What I learned (and didn’t) from a year of blogging

It has been a year since I started blogging. It did not go quite as well as I hoped it would but also not as badly as I was afraid it might. I started full of determination with a clear plan, wrote posts… and then stopped. It took me seven months to start again and since then, I have been writing regularly.

This is a good time to stop, take a deep breath, and look back. Analyse (I am a theoretical physicist, remember?) what I did well and what could have been better. Who knows, other bloggers (whether just starting or more experienced) might find this useful.

  1. Regularity
    It is easier to keep momentum than gain it; it is easier to lose momentum than keep it. It takes no effort to decide to write the next post later. When I momentarily have too much work to do, it seems reasonable to skip writing the next blog post. But if that happens, it becomes more difficult to write it. If I make it my priority to publish a post every week, I will. It is not always easy but it can be done.
  2. Planning and serendipity
    While it is a good idea to have a plan, one should never be too strict about sticking to it. Reacting to current affairs (if they are related to the topic of the blog) is a good way to reach new audiences. And being open to other impulses can inspire upcoming posts.
  3. Learning
    Keeping a blog about science is a constant learning process. I do not write about things that are completely new and unknown to me, of course, but I do need to make sure that everything is factually correct. What’s more, I need to make sure that the topic is understandable to non-physicists. For that, I have to consider several ways to look at a particular problem and pick the one (the ones) that is (or are) the easiest to comprehend. And I can always learn something new from that!
  4. Time
    It takes a lot of time to write a blog post. Writing a thousand words can be done fairly quickly; finding those words is a different matter entirely. A completely new blog post starts with a topic and an outline. I can think about those while doing other things (such as commuting to and from work) but they still need time. Then comes the draft, editing and proofreading. After that, I might need to prepare pictures and only then is a new post ready to be published. Without proper planning, it is impossible to get the next post out on time.
  5. Failure
    Sometimes, blog posts don’t turn out the way I was hoping. Maybe I didn’t have enough time for writing or I chose a difficult topic to write about. That happens. I can’t expect every post (or any post) to be perfect; some are better, some are worse. If I don’t want to write bad blog posts, the best strategy is to not write at all — and that’s not an option. As long as I can figure out what I did wrong and learn from it, everything is good.

Those are things I learned so far. But there are also things I am still struggling with and need to improve:

  1. Organisation
    It happens to me sometimes that I outline a blog post in my head and, before I write the post, I forget how I wanted to structure the argument. Then, I have to try and remember what I wanted to write or, in the worst case, start again from scratch. One way or the other, it costs me time. I need to learn to write these ideas down before they can flee. Or even better, make outlining part of the process of writing a draft, experiment with the outline and choose one that works the best.
  2. Finding time to write
    As I said above, writing a blog post takes time which is sometimes hard to find. There is a way out of this problem (at least partially):  Using any narrow time windows during the day to write. I just have to remember the next time I have few minutes free to take my notebook out (yes, I draft my blog posts by hand) and start writing.
  3. Writing ahead
    So far, I start writing the next post after I published the previous one. Does that sound reasonable? It isn’t, really. It means that I have exactly one week to write the next post. If I had several posts ready, I could occasionally take a little longer to write the next post — or even take a break for a week. Having a buffer is something I can start right away; all I need to do is be a little more strict about writing for the next few weeks and I will surely manage more than a post per week.

These are my experiences with blogging so far. If you also blog, what do you (or did you) struggle with? What helped you solve your problems?

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