Learnings from writing 31 blog posts in 31 days
A list of my 31 contents, learnings, and next steps after the October Publishing Challenge.
Here we are! October 31st, 2020. I have published 31 pieces of content over 31 days (but not every day, as I'll explain in this post). Since I've neglected Substack (and I'll explain that too), I've decided to post a little recap here and some conclusions about what happened over the month of October.
In September, I was overwhelmed by work and thought I'd never make it through the month. As the genius that I am, I thought that was a great time to commit to posting a new piece of content each day in October.
While I hate myself for it, I've managed to post 31 pieces of content (of varying lengths and qualities) over that period. Here are some conclusions I drew from the challenge.
Writing every day is great
Writing every day gave me the habit of searching for information, of highlighting potentially interesting things, and of keeping a momentum going. I'd wake up thinking "what am I going to write today?", have my eyes open all day to find snippets, and move on.
The first lesson I learned was that it's okay to write about things that many other people have written about before me. Usually, I try to always have an interesting spin on things, a thought process that brings something to the table. But this is hard for two reasons:
Popular topics have already been rehashed so many times it can get really, really hard to find an original take.
It's extra pressure, which means that you'll hold off until you have The Genius Idea, which may work if you're committing to one piece a month, but definitely not to one per day.
When you need to put out 31 pieces of content in 31 days, being original isn't a key focus. I still managed to do so a few times, for instance on my Britney Spears newsletter or my rant on the future of blogs.
A second lesson was that I list ALL the ideas that come to me. Even the worst. On-the-toilet inspiration seems to be the best kind of inspiration. In Obsidian, my text editor (and that's another post that I'm hoping to publish later), I create drafts that have the #articlematerial tag (if they're something I read and might want to talk about) or #article tag (if they're just a general idea that I need to work on by myself). The reflex of listing everything is really helpful when you need to get a lot of ideas over a few weeks! That's something I'll keep doing after the challenge. This tag is in my saved searches, so I can open it once in a while, write something starting from one of the rough ideas, publish it and move on.
On the day to day organization, I had a visual reminder in my Todoist list. Each day, I had a "Publish one piece of content" task that I could check off when that was done. Not only is it very satisfying to check off an item from a to-do list, it also frees your mind (no need to remember writing it) and it's a great visual reminder for those days when you're not into it and everything is hard to write. I had it in my calendar for a while too, but that didn't stick, because it was in the middle of the day and I kept moving the time around to accommodate for work emergencies. Find what's best for you, though.
Sharing also allowed me to build a slightly bigger audience on Mastodon, because people thought my posts were worth discussing and did talk about them with me. That also means that the work is not finished the second you hit "publish" - you're still going to debate, discuss, and implement (or reject) the feedback people send you. It allows for constant improvement, but can be stressful at times too!
Flexibility is key
Flexibility is key. Today, I posted 4 pieces of content. I skipped days 3 times, the most important one being this 3-day desert. And that's okay! I would definitely have given up if I had to actually post every day. There was a day when I didn't even turn my computer on. There were a couple days when I was stressed out by work, or by the second French confinement, one day when I was feeling under the weather. If you're not into posting today, it's fine. Rest is essential, and that's also why it's a 31-day challenge and not a year-round habit (although I'd probably allow myself more cheat days if I was, indeed, making it a year-round habit.)
One thing to note, though, is that a couple of times, I could have written two posts in one day. I didn't, because I wanted to get some rest and take a habit with no "joker" days. While I think it's really useful to do this in general, this month, I wanted to avoid scheduling posts for later. As soon as I was done with one, I published it in its original state. This allowed me to get instant feedback from my readers and to remember when everything came out instead of learning about it through automated social media shares, as is usually the case for my blog posts.
To know more about this, I'd recommend reading Anne-Laure Le Cunff's blog post on flexible consistency, because she writes everything I want to say. You know, usually that would be a blog post soon, but the publishing challenge is over, so I can go back to linking to other people's work!
I've also learned to stop spending time reading things that I don't care about. In fiction, it's always fine to read something just to have a good time, with no implications. But in non-fiction, if something isn't worth talking about, it's probably not worth learning about in the first place either. So during the month of October, I've learned to let go and stop reading three pages in instead of forcing myself to finish an article just because I feel bad giving up.
Cheating? …and my upcoming goals
I wouldn't have done a third of this challenge if I didn't have a huge backlog of reading notes that I never do anything with. This was a great opportunity to filter through my reading log, write good quality notes on each of them instead of a bunch of copy-pasted quotes, translate them to French in many cases, and therefore also organize my brain. That helped, but it was also an easy way out: on some days, I could definitely have put in the work for an original piece of content, and posted a translated summary of some reading I had done instead. Then again, do I need to feel bad? In normal times, it's great: it's content, that I wrote myself still since it's at least summarized and translated, and it's making information accessible to more people than before. That's really all we need. So while I could consider it "cheating", I know it's useful and is still content.
On a more general note: my goal this month was to publish 31 pieces of content. I didn't have any quality or length requirements. During the entire month, I wrote down ideas for detailed guides on a wide range of topics, and didn't write a single one of them because I didn't have time for that. My posts usually range between 300 and 800 words (with the exception of the Substack newsletters!). Now that I'm done with this challenge, I'm hoping to post less often, but actually take care of longer, higher-quality guides that require much more research.
Hope to see you soon with some detailed, high-quality writing!
Have a great day,
The 31 pieces of content
Les femmes et la communauté Super Smash Bros. Melee (radio show)
Women in Smash fireside chat, Eyes Open Conference
Went back on the Cause Commune radio show, no replay
A work-related post
The EU Women of Smash tournament
The NoMenBer wiki (resources to find cultural content created by women and non-binary people)
The Marth page on the LeFrenchMelee wiki
The Shield page on the LeFrenchMelee wiki