The First 6 Months Of Blogging – Writing

Post Series: The First 6 Months Of Blogging

During my first 6 months of “serious” blogging I discovered a lot of things about blogging and about myself. In the first post of this series I’ll share what I learned about the blog writing process. This is a rather long post, more than 2500 words, so I suggest you set aside some time to read it comfortably. Keep in mind that this series is targeted towards people who embraced blogging more like a profession or a revenue oriented activity rather than people who blog for relaxation or fun. There’s quite a difference between journaling and blogging.

Posting Speed

During the first 6 months I wrote 106 articles on my blog. For the sake of statistics that accounts to 0,58 posts per day. Here’s the monthly breakdown:

October 2008 – 17 posts
November 2008 – 20 posts
December 2008 – 20 posts
January 2009 – 17 posts
February 2009 – 15 posts
March 2009 – 17 posts

The lowest month was February and the most productive months were November and December. During the first 3 months the enthusiasm level was pretty high and I found it easier to work. But after the first 100 days I had to rely more on self-discipline than on enthusiasm. The motivation was there all the time, but the drive to work is made of more than just enthusiasm. I had to really stick with it. I had to keep a constant flow of work, and here’s why.

Posting speed is one of the key metrics of blogging. Here are some of my thoughts about blog metrics, among other things, if you want to know more about this topic. Based on the posting speed you can actually predict some of your other blog metrics, like traffic and comments and pingbacks. In fact, posting speed was the main metric I wanted to control during the first 6 months.

When I decided to go full time blogging, this was my first and most important commitment: to write at least 15 posts per month, one post every other day, at least 1200 words for every post. That was my number one goal.

And I did this for a number of reasons:

First of all, I think you should to test your limits before going further. You have to know how much you can do. If you’re going to make a business out of it you have to know your production capacities. So, putting myself to some kind of stress period was like prototyping my future activity. Maybe I liked blogging as a hobby but I didn’t really have the resources or the drive to make it a full time activity. Testing it was the best way to find out.

Second, if you’re going to have a blog, you’re going to write, period. This is what a blog is, after all. You really have to make a habit out of this. You have to internalize the habit of writing. There are some other activities you perform as a blogger and we’ll see a little later that your blog is far more than your posts, but you do have to have posts, in the first place.

Third, you have to make it consciously. Like, you know, from a distance. Many people who heard about blogging as a source of revenue assume that if they write their personal impressions, ramblings or rants they’ll be flooded with traffic. It’s not like this. If you’re going to blog for a source of revenue you have to make a clear difference from therapeutical writing and your day to day blogging. Some people are using their blogs as emotional safety valves and expect their readers to be really interested in that. Well, unless you’re already famous, that ain’t gonna happen.

And the last reason was trying something achievable, something realistic. One post every other day is something doable. It’s still a pretty big task for 6 months in a row, but it’s doable. Before that, I had some bad experience with blogging goal setting. Last year, in May, I started a personal challenge called 90 days blog challenge which basically meant that I will write a post per day for the next 90 days. At that time I still had to manage my company and I was still negotiating my exit process. I had so little time and so much to do. And of course, I failed miserably at that challenge, after only 17 days. Even more, I got horribly ill and actually stopped blogging until I finally solved my exit.

The goal was too big. My evaluation of what writing a daily blog post would involve was totally wrong. I wanted to keep a certain level of quality of my posts, but I didn’t had any previous experience with that, so I had to spend a lot more time on that than on things I’m really used to do. I had to tune in, to shift to a new working pace, and all this process was a little foggy for me. So I made some big mistakes.

It’s very important to have a clear focus. The first 6 months of blogging are consuming. They’re consuming your time, your resources, even your money. If you’re doing something else at the same time expect a huge increase in stress. You’ll have to do a lot more than before. So you’re going to either quit your previous job, either make a huge stretch and commit to it.

Once again, this apply to somebody who wants to make a career out of blogging, not to somebody that blogs for pleasure, fun or relaxation.

