Day 100 came, and I didn’t stop. I was having way too much fun.
I’ve since written 110,126 words, enough to fill two nonfiction books. Over 88,106 people have visited my website.
1. Publish it at the blog first, then find new contexts
Make and deliver the work first. If it’s any good, the work will help you create new opportunities. I first put this into practice with Creative Doing, which I published independently before I signed on with my publisher Holloway.
Millions of people would see one of my blog posts, which I republished as a Twitter thread. It led to Dan Runcie asking if I’d like to guest post at his publication Trapital, one of my favorite reads. Ordinarily, I would’ve taken the opposite approach; creating a pitch for a publication like Trapital, and sending it to Dan first. Instead, Dan saw the thread and reached out.
That thread started as a blog post, and I didn’t write it as a thread directly. That process doesn’t work for me. I definitely wouldn’t have written it if I wasn’t practicing writing a blog post every day.
Here are some other places my ideas, which started at my blog, circulated:
- I republished other blog posts, like this one, at Fast Company.
- I even submitted my work to Hacker News, a forum I hold in high esteem, and found it occasionally well received.
- My blog posts shifted modalities; for example this post appears in a session for Ness Labs (which turned into a presentation at Pitch).
- I’d have an assistant republish some of the posts to the 24,000 people who follow my work at Medium; this post earned in the three figures.
At some point, I can totally see these blog posts being bundled together as an essay collection, or serving as material for books I write in the future.
2. Blogging created time and energy
When Seth Godin was asked how many hours he spends each day doing writing or research, he replied, “16 [hours]. I’m not kidding.” (He adds, later in the interview, he spends 15 minutes typing.) Similarly, I discovered a lot more time and energy to write. The practice of blogging every day altered my perspective and provided a place for me to note the observations.
Where I’d previously thought writing was a finishing point—a final presentation of a thought, like my book—blogging made it so that writing also worked as a starting point. Through blogging every day, I could add more depth and inquiry to my observations. Blogging provides an intrinsic source of motivation, which creates energy.
I don’t think to write, I now write to think. By extension, that means I can afford to be less precious about my writing, and I don’t have to make sure I’m right or perfect all the time. If I was wrong, I could update the post, or write another post about it the next day. The goal is to improve understanding.
3. Publishing generates new ideas
Every time I schedule or publish a new post, a new burst of new ideas reveal themselves to me. If I feel like I’m out of ideas, I just publish something short like an excerpt or an image. If you feel like you don’t have any ideas, maybe that trick will work for you too: just publish something quickly. I want to emphasize this: many posts are fewer than 100 words, shorter than a tweet.
I write down these new ideas as they present themselves, so I have a list of over a thousand ideas. If none of those ideas look interesting to me, I source inspiration in my RSS reader, so I can respond to pieces that catch my attention.
The sooner I write after I get an idea, the more excitement and vitality carry over into the writing itself. I’m writing to express enthusiasm first (DIFY), then to demonstrate expertise.
By doing more reading and writing, new ideas come to me; it doesn’t happen the other way around. If you’ve followed my work, you’ll know that this is the premise I put forward in my book Creative Doing (which also features 75 creative prompts, including the two I mentioned earlier).
4. There’s no good time to be self conscious
By blogging every day, there’s no time for me to lie. I could only omit so much of my life before I run out of material to meet the daily deadline. I couldn’t just hide behind a sheen of mystique or a self-inflated pedestal. Blogging means putting my ideas on the screen and showing them to other people.
There’s no time for me to lie to myself, either. I can’t just say, “I’ve been writing since I was 15, I should be recognized for my work.” I start where everybody else starts, and focus on the process.
For many people, actually sitting at a laptop and writing isn’t a challenge. You do it every day when you respond to emails, text friends, and post on social media. The challenge is putting your name on something; to declare, this is what you think. You deserve to put it out there. It’s also doing it by yourself—without the support of a brand association, a co-sign, or a paycheque. To emphasize insight #1, those benefits all come after you release the work, not before.
5. Don’t send your work, publish it
A lot of my best material was stuck inside documents, presentations, and emails that people who didn’t know me couldn’t learn about (like this one). The value those ideas could deliver were limited to the people I sent them to.
Blogging every day helped amplify this value; I didn’t need to keep waiting for gatekeepers to give me validation and permission. For example, this post started as a pitch to Forge. It didn’t fit the publication’s programming (and Medium eventually shut it down), but that doesn’t mean the pitch wasn’t valuable. I developed the pitch into an article and released it at my blog.
I still have a ton of these pitches or drafts sitting around in my storage; the blog is a great place to be able to share it. I highly recommend every client I work with to publish more of their insights, and this blog is the perfect case study to show the best practice in action.
The overlooked value of blogging
The most valuable thing blogging has gifted me: it’s made me happier.
I understand things more clearly. Blogging is flexible enough for me to go beyond 280 characters, and slow enough that I won’t compulsively check my analytics immediately after publishing. I can let go of vanity metrics, and focus on the writing process again. Writing from scratch, directly for social media, wouldn’t be the same. (Maybe I’ll try it for this year’s #the100dayproject!)
As I mentioned, practically, I still find occasions to share my posts or writing on social media or in communities and podcasts. That’s where most people spend time on the internet nowadays. (Eventually, after years of writing consistently, hopefully more people will come straight to my blog.)
However, if you find staying consistent on social media is a challenge for you, or you want a place to develop your craft, I’d highly recommend starting your own blog and practicing every day. An added bonus: Some posts will stand the test of time. A tweet will come and go—even you will forget about it—but blog posts stick around much longer.