Today is the 182nd day in a row I’ve written a blog post. That means I’m just about halfway into my 365 day challenge (tomorrow will be more than halfway). If you don’t remember when I started, or you’re new to the blog, the rules are simple: I have to post a picture and at least three sentences everyday for a post to count and if I miss a day I lose.
There are no other rules. I decided not to give myself any outs by explaining what would happen if I missed a day, it’s just over. Like a video game with one life. Three sentences is a very low bar and since there’s no content calendar or editorial direction I can easily get something written. Most pieces are around 400-500 words, about as many go long as go short.
The only recurring content on the blog is the Sunday advice column. This has been one of my favorite things to write and at the end, I’m going to take the best answers and edit them into a book for Kindle. I should have around 50,000-80,000 words of advice by the end of the project. Amazon’s platform makes it pretty easy to publish and promote a book. you can even get a paperback version if you want. I don’t really care if anyone ever buys one, but I’ll be happy to have it sitting on the shelf next to my friend Kar’s self-published novella, I, Centaur.
As of now, I plan on removing the entire year from the internet after I’m done. I’m not sure why, it just feels like the right thing to do. If anyone wants to read it after that, I’m going to make a PDF of the whole thing to send out.
I had two main goals when I started: get better at writing by having daily accountability and grow an audience. I’ve had mixed success so far. There are indeed some things I’m really happy with, but there’s also an enormous amount of throw away content. I think a much better process for those goals would be to continue writing offline everyday, and crafting the best stuff into slightly longer, more polished pieces. Two posts a week is probably more than enough.
After a year, I ‘m probably going to use this site as an aggregator for whatever other projects I’m working on. I’ll continue the advice column and link to the new horror podcast Scary Thoughts.
Here’s what I’ve learned so far.
Writing about politics sucks. It is god damned awful to follow the election. If you want to have anything intelligent to say, you have to follow an enormous amount of infuriating stories. You get forced into a Left/Right paradigm. People you’d normally get along with just fine at a party suddenly turn into bloodthirsty enemies when you criticize their candidate for anything.
It’s also unbelievably compelling to get in the habit of hostile ranting. My angry political posts are the most widely shared. When I was shitting on Sanders, I’d regularly get a few hundred views. A normal post for me gets around 50. When I’m thinking about this stuff I get into a really toxic bad mood. It’s just not worth it. Professional political writers probably drink a lot.
People love reading about diets. While the political stuff gets the most views, posts about veganism do really well, too. People get the most argumentative about diet stuff. Ultimately, I’m only concerned with how I feel and how well I can perform whatever physical activity I happen to be interested in at the time, but people really want to parse out shit like “bro, what about all the gophers that get killed by plows?”
I thought I’d have more readers by now. This is pretty narcissistic, but I sort of thought at least one of my posts would’ve gone viral by now. So far, nope.
I don’t get random trolls. Years ago when I was writing a blog about training for the apocalypse I’d get all kind of randoms who wanted to verbally spar about things I said. I had more extreme views back then, so maybe this older, less volatile version of me doesn’t make people as mad.
If you want a focus, you have to choose it. One of the things I hoped to achieve from this process was a direction to aim my writing. I thought I’d end up writing more about weed or motorcycles or guns or whatever, and then go hard in that direction. I guess the advice column has the most momentum, but it’s not really something that comes naturally to me.
Right now I’m really most excited about the Scary Thoughts podcast. I like reading philosophy and criticism, watching movies, and talking to smart people. In just a couple of weeks I’ve written some of my best stuff (it hasn’t been posted) and I’ve gotten quite a lot of enjoyment out of the research I’ve been doing. So, as of right now, horror is the focus I’m most passionate about.
It’s hard to say if I would’ve come to that conclusion without doing the blog, but I don’t see how it could’ve hurt.
Writing every single day gets easier. I never really have any writer’s block and I’m always at least halfway pleased with what I’ve written, or at least that I’ve written something. It’s definitely beneficial to write around the same time everyday (which I don’t usually do). If I was getting paid to write a daily blog, I definitely could pull it off.
You have to promote yourself if you want more readers. This sucks. I’d like to think consistency and quality alone would win the day, but it doesn’t. The only act of promotion I’ve done happened a few months ago when I asked people to share a few posts. During that week, people did, and readership spiked upwards quickly.
I imagine promoting posts, running Facebook ads, an reaching out to other bloggers would all help. Personally, I’d want this whole thing to be much tighter before I did that. But it would be worth doing.
People like personal stories about love and/or loss. The most emails I get come after posting really personal stories about my relationship or deaths. These are super universal experiences, so it makes sense.
Under 500 words is most digestible. Anything long, like this post, gets less response. People look to blogs for quick, fun bits of content. I guess it’s asking a lot for people to read a long piece, especially when you’re an unknown.
I’m pretty much over it right now. It’s impossible to say how I’ll feel at the end of the year, but right now, I’d rather be doing something else with this time. I know I happen to be in a low enthusiasm mood this week, and it will pass, but halfway doesn’t feel nearly as awesome as I thought it would. It’s exactly like the feeling I had at the halfway point of the marathon I ran. It’s an accomplishment, but there’s a lot more work to be done.
I don’t think everyone should do this anymore. At about 60 days in I was feeling pretty strongly about how this practice would benefit most anyone. I don’t know that I agree. Writing morning pages offline, like you’d do for The Artist’s Way, is something I’d definitely recommend, but posting everyday isn’t. No one wants to read this much half baked content and it does get to be a chore to produce it.
Having an editor would be awesome. If I was a rich famous blogger, I’d definitely hire someone to do a quick edit before I post. I catch a lot of grammatical errors, however, a few slip through. Honestly, it’s pretty good considering I don’t do any revising or anything. I’ll never know if someone might’ve been considering hiring me for some freelance work, but saw a typo and got turned off.
I should’ve considered my career more. I’ve definitely gotten some freelance gigs from this blog. I always pride myself on being ridiculously transparent, but this is a lot of out there content for potential future employers. I hope it works out.
It’s very tempting to write what the crowd wants. Thanks to metrics, I know what people like and I’m always tempted by that. If I was trying to make money off of this, I’d change the name and write relationship and financial advice columns with a dystopian edge. And I’d go after people I disagreed with a lot more. I’d also keep things short.
That’s about it. I’m feeling low-energy today. I hope I get a second wind on this project, because I have a long way to go. I didn’t want to make this fluffy and fake, though. Sometimes this is a grind and I want people to get the truth. Creativity is something everyone has in them, but it is not easy to produce something worth other people’s time.
It always amazes me when I see something I wrote reposted or quoted. I hope to keep getting better and writing things that resonate. Just 182.5 more days to go!