What I learned from achieving a 16 week writing streak

09 April 2020

For 2020, one of my goals was to step outside of my comfort zone and write one blog post per week.

I decided to blog as a way to improve my communication skills, and to force myself to properly understand technical concepts (to the point where I can explain them) instead of just having a vague understanding of how things work.

I'm the kind of person that's good at setting goals, but not very good at actually meeting them. But surprisingly, I have managed to stick with this goal and this week is my 16th week straight of writing blog posts 🎉

Finding a writing process that works for me

For me the golden rule of consistently posting new blogs was to write my blog posts in advance. I would generally have the post done over the weekend, and then hold off on actually posting it until the following Friday.

This process removed some of the stress of writing blog posts for me. I'm the kind of person that tends to procrastinate as deadlines approach, and so writing on the weekend didn't feel as bad, knowing that I had so much time remaining to get the post done! Having this set "weekend time" to write blog posts (usually on a Saturday morning) was also really useful for me in maintaining a writing routine.

I also keep a content calendar, where I keep track of the post drafts I've created and when I'll be releasing them, and try to plan what sort of topics I will be writing about a couple of weeks into the future.

Learning what I struggle with

The more blog posts I have written, the more confidence I feel in my work, but this year hasn't all been smooth sailing. Some weeks I felt like the topic I had chosen had been done to death and were completely obvious things that everybody already knew about, and that I shouldn't bother writing about it because no one would read it.

I try to keep in mind that what I consider to be "obvious" isn't - there would have been a time in the not too distant past when I wouldn't have known about that "obvious" thing either, and so there's always value in my posts for other developers who haven't learnt about that particular topic yet.

Other weeks I would feel anxious about what I would write 2 or 3 weeks into the future, and I would worry about running out of topics. I think there's plenty of stuff that I do know that I can write about, and it's just a matter of discovering what I know that could be worth writing about, but I still can't help but worry sometimes!

Earlier in the year I wrote about blocking notifications on DEV, and this is something I still try and do for my mental health. I know that if I learnt something new and was able to communicate it clearly in a post, that's ultimately the most important thing, and that I shouldn't worry too much about how many likes I got.

How I found topics to write about

There were a number of ways I sourced my topics:

  • New things that I learned at work - either when I didn't know something and had to Google it, or from seeing how my coworkers did certain things in their pull requests
  • Topics that I already knew well (e.g. I had been using styled-components for a long time at work before I blogged about it)
  • Things that I didn't really know properly, but that I thought I should know (e.g. how the connect function works in Redux)
  • Things that I learned from my side projects (such as how to clone items in interact.js)
  • What I learned from reading books (e.g. reading the Pragmatic Programmer)

I would keep a list of these topic ideas, and any notes that I had on things that I learned. With this source of topics, it made it easier to get started with a post, and to have a new topic ready to go each week.

I found that my topics are one of two types - one lets me write more of a "proper" explanatory blog post, while the other is a code snippet for a solution I couldn't easily find the answer to by Googling. I've decided that I wanted only "proper" posts to count towards my 1 post a week goal, which I post on a Friday, and then I post my snippet post (if I have one) sometime during the week.

I learned that I enjoy it

I didn't go into 2020 thinking of myself as a blogger or someone that was capable of writing technical content. I actually thought I would be pretty bad at it, but I decided that nonetheless I wanted to use a growth mindset and write blog posts anyway. I thought that even if they were bad, over time I would improve and I would (hopefully) become not so bad at writing.

Over the past 3 and a bit months I've come to enjoy the process. It's satisfying to be able to create something new and put it out into the world each week, and to know that at least one person out there has gotten value from it. I've also enjoyed being a part of the DEV community, so thanks, DEV! It's funny to think that I originally only signed up for DEV because I saw that dev.to/emma wasn't taken.

What's next?

As of writing this post, the 16 week writing streak badge on my DEV profile hasn't yet appeared, but hopefully it pops up soon! Unfortunately there's no 32 week badge, but I'm planning to keep chugging along with my 1 post a week goal. I think these sorts of streak goals can easily be derailed by life circumstances (COVID-19 has really highlighted how much things can change so quickly) so I won't be too concerned if if I break my streak for one reason or another, but I'd love to hit 52 weeks and write another follow-up post then.

Thanks for reading!


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