I have blogged 500 to 1000 words, every weekday, since March 26, 2015. That spans 387 posts, nearly all of which covered issues of substance. Today, I explain why I do this, how it helps, and what it takes.
I did not set out to blog every day. My first post appeared on a Thursday. I noticed (or got pointers to) news worth dissecting and posted two more times in the next three days. And then it was just a question of how long I could keep it up.
When I was an analyst we had a saying: if you don’t write research, you don’t exist for clients. That’s even more true when you’re an ex-analyst nobody knows about. When I was starting out I had lots of time, only a little consulting work, and a need to become visible. So blogging became my way to do that.
That explains why I blog, but it doesn’t explain why I blog daily.
Daily blogging requires discipline
If I am not moving forward, my thinking is stagnating. For me, blogging is moving forward.
Every morning, every weekday, I think to myself, “What will I write about today and tomorrow?” I try (and usually succeed) in writing something that’s not fluff, that delivers some insight. That means I need to have one or more of the following:
- An insight about writing or thinking, based on past experience.
- An observation based on a question from a reader or client.
- A news item that I can turn into an instructive insight.
- A story from my experience that readers might find interesting.
- A joke or satirical post.
Fortunately, there is so much material every day that I’m rarely lacking in something to write about. Based on the steady rise in traffic, people are generally liking what I create.
When you have this yawning pit of content to fill, you learn that everything is source material. So whenever I read, interact with a client, or talk to my family or friends, a little gremlin in the back of my mind is suggesting that this might be interesting to write about.
Socrates said “the unexamined life is not worth living.” I do not live an unexamined life.
I write because I enjoy it
I write because I love to write. Writing daily challenges my mind and exercises my idea muscles and my language habits. This is fun for me — sometimes thrilling, and sometimes not, but always fun.
If blogging was a chore, I’d never make it. If it’s a chore, the readers can tell, and it fails, and you give up.
You may think I do this for you. I don’t. I do it for me. It reminds me that I am alive and must never stop thinking.
What daily blogging does for me
Daily blogging has paid off. You could probably guess some of these benefits, but not all of them (and many are things I learned along the way, rather than planned).
- You have to have a lot of times at bat to get big hits. Every time I write, I hope I will create something great and popular. When I do, the traffic grows and swells. But after 387 posts, I still cannot tell you which ones will pop. I had no idea ahead of time that my writing tips post would generate 750,000 views. Or that my next most popular posts, with over 20,000 views each, would be about a Donald Trump meme, a letter from Tim Cook, and a county clerk in Kentucky. I promote nearly every post and use what tricks I can to boost traffic, like including graphics, but in the end, I have hit posts because I post frequently and sometimes get lucky.
- Daily blogging builds audience. People subscribe because they see something they like and they buy into the promise of good content every day.
- Daily blogging builds SEO. I don’t blog for SEO, I blog for content. SEO is an afterthought. But the level and popularity of the mass of content I have created has generated some SEO value for me, and 8% of my traffic comes from search engines. Without Bullshit is currently second in a search for writing tips. While it don’t appear in the first page of results for “bullshit,” it does rank on many terms with the word bullshit added, for example, “Marissa Mayer bullshit.” It also ranks on other terms like “Donald Trump People 1998,” which is what people search to verify the Donald Trump meme.
- Daily blogging adds up to a substantial piece of content. When I assembled all the writing posts, I had most of the material for a book. I’ll build my next book the same way.
- Daily blogging creates dialogue. Every post generates questions. Questions generate more posts.
- Daily blogging builds skill. More than anything, writing every day keeps my analytical skills sharp.
- And finally, it gives me a reason to exist. You probably get up and go to work every day, because if you don’t show up, they’ll fire you. You’ve made a commitment and you want to keep it. I get up and blog every day because I’ve made a commitment. It’s part of who I am.
What it takes to blog every day
Should you do this, too? No. You have real work to do — being a daily blogger is almost certainly not who you are. (If you work for Huffington Post or somewhere else where you have to write lots of content, it may be what you do, but it is probably not who you are.)
Unless you are extremely talented at writing, have lots of time outside your regular job, have something interesting and new to say every day, have vast sources of content, and are a little crazy, daily blogging is probably not for you.
If you’re still here, though, and want to do this, perhaps you can learn from how I do it. To blog daily, you need the following:
- A consistent time to write. I write every day from about 7:00 to 8:30. This allows me to post in the morning, which generates more traffic. After I blog, I rest, because it wears me out. At 9:00 I start the rest of my day.
- A vast source of content. Don’t imagine you can be like Seth Godin, who is just freakishly talented and writes interesting stuff from his own brain every day. You need material. I write a lot about news, which generates both material and traffic. Any political and corporate bullshit is fair game, and that’s an endless supply of material. (I’m sort of like a comic: If Trump is elected, I’ll have material forever, but I’m not rooting for that to happen.) I also have over 30 years of work experiences to look back on and share. Dave Winer has a similar source of material and blogs prolifically. If you don’t have a well like this to draw on, you’ll run dry, because you’ll run out of things to say.
- Medium and long-term plans. Some days I wake up and have no idea what I will write. But most days, I’ve got a list of things that I’ve been thinking about and I pick one, assuming there’s no obvious news hook. I bank posts so they can go up when I’m on vacation (and I also write some while I’m on vacation, since I find it enjoyable). And I have ideas about longer content arcs. If you start every day with a blank slate, you’re unlikely to create consistently great content.
- Talent. Unless you write well and fast, forget it. That’s not sufficient by itself, but it’s certainly necessary.
- A cohesive audience. My audience is interested in writing and analytical thinking. What’s yours? The audience makes it worthwhile. It’s pretty hard to blog every day without an audience egging you on. You also need an audience to start with. When I started, I had 19,000 Twitter followers and 1,500 loyal Facebook friends who were likely to be interested in what I had to say.
- An effective platform. My blog platform is easy to use and maintain. If it weren’t, I’d spend my time tinkering with it, and never be able to write so much.
- The discipline to promote and follow up. Blogging isn’t just blogging. You need to promote it on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter; answer and moderate comments, and generally keep the conversation going. That takes time during the day. If you’re a serious blogger, you’ve got to do that.
My philosophy is to do blogging, book and article writing, and consulting, and never have to hire anyone else. I don’t have the goal to grow this into Mashable, or even a small business. I wonder what will happen if my book becomes popular and my speeches and consulting heat up beyond my capacity, but for now, I’m happy in this niche.
And you, my readers, seem pretty happy with it, too. Thanks.