Creating content on the internet – 3 notes to self

1. The world does not need your content. But, if you do want to create it and share it, you should.

2. The chances that your content will make you famous, popular, lead to future jobs, untold opportunities and wealth etc., is low. We pay disproportionate attention to the few for whom it works out – better to assume you won’t hit the lottery.

That said, the chances are high that writing regularly will change your perspective and make you better. On a personal level, discipline in synthesizing and writing is one of those wonderful things that doesn’t seem to pay off for the longest time… until it does.

3. A useful mental model to aide your efforts in building that discipline is to write for two people. Write for yourself and one other person you can picture reading it (hi mom!). Once you internalize this, you won’t fret about optimizing every post, analyzing your followers, etc. An additional happiness tip – if you post on social media, check notifications once a day and never check your blog stats.

This is not to say you won’t look around from time to time and wonder what you need to do to build your “brand.” When you do, however, this mental model will remind you of what actually matters – your long term growth – and bring you back home.

(H/T Hunter Walk and Matt Mullenweg for inspiring #1 and #3)

Doing it wrong, relentlessly

Every once a while, I am reminded of  a post from Seth Godin in 2012 – “Doing it wrong, relentlessly.”


Doing it wrong, relentlessly

According to this post by Neil Patel, I blog incorrectly–missing on at least 7 of his twelve rules.

On purpose.

I’m not writing to maximize my SEO or conversion or even my readership. I’m writing to do justice to the things I notice, to the ideas in my head and to the people who choose to read my work.

The interesting lesson: One way to work the system is to work the system. The other way is to refuse to work it.


I remember wading into the comments of the original post and had many thanking Neil for the great advice. After all, as a couple of the comments pointed out – “that’s easy for Seth to say. He has a blog with a few hundred thousand followers after all.”

I’ve reflected on this post a few times. Among the things it has taught me, two stand out.

First, we need to understand what we’re optimizing for. A few years back, I experimented spending a bit more effort publicizing these posts and carefully looking at my page views and analytics. These efforts barely lasted a week. Every aspect of my being seemed to reject it. I learned quickly that I wasn’t interested in optimizing those things. Now, of course, the results would be great to have. :-) I would, of course, love it if these notes resonated with many more people. But, I wasn’t ready to try and maximize it by investing time into self promotion. It just wasn’t/isn’t me. Besides, time is scarce and I’d rather spend the extra time making sure my post for the day is clear and concise.

Second, there is a huge market for easy-to-implement advice. Easy-to-implement advice often assumes certain things about what you are trying to do. Seth’s blog is not remarkable because he writes a certain way or keeps his posts to a certain length. It is remarkable because he’s written, and shared, every single day for more than two decades. That isn’t easy advice as a receiver. It is much easier to be happy with advice that says there are just 12 things you need to do every time you post.

But, as I’ve come to realize, good things are always hidden among the hard things.

what comes easy won't last long and what lasts long won't come easy, blogging, doing it wrong

The ALearningaDay school of blogging

A couple of friends reached out asking for blogging advice in the past couple of weeks. I thought I’d pull together what I’ve learnt after about 7 years of daily posts on this blog. I’m not sure I am expert enough to term this “advice” but here are my 2 cents worth of opinions on this topic. I hope it helps.

Thoughts on the approach
1. Find intrinsic motivation. I tend to believe that the best way to do this is to write for 2 people – yourself and one other person who you know will read your blog (likely your mom). It is important you do this for an intrinsic reason as it is hard to keep commitment otherwise.

2. Expect nothing to happen for 5 years at least. Unless you are a celebrity, it is really hard to gain traction. You might get a viral post or two that give you a few thousand hits if you try hard enough. But, sustained attention is hard earned and takes time.

3. Commit to a regular schedule. Once-in-a-while commitments are generally flimsy and don’t hold. Make it harder to procrastinate by committing to 15 minutes at the start of every day.

4. Write about stuff you care about. It shows. This is assuming you aren’t looking to maximize clicks or make quick money off your blog (I highly doubt there is much to be made in any case). And, it is also assuming you aren’t awesome at faking interest in subjects that you think will appeal to the crowds.

5. Consider using it as an opportunity to think. Writing is thinking. And, the more you do it, the more you’ll be able to think analytically and critically. It is a great opportunity to get better at that. And, growth and learning from writing compounds and snowballs over time.

6. Just ship. Avoid perfect posts. The moment you feel it is good enough, just ship. Your idea of good enough will change over time.

7. Writer’s block is a myth. As Seth Godin says, just write like you talk.. often.

A note on tactics
1. Getting started. Get started on WordPress if you plan on writing a “long form” blog. If you are looking to just do shorter posts and re-blogs, tumblr works well. I hear Medium allows you to create your own blog these days. That is worth checking out – I don’t know enough about it. And, you can always buy your own domain once you are committed.

2. Create a simple marketing approach. I am a horrible blog marketer. So, do take this with a pinch of salt. I just tend to share posts as soon as I post them on my Facebook, Twitter and Google+. I have been told a few times that pro bloggers spend a lot more time promoting content. This approach is driven by the “why” behind this. If page views matter to you, spend time promoting what you write. Or, just write stuff that your existing readers feel compelled to share. Different strokes for different folks.

3. If you are worried about negative feedback, turn comments off. Generally, you’ll have the opposite problem – a complete lack of feedback is the norm. But, if this worries you, comments can always be turned off.

The base rates for blog creation from my experience aren’t great. If I had to think of a 100 friends who’ve started blogs in the past 7 or 8 years, I think there are about 1 or 2 who are still at it. Most blogs die within the first year. So, the commitment doesn’t come easy. But, I tend to think the struggle is worth it. But, hey, I’m clearly biased.

Someone once told me – often we set out to change a situation and then end up finding that it is really the situation that changes us. That sums up how I feel about blogging. This blog has taught me more than I’d ever have imagined..