2020 lessons of sustainable blogging

2021-01-01 @Blog

To start the new year, I’ll share what has hitherto worked for me in maintaining the blogging practice consistent, motivating and sustainable.

The approach is geared to whoever:

  1. Genuinely likes to write in and of itself
  2. Writes not merely to propagate another outlet
  3. Is not compelled to write to satisfy an external agenda
  4. Wishes to sustain the habit for the long term

Without further ado:

The Strategies

  1. Always be accumulating ideas
  2. Start with simple bullets
  3. Don’t sacrifice character
  4. Don’t become obsessed with scope
  5. Don’t fear breadth
  6. Simplify the URL structure
  7. Cater the process to your intrinsic taste
  8. Avoid ephemeral writing
  9. Focus on the content

Always be accumulating ideas

Wherever you find yourself, have the means to quickly jot down thoughts, ideas, remarks and notes of any kind. I always preach paper and carry a set of binder-clip held index cards or leaflets, many with particular content, some blank.

Beyond being a strong proponent for the simplest tools and the postponement of the digital until necessary, the organic paper interaction seems to generally yield more creative output.

Start with simple bullets

Once you’ve conceptualized a topic for writing, initiate with a draft of main bullet points, preferably on paper. The approach enables you to abstract content from the rhetoric, lest the two should fiendishly intermingle and cloud your output.

This simple routine has consistently given incredible momentum to all my writing, from short and seemingly straightforward fragments to elaborate essays.

Don’t sacrifice character

… even if it leads you to violate certain best practices.

In terms of blogging in the strictest sense, all sorts of best practices exist: type of rhetoric, word usage, paragraph length, content type, media usage, references, section divisions, etc …

Following some practices will increase readership at no cost to you. Others, should you follow them, may incur an intrinsic cost.

Determine what’s important to you. For once you begin to write in ways that feel inauthentic or incongruent with your nature, the practice will begin to daunt and oppose our goal of sustainability.

Don’t become obsessed with scope

I’ve a tendency to write lengthy content, to ever elaborate, to comment, to deviate, and to explore too much territory for one publishing; in other words, to produce an essay.

This often leads to dead ends or obstacles. Sometimes it overwhelms.

It’s okay to simplify, to divide a larger publishing into multiple smaller, compact compositions. It’s especially okay for a blog!

And whenever you do produce enough disparate material that feels plausible for synthesis in a longer, cohesive publishing (an essay, or even a book), nothing prevents you from taking the respective measure.

Remember, this being your blog, you’re free to amend, combine, split, burn and recycle your writing however you deem fit.

Don’t fear breadth

That is, don’t mind exploring as many topics as fascinate you.

Some bloggers focus on one niche. Others diversify and explore wide territory. I’m of the latter type.

Both approaches are fine. I personally don’t deem it necessary to segregate content across different sites or outlets.

But do make your writing fairly intuitive for the readers (and yourself) to navigate and filter through categories, tags, menus and what not.

Simplify the URL structure

This is probably the only strictly technical piece of advice I’ll offer. Keep your URL structure simple and ideally consistent.

There isn’t one established method. Take your pick:

No need for anything more elaborate. The simpler the structure, the easier to manage. Search engines also seem to prefer the simpler URLs, if you at all care for SEO.

My URLs, regretfully, have not proven entirely consistent. I’ve taken measures to simplify the matter after the fact, moving content around, creating 301 redirects, etc. But better avoid the daunting labor from the start.

Cater the process to your intrinsic taste

Any activity to which I devote substantial time, I place nearly as much emphasis on how I carry out the task as the task itself. And that extends to aesthetic value.

My major motivating force behind writing concerns the pleasure I derive out of the very process:

If (for some cosmic reason) an external force compelled me to use WordPress or some SaaS framework, or Google Docs, or server side scripting, or render a web site that resembles most informational web sites, not only would the prospect seem horridly unpleasant, but I would simply abandon it and find other means to carry out a more authentic form of existence.

Now certain evidence causes me to believe that most out there don’t even consider the tools they use to bear such strong aesthetic and motivational impact in the workflow.

I remain uncertain whether that’s indeed the case or if they merely have not explored that echelon of their conciousness in sufficient detail.

(Certés, in spite the overwhelming evidence in favour of images and photographs for increasing readership, to this day I remain extremely adamant to appeal to this medium. And that largely stems from my disinterest in working with graphics. Not to mention that I heavily prefer prose and descriptive language to a picture. It’s all interconnected.)

Avoid ephemeral writing

I almost subconsciously apply a heuristic in deciding whether I shall write and publish on the blog:

Would it be of interest to me two years hence?

The interest need concern either the topic itself, how I chose to write about the topic, or something pertaining to the writing that I suspect should still hold the interest in due time.

Exceptions are made on occasion with small, purely technical updates. And even there I might strive for a staple of humour, some broader lesson, or to otherwise endow the piece with a longer lifespan, no matter how incidental.

Focus on the content

Ultimately, it is in the words written and the language employed that I reap most satisfaction. Thus I prioritize that time investment over any other web-site or publishing factor.

Questions, comments? Connect.