13 Key Lessons I Learnt From Writing 200 Posts In 3 Years
200 posts! 113022 views! 76669 visitors! In a little less than 4 years! Seems like yesterday that I hit the 100 posts mark! It’s been a hard but rewarding journey! I have nurtured this blog like a baby and from teething troubles to teenage tantrums – we’ve gone through it all! There were times when the blog was a pliant infant easily giving in to my writing endeavours. Other times, it behaved like a recalcitrant toddler that just wouldn’t allow me to pin down ideas. As it grew, we also had our share of spats when we snubbed each other for weeks! But no matter what happened, both of us have stuck together through it all. The passion and the love with which the blog was created ensured that come what may, it wouldn’t wither and die.
The story starts in July 2014. This blog began taking shape. As I took baby steps in creating my professional presence online. The right theme, pages to add, content for the pages, look of the home page, planning content for the posts – decisions and more decisions to be made. And the blog has come such a long way since those confusing times! With so many revamping sprees in between. It’s still a work in progress. It’s also learning in progress.
As they say, you can find inspiration from others but determination has to come from you. Blogging through all seasons sure takes a lot of that. Despite all the research I did before beginning the blog, I’ve learnt so many useful and amazing lessons over the years. The changes in social media and blogging practices have transformed the landscape from what it used to be even a few years ago. And as I hit this milestone, it seems to be a great time to look back and recount all the valuable lessons I have learnt through the years:
1. IT IS NOT EASY
I have lost count of the number of times I have woken up on a Monday morning with a thought screaming in my head – WHAT DO I WRITE ABOUT THIS WEEK? You can plan all you want, but putting out content week after week (or even once a fortnight) for as long as you want the blog to be alive is a mammoth commitment. Writing is hard and the best writers have struggled once in a while with creative jinx. More challenging than writing regularly is finding a steady stream of topics to keep it going. If one is not careful, there is the threat of compromising the quality of the blog and the goals it stands for, in the long run. Clear blogging goals and keeping your content aligned to it can be a great guidepost (More on this later. Keep reading)
2. PATIENCE PAYS
Patience doesn’t come easily to me. And sticking to writing my blog is one of the rare shining examples of my perseverance. Any goal that you set out to achieve through your blog will take time to come to fruition. Nothing happens overnight. You may write 10 posts, 20 posts and still not have people lapping up your content – unless your mom is a big fan…maybe! But then I can assure you that patience does pay off. It is extremely gratifying to see the blog blossom and shape up the way I’ve moulded it over a period of time – one post at a time.
3. PASSION SUSTAINS IT
Unless you are fired up about your blogging project, you won’t go far. The commitment of maintaining a blog is huge and you will need passion to keep the fuel burning. To emerge from times when you are down in the dumps and just want to give up. Passion will ensure that you don’t.
4. A BLOG IS ALWAYS A WORK IN PROGRESS
A lot of people register their username and then email me to ask what they should blog about. But that’s such a wrong approach. A blog is always a work in progress and hence finding topics your readers would want to read about is a full time job. Like I said before, it is not about hitting a certain number of posts or volume of visitors and you’ll be done.
5. HAVE CLEAR BLOGGING GOALS
There is no subject on earth that has not been written about on the internet. So why should you write another blog about any topic? Figuring out your blogging goals is the first step even before you start a blog from scratch. To lead you on, a few reasons why you might want to blog include:
– You love writing
– You have some expertise to share
– You want people to benefit from your expertise
– You want to build credibility in your field of work
Here are so many more ideas that might help you decide to start a blog or not.
It makes sense to spend sometime getting this clear because it’ll keep you focussed in the long run.
6. RESEARCH. RESEARCH. RESEARCH
I’d attribute the success of my blog in the long run to the research work I started even before I started the blog. I read every possible source online and off it to understand various aspects of blogging and social media. The blogging landscape in the training industry and outside, what were others blogging about, how did their home page look, what kind of posts did they write and how frequently, how can I use my blog to share my expertise and build credibility in the long run – these are a few of the things that I read through 8-10 hours day for about 4 months. Sometime during that time, my blog started taking shape. I started exploring themes for the look of my blog – which brings me to the next lesson..