Blog Comments

Apart from writing, you’re going to do some other tasks as a professional blogger. The most important are: responding to your comments and commenting on other blogs. There is another one which is pretty important too: social networking, but will talk more about that in the second post of this series, the one about Promotion.

In my experience, you have to set up some time to respond to the comments on your blog every day. Sometimes I do it in the moment, if it happens to be around when somebody comments on one of my posts, but most of the time I do it in the morning, when I “empty” all my comments inbox. Answering to the comments is a part of the blogging writing process. As we’ll see a little later, your comments are part of your blog too, not only your posts. So, I had to pay more and more attention to this. I usually try to engage in conversations and to express my point of vue, not just dropping “thank you” notes. Often, these comments lead to new blog post ideas. And most of the time, comments are a terrific added value to the post.

Another activity is commenting on other blogs. In the beginning, I focused on commenting on popular blogs, like those in Alexa’s top 5000, for instance. But I felt a little distance. It wasn’t really my vibe. After a period of searching, 2-3 months after starting to blog for a living, I finally found a series of blogs which I resonated with. Those were personal development blogs, like my own, relatively young and in the same league of traffic. I started to comment on those blogs and ignore the super-stars. Immediately, I started to feel better. I’ll talk more about commenting on other blogs  and traffic in the Promotion post on this series, for now I just wanted to stress that I did a lot of commenting on other blogs, and that is also part of the writing process.

Whenever I comment on other blogs I try to stick to the topic. I seldom put links back to my posts, although this is a widely advertised technique for getting traffic (again, more on that in the Promotion post). I set up some chunks of time every day and check out the blogs in my “network”. And I always put my personal view there, my own personal style and vision. Sometimes this is against the original author vision, but sometimes is also good to agree to disagree. Even if I’m not agreeing with the post author, I still write my comment. Even if it’s a little different, it can still bring value and it propagate my ideas.

Blog Writing Setup

But the main process I’ve finalized during this first 6 months was setting up a blogging setup. As my challenge to write a post every other day advanced I realized that I have to create a scaffold for this. I needed a way to streamline the activity, a way to become more productive. And having a business for more than 10 years was a really important advantage here. I learned a lot about how to improve processes when I used to manage my company, so all I had to do was to apply that.

First of all, I needed a much more comprehensible system for managing my posts. WordPress admin interface is good, but I needed to know more about my overall blog activity: posts categories, advertising activities, etc. So, I created a mind map in which I translated my whole blog. I already wrote about how to put your blog into a mind map. If you want to download the mind map without reading the blog posts, here’s a direct link Put your blog into a mind map (12750). The mind map is in MindManager format, and you can download a free viewer from here. But I highly recommend to read the blog post first.

Second, I needed a way to organize my authoring activities. This was a different step from above. So, I turned my MacJournal into a full blogging setup, with a GTD twist. Basically, the setup allowed me to focus on my next posts and to keep a list of my ideas and drafts in a better way than with WordPress admin interface. At the beginning of those 6 months I never knew what I should write about next. I had to improvise many times. I felt a lack of clarity and I had a sense of confusion. I didn’t even had the notion of draft.

By using a blogging setup I managed to find a place for my drafts, for my ideas and this proved to be a huge advantage. Right now, I spend little or no time in managing my future posts, because the entire activity is more or less on auto pilot. It happens naturally as I go along. In my “next posts” folder I have right now about 50 new ideas and the number grows every week, regardless of the fact that many of those future posts are actually written and published. This allows me to ponder not only the style and the size of my blog posts but gives me an overview of my entire publishing strategy. I can schedule posts based on the overall category distribution, on my partnerships, on whatever I want. I can shape my blog voice in a much more flexible way.

And the final step was to create a wordpress plugin in order to audit my whole blogging activity. This was a little bit complicated, but I really needed a way to improve my self-discipline and to assess my progress. That was after my first 3 months, around December 2008. So, I came up with the idea to write a wordpress plugin which will do exactly that. And I wrote the plugin, tested it, and used it successfully every day. In the final post on this series, that one about the Tools, I will write a little more about it and provide a download link. Right now the plugin is a little bit buggy, although usable. I know it can be hugely improved but for me it proved to be extremely helpful.

