I recently published my one hundredth post on this blog. A hundred is both a small and large number when it comes to blogging. It’s small when compared to other blogging luminaries who have been writing twice-weekly posts for over a decade, but large when you consider that 80% of tech blogs haven’t seen the light of a new post in years.
I wasn’t sure that I’d make it this far myself — my previous track record with side-projects isn’t stellar. But there is something about blogging that’s inherently appealing to me, that keeps me coming back for more. Along the way, I’ve learned some things about what it takes to become proficient at blogging and more importantly, I learned a lot about myself. I’ll explore those lessons in this post.
Being a Proficient Blogger
I’ll start with the most important lesson I’ve learned, not only for blogging but life in general: be consistent, have a schedule, stick to it. There are some days where you just won’t feel like it. There are others where you procrastinate for hours. And that’s fine. It’s less about writing a novel every day, and more about contributing every day, even if it’s just a single sentence or paragraph. As Dory, one of the fish from Finding Nemo, would say: just keep swimmin’, just keep swimmin’.
Writing clearly so that others can understand your explanations is hard. Most often, it’s easier to explain something with an image than in words, which is why I’ve learned to rely more on graphics and diagrams of late. I also like to show the same image from multiple perspectives. For example, I might show the networking-related concepts in one image, and in another slice I’d show the application-level concepts. The old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words is definitely true in my book.
There’s a lot more to blogging than just writing clearly. It’s also about figuring out what you need to explain and what you don’t. That’s why I like to use the 80/20 Principle to distill the 20% that my readers need to know to do 80% of what they’re trying to do. In that sense, I don’t show every little detail, just enough so that someone can fill in the blanks.
Finally, figuring out who your target audience is goes a long way to making posts more relevant for your readers. I discovered who I was writing for by writing lots of different types of articles, seeing what I liked, and what was most engaging for my readers. Your target audience can change over time too, either because you want to focus on something else, or you find a niche that you’re particularly good at.
Things I Learned About Myself
My favorite type of posts to work on are introductory articles on a given topic. In fact, the two most popular articles on my blog (Docker for .NET, Onion Architecture and Discover System.Text.Json) are all introductory-style articles. It’s probably not a coincidence that it’s the articles in which I’ve invested the most time.
I also know what types of articles to avoid writing, since I’m not that great at them. I struggle to find clear ways to explain fine details and intricate particularities of a language or framework, so I steer clear of them when possible. Maybe I’ll get better at them with time.
Blogging is the first side project that I’ve stuck with for such a long time — almost three years of two monthly posts. There are many factors at play:
- It’s a structured way for me to learn new things. Whatever the topic, if it peaks my interest, there’s a good chance it’ll be a blog post sooner or later.
- I retain more of what I’ve learned when I blog about it. And if I don’t remember, there’s nothing more satisfying than googling for something and finding your own post.
- It’s a low-friction way to give back to the community that gave me a career that has paid for a house, multiple cars over the years, and more. Even if my post only helps one other person, it’s been worthwhile to spend the time on it.
To The Next 100 And Beyond
My mere one-hundred posts is nothing compared to others. But it doesn’t take away from the fact I’m proud to have made it this far. If nothing else, blogging improved my writing and thought me valuable skills and lessons that transcend software development. I look forward to seeing where the next 100 blog posts take me.