Ups and downs of having a blog

This is an abstract from my book How to Start a Blog

Having a blog is not all fun and games. There are many things that might give you a hard time on your journey.

Realizing this is a first step in the right direction.

Writer’s block

Writer’s block is a thing. I have no general advice on this, and whole books were written on the subject so there’s a lot of better advice out there than what I could come up with.

My solution when it comes to not knowing what to write about is to pick a subject I want to learn, and start learning it in public. Right as I write this, I am learning a completely new thing (Arduino and electronics sensors) while re-discovering the old electronics topics I studied back in school.

I am shooting videos while I learn this thing, and writing blog posts on the topics that are better suited for blog posts (no, I’m not limiting myself to blogging, I also like doing videos).

If a topic is boring to me, I just don’t write about it because if I’m bored writing, I will write a boring article. So I try to write about things I’m interested in and excited about.

Imposter syndrome

Every person, sooner or later, is going to suffer from this thing which we label imposter syndrome. You might have this feeling now, but you don’t know that it has a name attached.

Let me describe some situations where you might find imposter syndrome in the wild.

You are a developer, have no Computer Science degree, and you feel people that have the CS degree know a lot more than you, and you should get one too in order to be called a developer.

You work on a project and you call it a little side project, not a real project, because – you know – it’s just a simple app.

You constantly belittle yourself, and have low confidence in your abilities.

You think other developers know a lot more than you do.

You think someday someone will find out that you are not worth your job position, as you can’t solve the coding interview quiz #423 from a random book.

You think you don’t belong to the coder’s club.

In the case of blogging, you’d like to start blogging but you fear other’s opinions and even think that you can’t add anything new to the table, so you don’t even start.

What’s the solution to this problem?

I don’t know if it applies to you, but when I start to feel this way, I try to put myself in the learner’s shoes. I am not teaching. I am learning in public. Most of the time.

If this is not enough, realize how far you have come from where you started. Look back. There was a day when you could not even figure out how to start the computer. What code even was. You didn’t know you could actually create programs and make the computer do what you want.

Look at you now. You are the best version of yourself and yet you can be perfectly sure that tomorrow you’ll be an even better version. You are improving. Just like your blog posts.

Working in public

Working in public can be nerve-wracking. Well, it is for me. You don’t really know who is watching your work, and what they really think of it.

You’re one step away from an intolerant expert judging your work as not relevant.

And maybe the creator of a library is looking at your tutorial on it, thinking you didn’t get it right.

But looking at the opposite side of the spectrum, by learning in public you are forced to grow.

Step up the game.

You need to put a lot of effort to make your work great in the eyes of a lot of people.

Burnout

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all the things you are doing. Thinking about new content, writing the actual content, writing guest posts, trying to promote the content as much as you can – but without being spammy, and replying to comments and feedback.

This is not unique to blogging, of course. I have seen this even more in the YouTube space. There, it’s even worse to me. You are putting your face and voice in front of a lot of people, instead of just your words and pictures like in a blog post.

My best advice to avoid burnout is to choose a minimalistic approach and to pick a topic that deeply interests you.

If you write about things you are passionate about, you will never have a shortage of things to write about. Your list will be 3 miles long.

Choosing a minimalistic approach means that you have to cut down anything that’s not essential. I do not have comments on my blog. I need to care less about what people think, which has the drawback of creating less community, but also has the positive of causing me less stress.

Also, I do not generally promote the content I write on social media or other outlets, except if it is a special article that I really want to be seen, and I do not usually write guest posts on other blogs.

Such activities can be limited once the blog is up and running and you get a fair share of visits every day. So with the increase of views and stress given by many people looking at your work every day, you get the benefit of focus.

Lower your expectations

If you keep your expectations low, you will never be deluded. Don’t expect your blog to be an overnight success. It will not happen. Just like it does not happen with a YouTube channel or a podcast. It’s hard. Except for some lucky ones, maybe.

This is why blogging about things you are passionate about is beneficial. If you write about things you always wanted to write about, and will even write if no one is reading, then you are on the right track.

Then if success will ever come to you, you’ll be more than ready for it.

Trolls and negative feedback

The Internet can be a wild place, and I am sure I don’t have to explain this to you. When people write comments online, they can be mean. Sometimes. Most of the time they are not.

I do not have comments on my blog directly, but I do receive feedback via email and on Twitter. And on YouTube videos.

And the rare day I get one blog post featured on Reddit or Hacker News, two sites relevant for my content, I get very stressed about looking at comments.

It must be me, and most of the times comments are wildly positive, which is great. But I heard somewhere that our brain is much more receptive to negative feedback, and I can certainly confirm that I remember bad feedback more than positive feedback. It can take 10 positive comments to make up for a single negative one.

I might be over-sensitive but removing comments altogether from my blog removed the handbrake. I do not have to worry if some content does not resonate with people.

I wrote it, it’s like that, I did my best to make sure it’s “correct” to my best judgment, and I am off to the next one.

Your mileage might vary.

Ignore vanity metrics

I have the incredible experience of having enough visitors to be surprised every day of the number of people visiting the blog.

I open Google Analytics at a random point in time during the day and I see the number of people. Then I get back to whatever I was doing. It’s kind of addictive, but also useless.

Does that affect my day? No.

Does that change what I’m going to do next? No.

Same for email subscribers. Does it really matter how many people are on the list? No.

What matters the most is that people resonate with your ideas and learn from your work.

Even if it is just a handful of people.

The rest is useless.

Blogging is lonely

Blogging is lonely, in the same way that writing a book is lonely. Also working in your secret laboratory is lonely. Being a YouTuber is lonely. Being a remote freelancer is lonely.

There’s not much of a solution for this.

Other than accept it, and realize that some people might be more happy to be lonely. I am definitely an introvert and I thrive in a lonely environment, spending days in the silence.

That’s probably why I like blogging.

It takes time

Let’s say it out loud: it’s going to take a lot of time. There is no way that your blog will be an overnight success. It will take many months and possibly years before you will see a rising tide of visitors to your blog. Maybe. If you did it alright.

This is a harsh truth, but it’s one I think is necessary because I don’t want you to believe that success is easy to achieve, and I want to set the right expectations. Time, persistence, showing up every day. This is what it takes, for any kind of success in any kind of activity.

It’s a long game, but one that will eventually give you a lot of satisfaction.

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