***

Those are the “technical” insights from my blog writing activity, but there’s more to that. I intently left to the end some of the most important stuff I learned. Because you can have a perfect setup, a strong strategy and a lot of self discipline, but you can’t really grow as a blogger unless you take into account the following lessons.

Your Blog Is Beyond Your Blog

One of the most important things I’ve learned is that your blog is not made of posts. Is made of much more than that. Your blog is made of your posts, the comments of your blog readers and your comments on other blogs. And even more than that. Keeping a blog is not a matter of writing daily under some domain name. This is only a minor part of this activity. Keeping a successful blog means extending your presence in this endless web of opportunities. Having a blog means telling the world what you want to tell, using a variety of channels. Each of these channels have an importance on its own. And you must be consistent. Writing something on your blog but commenting on other blogs with a different attitude won’t help.

Your blog is your own personality spread along all the social media. Your presence in the world wide web is made of various pieces, distributed on a variety of places. The biggest the distribution, the higher the chances for success and acknowledgement. Be everywhere you can. Be on your blog, be on other blogs, be on twitter, on facebook, on StumbleUpon, be everywhere. And be consistent. Your value is made of the accumulation of all these contributions and your blog will eventually act like a gravity spot: it will eventually attract all the people interested in your personality, all the people who want to hear your voice.

Keeping a “posts only” perspective on your blog is diminisihing and frustrating. As a professional blogger you’re not just writing articles on your blog, this is only the beginning. You must take advantage of all the opportunities around and express your personality everywhere you want.  You can broadcast your message through your posts, to your comments responses and to your comments on other blogs, and to all the social media channels you can access. And that’s much more empowering than keeping it only to your articles. It’s difficult to grasp this in the first few months, but after a while you’ll get used to it. And it feels good, it’s rewarding.

Write Meaningful Stuff

But the most important thing I learned about writing in this first 6 months of blogging was that you should always write meaningful stuff. Write from your own experience, write from your heart, but write with a meaning. Be honest. Give purpose to what you publish each day because your readers need and deserve that.

Your readers are swimming in an ocean of information. Really, they actually do. With each blog they read, with each RSS feed they’re subscribing to, with each social interaction they engage they’re actually trying to stay at the surface. So give them something to cling on, something meaningful, something above the surface, something that will ease their journey. Give them a boat which they can sail, give them something that would make their cruise memorable.

Your readers aren’t there for your pleasure and profit, YOU are there to help them have a better life experience. Don’t make the ocean bigger by compiling common things, rehashing platitudes or copying other blogs. Your readers are already overwhelmed with that. They’re literally sinking into that liquid.

Give them a boat, don’t let them sink.



Running For My Life - from zero to ultramarathoner


The spooky thing about depression is that it sneaks in. There aren’t really trumpets and loud voices announcing: “Hail, hail, this is depression entering the room, all rise!” Nope. It’s slow, silent, creepy. It doesn’t even look like depression. It starts with small isolation thoughts like: “Maybe I shouldn’t get out today, I just don’t feel like going out”. And then it does the same next day. And then the day after that and so on. And then it starts to whisper louder and louder in your ears: “Why would you go outside, you loser? Didn’t have enough yet? Want more people to make fun of how much of a big, fat loser you are?”

And then you start to breath in guilt and shame, instead of air. Every breathe you take is putting more dark thoughts into your body.

Until you get stuck. You can’t move anymore. At all.

If you want to know how I got out of this space, eventually, check out my latest book on Amazon and Kindle.

Running For My Life -from zero to ultramarathoner

Dragos Roua

The guy who started all this. Entrepreneur, ultra-marathoner, tanguero, father and risk taker. I'm blogging here, but I also spend a lot of time in this marvelous space.. You're invited, by the way.

