What You Gain From 2 Years of Writing a Weekly Blog (5 Key Lessons)
The overhead spotlights have been dimmed. The house is finally quiet: just the hum of the fridge, the soft swish-slosh of the dishwasher, the occasional dog barking in a neighbor's yard outside. The ceiling fan pushes warmth away, making space for cooler night air to circle into the living room from the open windows. I curl my toes into the couch cushion. My laptop rests on my knees. There's a perfect image for this blog post in the folder synced from my phone, if I can only find it.
This is a normal Sunday night. (Sometimes, a Monday.) Queueing up the week's blog post; checking the metadata; starting on a draft for next week. Writing, editing, formatting.
And today, this week, marks two years of writing weekly articles for the Deliberate Owl!
(Read: Ten Things We Learned From One Year Writing Our Blog)
Writing takes time, but it's worth it!
I enjoy writing; that's why I blog. Some people blog because they have a message or information to share; Randy is more in that camp. And some blog to make money. Which is not us. We don't get enough traffic yet to justify putting ads on the site or including affiliate links to books or products; and even if we did, that's not our primary goal in blogging—we have other ways to make money.
This is post #111. We've written over 100,000 words.
We were surprised to discover that people reading our blog are most interested in virtues, self-denial, and making rugs. Our top posts:
- Tutorial: How to Make a Plush Rag Rug from Old Socks in 5 Steps
- How to Practice Self-Denial—and What You'll Gain By Doing So
- Forming Good Habits and Breaking Bad Habits: Aristotle's 4 Levels of Virtue
- Making Rag Rugs From T-Shirts and Old Sheets (Reuse and Upcycle!)
- My Experience Writing Morning Pages As a Parent With Young Children
- Book review: The Self-Driven Child: The Science and Sense of Giving Your Children More Control Over Their Lives by William Stixrud and Ned Johnson
While writing all that—what did we learn? Here are 5 lessons from the blog, year 2:
1. Weekly writing takes grit
Carving out time to write each week can be tricky. It can be hard to maintain momentum and keep writing every week - even on weeks.when you're tired and don't have any brilliant post ideas.
Establishing a writing habit was the reason I could post every week. Even so, I didn't get ahead on writing blog posts often, despite my best intentions. Most weeks, I queued up posts Sunday or Monday night (not weeks in advance, which was my goal). Perhaps raising three small children and writing a book have eaten into my blogging time.
Randy had a tougher time keeping to a blogging schedule. He prioritizes his paid work over blogging (for good reason!), so I frequently picked up the slack and posted more often to compensate. Again, my daily writing schedule helped immensely.
2. Have easy content for busy weeks
What is something easy for you to write about? What work can you double dip in? Find something you are doing already that you can use twice.
I learned this in grad school. If you're doing a project already, can you work on portions of it in your classes? Can you write a paper related to it, so that the background research you need to do counts toward the project and also toward a class paper?
For me, this content was book reviews. I'm reading nonfiction books related to everything else we talk about on the Owl already. I often take notes on these books anyway. It isn't a triathlon to turn my notes into blog posts.
3. Building an audience takes time
We are a niche blog; our audience isn't as obvious as, say, a shoe review blog. But that's okay. We expected it from the start. Besides, you need tens of thousands of words of content to build a following and have a presence in search results. It takes time to write that much!
Plus, all that said: I'd be writing anyway. The size of the audience isn't the point.
4. SEO isn't always worth it.
Paying attention to SEO (search engine optimization) may lead to more clicks. But if you give SEO too much power, you'll have bland clickbaity titles, uninspired subtitles, and repetitive content. I make sure we use the right keywords, but I don't sacrifice readability or style for SEO. And I'm happier for it.
5. The more I write, the more ideas I have
And, like last year, the more I write, the more I have to write. I have dozens of posts half-written, ideas jotted down for future perusal and expansion.
Plenty of fodder for the coming year!