7. UNDERSTAND THE TECHNICAL DECISIONS YOU NEED TO MAKE
You can always outsource technical set up of the blog to an expert – and I recommend this since it will free your time to create content. But it is“your” blog at the end of the day and you should know something about the technical aspects. Should you go for free themes or paid themes? What is the look of the blog that you have in mind? What features would you need in the future when your blog matures? I always knew videos and photos will be a part of my online space. So any theme I chose had to support videos. Having some understanding of technical concepts ensures that you aren’t thrown off course when your tech person throws around words like self-hosted and SEO.
8. CONTENT IS KING
As cliche as this sounds, content is indeed the king! And as I mentioned before, the biggest challenge is to keep the posts coming. Here are a few things that kept me going through the years:
– Decide the frequency of posting and start working a week before the publish date
– Maintain an ideas log in a notebook or file on your phone. Dip into them for writing ideas.
– Plan ahead – and this is the single most thing that keeps me going
– Have an editorial calendar and plan your posts on it. It’s a lot easier to start the first draft if you’ve decided your topic of the week. You can see templates for editorial calendars here.
9. MAKE WRITING A DAILY HABIT
I know this sounds easier than done. And honestly, I still struggle with this one. But even 15-30 minutes a day will keep the content production going smooth. Considering you’ll take a couple of days to get the first draft done and the rest of the days to proofread and put together relevant images – your post should be ready in a week. And you might realise on your own that putting together a fine piece of writing, ready to be published takes much longer than 30 minute slots!
10. HONE THE CRAFT OF WRITING
If you ask me, blogging is just a genre of writing and involves writing nevertheless. If your writing is poor, your readers will never plough through your post to find what’s in it for them. Remember that there are literally a million things clamouring for their attention. They will just move on and forget that you exist. A daily writing habit comes with an additional bonus of helping you write better. Which is why blogging challenges are so fruitful. Apart from that, read good material, take up courses – if you feel the need and make sure that you write a lot. More than just the weekly blog post, at the beginning. Despite being a blogger for so many years, I still feel there is always cope for improvement.
Here are more writing tips to help you write better.
11. EDITING AND PROOFREADING – THE BACKBONE TO A GREAT BLOG POST
It is easy to hack away at the keyboard to get your first draft out. And that’s how it should be. Editing while writing is counterproductive. But once the draft is done, the final version starts to take shape. I take at least 3 or more rounds of proofreading the preview of the post before I hit publish. Read every line carefully, check for extra words in long sentences, ensure there’s punctuation where required. Restructure the post and rewrite some bits, if required. Check that the parts fit in well with the whole. To me, the finished product is the testimony to the brand you are trying to build for yourself. Typos and other errors not only compromise the post but also point to your inability of being thorough with your job at hand.
12. WRITER’S BLOCK?
This is such a debated topic and the internet is full of experts dispensing advice on how to avoid running into this block. But if you ask me, there is no writer’s block. You may not feel creative at times and words might take harder than usual to appear on your screen. But there is no way humans can go blank and have nothing to say. Unless you have a mental condition that leads to that effect. For me, the ideas log has been a foolproof solution to never facing the block. You need to dip into ideas and see what appeals to you. Another thing that greatly helps is reading – online, offline – and you are bound to find inspiration for your posts.
If you want an exclusive list of awesome ideas on beating the writer’s block, click here and put “Writer’s Block” in the suggestion box. I’ll send it to you soon.
13. MISTAKES TO AVOID
This is a very short list to keep in mind:
– Don’t be a blank about the topic of your post that goes next week. Worse, this very week
– Don’t edit when you write
– Don’t use images in your posts without attributing credit
– Don’t spam people with your blog posts. Keep your target audience in mind
– Don’t ignore comments on your blog post
There are other milestones on the blog and lessons learnt posts I have written in the past:
In fact, my journey as a blogger has been so amazing that I’ve helped others start theirs through India’s first blogging workshop for beginners – Blog Like Suman. You can read about some successful workshops here and here.
As a promise for the future, I have a list of amazing post ideas which will cover newer areas of skill building. Meanwhile, there are tons of freebies coming up soon – free coaching sessions, exclusive checklists, tips on different rhetorical situations and exclusive previews to unreleased ebooks.
This post will be incomplete without thanking a few people. Thank You Darshan for being the first one to work on this blog and laying the strong foundation for the layout. Thank you Jagpreet for the successive revamping to make it what it is today. Thank you Ankita for the inspiration you’ve been to me through the years. The passable images I create on Canva for my blog and social media are a result of your gentle persistence. And last but not the least, thank you to everyone who’s attended my workshops, shared my blog posts, left comments, worked with me on the blog. And most importantly, thank you to the readers who keep coming back for more.