This Post Has 38 Comments

  1. A very well thought out post. I agree fully that content is key, and that too many bloggers just rehash old info. Keep up the good work.

  2. Insightful and helpful. Incidentally, I really began my blogging journey last fall as well. Then in December I started writing for a freelance online group (just at night, keeping my day job). That took some energy away from my “regular” blog, though the online writing site is also a blog of sorts. Now I’m writing in 3 places, but I consider only one to be a true blog. Spread a little thin? Maybe …

    nutuba’s last blog post..DC in a Day

  3. Hello,

    This is a very good resource for me. Right now, I am a more fitting the journalist mode but we have plans of expanding it.

    For me I like learning from the bottom up like in any business plan, knowing how each step works is beneficial and important to the owner.

    I am looking forward to reading and bookmarking your series.
    Keep up the great work and thank you for sharing this.
    Cheers

    BunnygotBlog’s last blog post..Life Is What You Make Of It

  4. This post should be mandatory reading for anyone even considering blogging as a career, especially if you want to focus on the personal development niche. Blogging is not like anything else you have ever done and it’s not what you think it will be either.

    This article is a very accurate and straight forward reality check. If you read and apply the information here you will save yourself a lot of time. I have been a fulltime blogger for over a year and reading this post helped me identify many things I could have done differently. Everything Dragos said here is real. If you are just starting out, do yourself a favor – believe and apply this information.

    The personal development niche is probably the most demanding of all the other fields to blog in. You must be willing to GIVE big time. If you want easy, pick something else. If you want rewarding and you love to give, then be ready make a huge commitment. This is probably the best article I have ever read on bloging and I am going to link to it from my “bloggers page” to help others gain a clearer picture of how it really is.

    Jonathan – Advanced Life Skills’s last blog post..How to Calm Your Inner Critic

  5. That is a very comprehensive analysis of the writing aspect of blogging. This is a great place for beginners to get an idea of what they need to do to get things going.

    ~ Kristi

    Kikolani’s last blog post..A Comprehensive Guide to Using RSS

  6. Well done my friend. I am a 4 month blogger myself and you hit the head on all the nails!

    Jay’s last blog post..The Paradox of Free Will

  7. @Kernunas Thanks 🙂 Glad we agree on the content quality. The main discovery was that the content is spread over various networks, not only my blog.

  8. @nutuba Seems like you got yourself a busy schedule. I don’t know if you’re “”spreading too thin” because we really have different production capacities. You may as well write on 6 sites, not only on 3. What I do know is that you really have some fantastic articles (and those with Aunt Ruth are definitely my favorites 🙂 )

  9. @Jonathan Thanks for the nice words. I do agree that on the self development niche you really have to stretch more than anywhere else. And I’m finding that quite natural, because leading by example is the most effective way to lead. You have to prove that you’re actually practicing what you preach, otherwise your message will just won’t pass through.

  10. @Kikolani Thanks 🙂 I do hope this is useful. These are my experiences, not rehashing other bloggers ideas. I hope they will provide at least some shortcuts for those we consider blogging as a full time activity.

  11. @Jay Wow, only 4 months? Well, you’ve gone pretty far, my friend, in only 4 months. Just keep up the pace 🙂

  12. @Gennice Well, that’s great! You know what they say: from zero to hero 🙂 Keep up to it and just don’t quit 🙂

  13. @BunnygotBlog you certainly have the qualities to go beyond the journalist mode. I think it’s all about your internal goals and how you can fit a more professional blogging career into them. Thanks for your comment :-).

  14. @dragos, what an incredible post! This was fantastic. I’m a 3 month blogger and this is one of the most insightful posts I have ever read about blogging. This is a gold mine of information for people like me. This is the first article of yours I have read, but I am so glad I found this site. I am a loyal reader already. Thank you very much.

