I poked my head up a few months back and recorded an interview with John and Nick over at the Nerd Journey podcast. It’s split into episode one and episode two with very detailed show notes and links for easy content consumption. The show is polished and crafted with care; subscribing is recommended.
The past few years have been spent avoiding public appearances as a means to restore balance and wellness in my life. Even though the hosts are friends, they still came prepared with a long and detailed question structure that went through my career history and some other projects. People that prepared rarely waste my time, so they made it very easy to say yes.
There’s a life lesson there, folks: remove the need for someone to say no. After all, don’t we all get joy from helping others? If you’re going to reach out to someone, show that you’re willing to do the work, too.
Nick reached out after the show with a question about how I get from idea to blog post with any regularity. Consider this blog post my answer, along with being a good example of how to find ideas for content. 😉
Like any design, turning writing into something that is automated and consistent requires having a set of functional requirements. I cover the requirements in the sections below.
Select ideas based on what you’re looking to document. That could be a decision you’ve made, something you’ve learned about, a set of emotions or opinions to snapshot your career timeline, or a data point that you want to capture and demonstrate to a future hiring manager. There are no rules.
Don’t sweat the idea farming stage. The readership stakes are low and, honestly, few if any people really care about what you write. At least, that’s how I feel about my own writing. I’m writing for me, primarily, and a few of my peers that I trust with honest feedback. Try that out and see how it fits.
Store ideas in a Kanban style board. I use Todoist:
As long as you’re capturing ideas immediately using a process that is as frictionless as possible, you’re good to go. Writing frequently is more important than fussing over the topic or worrying about what other people think.
Attention must be free from any and all distraction while writing. I use the Pomodoro method with a physical timer, set it for 25 minutes, and then write stuff until it beeps. Take a 5 minute break. Repeat. During that time, all other distractions are disabled, muted, and out of sight. This blog post took me two Pomodoro sessions (thus, 60 minutes) to write and edit.
Time blocking is also quite important. Time for writing must be scheduled on all personal and work calendars and held against conflicts (as much as possible). I randomly sprinkle my schedule with little 1 and 2 hour time blocks wherever space permits using an Outlook Focus Plan available via MyAnalytics (soon to be Viva). Any sort of automation that will block a specific quantity of time with regularity will do.
I personally try to reserve 10 hours a week in focus time, but give way to client priorities when it’s unavoidable. This time is split across numerous writing projects:
- Internal work blog – highest priority, weekly publish (Fridays).
- Python code – the bulk of my time, focusing on serverless code and supporting systems (CI, CD, testing, analytics).
- This blog – lowest priority, but has a 1 hour minimum reservation per week.
I used to care a lot about Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Yoast, and sticking to a consistent publishing schedule. Then I realized that none of that is fun and I don’t want to do it. 🙂 These methods are meant to pander to algorithms, not people. I find a freedom in publishing when the writing looks good enough to publish.
Never publish the first draft. It’s tempting to do so, sometimes, but it’s rarely a great representation of your work. I often let a blog post sit for a few hours or a few days and then come back later to see if I still like what’s there (I never do). Sometimes I do complete re-writes and other times I just make copious edits. As an example, there were 7 revisions to this post before publishing.
There is a joy to this process – to recognize the creativity in writing and feel comfortable assessing the “craftsmanship” of it all. It helps build muscles that make it easier to read content, come up with meaningful and actionable feedback, and get a vibe for what makes your content (and other people’s content) “good.” This has a direct impact when working on content in a professional setting, too.
Another point: you are not the reader; future you is the reader. Get in the habit of writing blog posts that are gifts to the future state of your career, mindset, and knowledge. Check out the Akimbo podcast episode titled White elephants and gifts for more on this.