I did it! With this final writing, I have survived National Blog Posting Month, and successfully posted a blog post a day for the past 30 days. I can hardly believe it myself.
Though I’m nervous about maintaining a steady posting schedule now that the month is over, I’m also exhausted and ready for a break. But I definitely plan to keep up with my blog, on a weekly or twice weekly schedule, and I hope you’ll continue to read (if you’re out there at all).
Before calling the project done and (hopefully) successful, I want to take stock of what I’ve achieved and see what I’ve learned.
Ten Lessons I Learned From NaBloPoMo:
1. Working Under Deadlines: With NaBloPoMo, more so than with NaNoWriMo I think, I’m forced to meet a regular daily deadline. With NaNoWriMo, you have a monthly goal of 50,000 words, but I believe you can break it down into whatever chunks you’d like, so if you miss a day, it’s no big deal. With NaBloPoMo, it’s daily, no matter what, and if you miss one, then you’re not eligible for any potential prizes. I didn’t do it for the prizes, so I don’t care about that so much, but the accountability is important. There were a few posts that I got in just under the wire, at about 11:50 p.m. But knowing that I had to post one a day meant that I needed to hit that publish button every day. I had to write a little faster, and I had to declare something “finished” sooner. That leads me to…
2. Hitting Publish Sooner: Since I knew I had to publish daily, I didn’t have unlimited time to read through that blog post one more time, or double or triple check those items. Yes, I still want to publish something I can be proud of, but I tend to second-guess and worry about everything, and I often want to get someone’s (usually Alex’s) opinion or approval first. With a daily deadline, and a desire to accomplish something in my day other than just a single blog post, I was forced to let it go and send it out into the world without as much worry about it being perfect. It’s good practice for me.
3. SEO Writing: I’ve worked with writing for SEO for some time now, on Reel Life with Jane and Los Angeles magazine for example, but I didn’t have as full an understanding of it as I have now. Working with my own WordPress blog, as opposed to an already established WP site, meant I learned more specifically about it, and about using the plugin WordPress SEO by Yoast. I installed the plugin on my own site and recognized it from working with the other sites, but I paid closer attention to what it means and what it does. I asked myself the important questions: Did I identify the best possible focus key word? Did I incorporate outbound links in my text? Did I mention the keyword enough times in the post? Did I use the keyword in the title and URL? If I didn’t, is that ok, or do I want to fix it? Being aware meant I was more able to use the plugin to get the best possible SEO outcome.
4. Being Focused: A big part of writing with SEO is getting focused. What is your primary subject (ie: your focus keyword)? What point(s) do you really hope to get across in your post? I tend to go off on tangents and mention stories or anecdotes that are slightly related, but mostly not. Doing a blog post a day helped me to focus on the one or two points I want that post to be about, and recognize those tangential paragraphs. I would remove those paragraphs, but place them in a new Word document and save them for another post.
5. Identifying Problems in My Writing: Working closely with my writing on a regular basis allows me to see some of the errors I make. I can identify those things and learn faster how to correct them. Yes, I’d love to work with an editor on things, because it’s always good to have an outside eye peruse your work, but there’s much to be said for identifying these things in your own work. For example:
- Making more definitive, declarative statements
- Editing out extra adjectives or connecting words that don’t add value to the phrase (like “really,” “actually,” “seems like,” “some of,” etc.)
- Speaking in active voice and using more active verbs (like “he ran,” as opposed to “he was running”)
- Limiting the phrases I put in parentheses, which by definition are things that could be omitted
- Knowing when something needs more research or if I should limit it to my opinion or experiences, and stating clearly which of those I’m doing
The more I work with these mistakes, the less frequently I make them.
6. It’s Great to Try New Things: NaBloPoMo by itself is a new thing for me, but I also wanted to use the opportunity to learn some of the skills I didn’t know how to do. A post a day was the perfect excuse to try something new. It was like my own personal blogging class. I created gifs, made a quick video and posted it in the same day, and had a chat with a friend (though that was more for her writing than mine). I tried my hand at writing How To’s, listicles, and hacks, and I wrote about and referred to something someone else wrote or created. There’s still more I want to learn, of course, and things I hadn’t gotten around to, like writing fiction, a quiz or poll, a podcast, an aggregate post (a post that collects other articles on the web), and an infographic (coming soon!), but I’ll still have my blog so there’s more time to do those things. Forcing myself to create daily gave me the courage to try some of these things.
7. It’s OK to Write Short Posts: Part of this revelation comes from my background in academia, where it’s nothing to write a 12-page research paper (well, not nothing). When you’re writing a blog post a day, they can’t all be epic. Mine tend to be, but that also gets exhausting when doing it every day. I definitely needed a break some days, so I wrote something short and quick, usually with a video to accompany it. They’re not quite as short as Melissa Ford’s Microblogging Mondays, but they were a good break. Writing something short is as much a challenge as writing something lengthy. Embrace it.
8. Anything is Fair Game in a Blog Post: This depends a little on what you want your blog to accomplish, or how you want to use it. Yes, if you’re working toward a specific brand or want your blog to offer a particular service, then you should try to keep your posts related to that brand or service. But if it’s just an opportunity for you to write and you want to write about anything, then go for it! You can write about whatever you want. Hopefully your readers will go on the ride with you.
For me, this is valuable to learn. I find myself moving away from the “Geek Adjacent” theme of my blog, but it’s my blog so it can be whatever I want it to be. It’s encouraging to allow myself that freedom.
9. It’s Better to Write Something Than Nothing: Not all of my posts are genius, and that’s ok. Of course, I hope they will be, but it’s fine if they’re not. Having to write a post a day means it’s better to write about something than nothing. You have to put something out there, even if it feels frivolous or navel-gazing. It’s ok. Just do it.
10. I Can’t Keep This Up Forever: At least not without some changes. A daily schedule is quite taxing, especially without proper preparation. I hate to admit that’s how I attacked it, but it is. As I mentioned, I first learned about doing a 30-Day Content Challenge back in August from Josh Coffy, and I kept planning to do it “Soon” (TM). I wanted to aim for the start of a month, and use the week or two ahead to plan for it, but I kept running out of time and not doing the planning stage. When many of my friends (including Alex) decided to do NaNoWriMo, I decided I shouldn’t wait, and that it’d be better to do NaBloPoMo along with them to keep myself accountable. That meant no planning, and just writing things as they came up. There were a couple days where I wrote a post ahead of time and scheduled it, but mostly they were done day by day. But it’s fine; it’s a lot of work, but it’s better to get it done than not. Next time, I’ll try to plan more ahead of time.
I confess, I’m pretty proud of myself for finishing this project, and I definitely learned a lot from it. More than that, I feel the journey is just starting. I’m motivated to keep adding to my blog on a regular basis, and I’m more confident about doing it. Yay Me!
Thanks to you all for coming along with me!
How about you? Did you participate in NaBloPoMo, or NaNoWriMo? Did you finish? What have you learned from the challenge, whether you finished it or not?