    Stephen – Rat Race Trap’s last blog post..Develop the Courage to Take Risks

  15. @Stephen welcome to my blog and thanks for your kind words. I share this because I’ve been through some tough times myself and I learned a lot. It feels good to know that people can actually receive some value out of your experiences. Thanks for being a loyal reader already 🙂

  16. Thanks for this insightful look at blogging. The blogosphere is its own unique space, with its own etiquette, uses and particularities. It can be casual and simple, or purposeful and multi-functional. Great series Dragos!

    Angela’s last blog post..Notes from the Surf XXXV

  17. This is intense. Your authenticity shines through every word you write. This is one long post, but I have read through it without noticing the passing of time. There’s no tiny voice complaining I should be elsewhere. I don’t know about the others, but I find your insights remarkable. Just scanning through this post does not give justice to the real value one can derive from it by reading this from beginning to end.

    That’s a helpful point you raised: habit of writing, therapeutic writing vs. writing that can be useful for your readers.

    And if there’s only one thing I can take away from your post it will have to be putting one’s blog into a mindmap. I’ve heard it all before from a different angle – using mindmaps to generate blog post ideas. But yours is different. It gives one’s a blog a sturdier scaffold and a much coherent voice over the long term.

    Oh, dear. I just have to subscribe now. I have no choice. You’ve backed me up against the wall with this article.

    jan_geronimo’s last blog post..Leaving Behind My Dog Days as a Blogger

  18. Dragos, having had the pleasure of actually spending time with you in person, I have to say this post just adds to the inspiration I’ve received from you.

    I’m 6 months in, myself and, although I consider I’ve created something I’m proud of and is successful, I still have a lot to learn. What I especially picked up here was the importance of having a bigger of my blogging work. I do see beyond the blog as a series of posts, but the big picture is rather cloudy.

    Thank you for continuing to inspire and help me learn.

    Ian Peatey’s last blog post..The secret of love, life and being happy

  19. Hi,

    This is a very good article! I just started my own blog and find your article very inspiring. I only have one problem, I don’t want to make a living out of my blog right now (at least not yet). I write my posts nowhere near the speed that you do, because I have a full time job at the same time. I just hope that speed of posting is not a prerequisite of a successful blog. I guess I will find out!

    Good luck with your blog and keep up the great job!

    Radim

    Radim’s last blog post..Blog Carnival – 1st Edition

  20. Very nicely written, and it seems we have similar philosophies as to writing schedule and style, making sure to put personality into it. I have a less rigid, yet more intensive writing schedule than yours. My goal is to write 300 posts a year, which I did the first year, and I’m on pace for after the first quarter of my second year.

    The best thing WordPress ever did for me was allowing me to pre-publish posts that will show up later on. Works great because I often have multiple ideas at the same time, so now I can just write and post and not worry, and if I get way ahead,… life is easy.

    Good luck, and keep on this great plan.

    Mitch’s last blog post..Top Three Do’s And Don’ts

  21. @tikno I definitely go for quality content and minimalistic site appearance. Content is the thing that attracts people on a regular basis, not design.

  22. I like this: “Don’t make the ocean bigger by compiling common things, rehashing platitudes or copying other blogs.” I’m starting to get sick of all the “15 ways to free up 5 minutes” and “25 ways to be more productive” clogging up my Google Reader. They’re just lists and often written with little attention to adding real value. So – great point! By the way dragos – your blog is one of the few currently on the ‘Required Reading’ list on my site. Thanks for the great content.

    Jon (Say No! to the Office)’s last blog post..Web 2.0 Apps ‘Power User’ Concepts: Introduction

  23. […] It’s made by your posts, comments, your comments on other blogs, your tweets, your stumbles. Make a presence out of your blog, not just a list of […]

  24. This is a very great post Dragos. I enjoyed every word you said. Especially when you pointed out that blogging is more than just posting. It’s about expressing who you are everywhere! That’s an absolutely great thought, and I never thought of it that way.

    And I’d like to add my own thoughts in your last section, summarizing it in this one, “add value”!

    Thanks again. Off to your next post…
    .-= Charlie´s last blog ..4 Habits of an Effective Blogger =-.

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