Ten Things We Learned From One Year Writing Our Blog
We've hit one year of writing at the Deliberate Owl! To mark the milestone, we are reflecting on everything we've learned through weekly blogging. From writing and editing, meeting deadlines, and building readership to connecting with each other and appreciating daily life—read on!
1. Writing helps me think
Both writing this blog and my exercise earlier this year with Morning Pages reminded me that writing is essential to me for thinking, learning, and reflecting, and contributes to my wellbeing. As I wrote earlier, reflecting is a crucial part of the learning process. This blog helps me consolidate and reflect on earlier experiences.
2. The technical part is easy
The technical stuff is the easy stuff. If you look up lists of things other people have learned from blogging, most people put all the technical skills involved in running a modern website at the top. For Randy and me, however, since we've built a variety of websites before (and Randy does web programming as part of his usual work), we already had all the technical skills we needed.
3. Writing is easy
I was a little concerned I might run dry on things to write about, get bored with the blog post format, or burn out on the weekly deadline. But I've found that the more I write, the more ideas I have for things to write, and the more writing I do. So—even with a weekly deadline, a specific format for weekly writing, and daily word count goals, I learned I still enjoy and appreciate writing!
This is, in part, because writing is thinking (see item #1). Writing helps form ideas, flesh out ideas, and express ideas. Hitting my daily word count goal ensures I am constantly writing, and thus, constantly coming up with additional topics to write about.
4. Writing is hard
Randy says, however, that he didn't realize how hard weekly writing would be. After the initial excitement about the blog wore off and it became just another weekly commitment, he found it more difficult to come up with new topics to write about.
It helps that there are two of us! We had started out trading off posts every other week. About halfway through the year, I took over more posts.
5. We are editors, too
We edit each other's posts. I noticed early on that my style of writing is different from Randy's. To be good editors to each other, we needed to not dampen our respective styles. Sometimes I wanted to fix his word choices, but that would be imposing my style on his. As I read recently in the book Good Prose: The Art of Nonfiction by Tracy Kidder and Richard Todd:
"Editors, in any medium, should avoid rewriting, and if they do try to rewrite, then the writer is justified in resisting. Revision by an editor never works as well as when the writer does the work."
Editing is a different hat than writing; you have to look at the writing with a different eye.
"A writer should be on the alert when an editor starts by fixing commas or suggesting little cuts when the real problem resides at the level of organization or strategy or point of view. Most problems in writing are structural, even on the scale of a page. Something isn't flowing properly. The logic or the dramatic logic is off."
6. Building readership takes time
Starting out, we weren't sure what to expect from a readership standpoint. We knew we were niche; we knew it might be harder for people interested in our content to find it because of the range of topics we cover.
Most successful blogs are highly focused and narrow in scope. They have common keywords that drive traffic. You can predict search terms that lead people to blogs about coding, or programming, or writing, or building your own blog website, or product reviews, or fashion, etc., etc. You can write posts using the keywords (that sound exactly the same as every other post on the topic out there using the same keywords).
Our blog, being a lifestyle/philosophy blog, fits in the category of "hard to search for". Our topics include parenting, gardening, home improvement projects, work and productivity, writing, thoughts on values, how to make a life worth living, and how to live well. That's broad. A single blog focused on just one of those topics will rank higher on keywords, I'm sure. Which makes attracting readers from search tricky.
I'm not discouraged, though. Prior to us launching the Owl, I had read some articles about how long it can take to build a readership for a blog. You need content to drive interest. Now, we're finally getting there on content! We've written over 70,000 words this year.
A big part of why I wanted to start the blog was because I was going to write anyway—readers are a bonus. I wanted a place to put some of my writing, with a useful self-imposed deadline for polishing thoughts and posting them. It helped turn writing into a practice and reminded both of us that I take writing seriously.
7. Our community extends across the country
Many of our readers are people who live life the way we do (or aspire to). Sharing the blog posts on social media is one way I've found other like-minded people, who think the same way we do about life and living well. It's been fun to connect with others across the country who share our values about community, localism, productivity, education, faith, and family.
8. Finding quality images is time-consuming
Finding good images for the blog can take a long time. It can require photo-editing work. We use a combination of pictures we have taken ourselves and pictures sourced from creative commons licensed or public domain photos. Using Google image search with a filter for images that are appropriately licensed has been helpful.
I also have to remember to allow time for filling in all the other meta-information for every post, such as tagging posts appropriately; writing titles, subtitles, and synopses; and remembering to think about keywords and SEO.
9. Blogging helps us connect
Blogging has given Randy and me a new way to connect with each other. We still spend plenty of time talking and planning life together on long walks pushing strollers through the neighborhood, but writing has given us another avenue for sharing our current thoughts and opinions with each other (as well as with the rest of the world).
Communication is critical in marriage. Having more ways to communicate is never a bad thing.
10. We appreciate daily life
Through writing about our daily life and the values we aspire to live out, I've gained a better appreciation for our way of life.
In the modern age, when staying home and mothering your own children isn't exactly revered by the culture at large—when you get comments about how you sure have your hands full, or how you're wasting your degree—it's important to appreciate what you do, and to find others who appreciate what you do. I left full-time academia to have more time for my kids, for crafting, homemaking, gardening, writing, reading, and learning new stuff. Writing about all these things here on the blog—about the importance of pursuing excellence in daily life and approaching life with sincerity—has helped me appreciate all of these activities more.
I'm amazed that a year of writing has flown by already. Here's to many more!