100 days ago, on 16th January, I started a public blogging streak on Twitter. At that point, it had been 232 days since my last post and I was suffering from writer’s block. My goal was not to post every day or even every week, but just to force myself to make some progress towards a post each day by thinking of a topic, bashing out a few points in a Twitter thread, drafting or actually (eventually) posting.
This isn’t my first attempt at an activity streak. I’ve previously written about my 199 Days of Git, and late last year I attempted 100 days of meditation publicly on Twitter to mixed success. In the end, I posted to Twitter on 70 of the 100 days and added 12 posts (including this one) to my blog. Now that it’s come to an end, it’s time to reflect on the experience, so here are my top five lessons learnt.
1. It’s much less intimdating to Tweet than to blog. A Twitter thread doesn’t need a title, a snappy introduction or even a coherent point. I found it was surprisingly easy to bash out ten or so Tweets on a topic which would ultimately form the basis of a post, whilst still giving me a few days to mull it over further, change my mind, think of other points or examples, tweak the framing if necessary, and come up with a title and the introduction (which I always find the hardest parts of blogging). The only downside with starting in Twitter is that you’re forced into 280 character paragraphs, which means you can probably tell from the frequency of paragraph breaks which of my posts started in Twitter.
2. History repeats itself. Over the last 100 days there were several occasions where I referred back to something I had recently posted because the topic came up in conversation, or I experienced another situation just like one I had written about. In each case I was glad that I had recently dived into the topic for my blog, because it meant I had thought something through more clearly than I might have otherwise and could contribute to a conversation better, or because I was able to just refer somebody directly to the post. Maybe it’s just a form of confirmation bias, but I think the same handful of problems do come up over and over again in slightly different forms, and it helps to have your thoughts at the ready.
3. I actually have plenty of ideas for topics. At some point after the last post published before the streak, I started collecting topic ideas in a folder. By the time I started the streak, I had 32 topic ideas. Despite publishing 12 posts and having 5 drafts yet to post, I still have 32 ideas left on my list. It seems that the process of thinking really hard about a topic as required to write a post on it is also a pretty effective process for discovering further topics. If lack of topic ideas is the only thing keeping you from blogging, hit me up and I’ll happily give you some suggestions if it’ll help.
4. Quantity over quality. I used to stress about this a lot, agonising over each topic on my list whether it was truly worthy of its own blog post. I’ve since discovered that it’s really hard to know which topics will turn into interesting posts until you write them. I spent a bit of time during this streak going back through the archives of some of my favourite bloggers and realised that they had a lot of forgettable posts too, which is perfectly okay, because in that heap of posts are some real gems that have stuck with me for years. Jeff Atwood made this point already in his post Quantity Always Trumps Quality.
5. Habits create reinforcing loops. When I wasn’t posting, every day it was easy to think that today wasn’t going to be the day to start. But once you get into the rhythm of posting frequently, this flips completely on its head, and you start to that today shouldn’t be the day to stop. I certainly wasn’t perfect, as evidenced by the fact that I only Tweeted 70 of the 100 days, including 9 consecutive days without a Tweet. But by the end I settled into a weekly cadence of starting a topic on Monday, drafting throughout the week, publishing on Thursday, and then giving myself the weekend off.
So now that the 100 days are up, what’s next? I think I’ll continue more-or-less as I have been, with a Twitter thread at the start of the week followed by a post on Thursdays, just without the pointless Tweets throughout the week saying that I’m still drafting. I still have plenty of topics on my list, and hopefully I continue to find more topics as I think harder about the ones already on my list.