find the things that make you happy and help you feel like a part of the larger tech community. Whatever those are.