30 Days of Writing – Following Up

September comes to a close today and, with it, my 30 days of writing experiment ends. I think now is as good a time as any to take a look back and see how my experiment unfolded.

How Much Did I Write?

In the last 30 days I’ve published 23 posts on this site. Prior to that, I’d published 5 total starting in February of this year. I also published 4 posts on my wife and my family site. Including this retrospective post, I’ll have published 28 posts in 30 days (a little under 1 per day) which is close to my goal.

Some of the posts were longer than others, but I think everything I published is useful in some way to a potential visitor. I don’t know exactly how many words I wrote in the last month because the variance in word count between posts was so high. I had some posts as short as 300 words and some as long as 2,500 words.

What Did I Write About?

Sticking with my original idea for this experiment, most of my posts were business / freelance related. I did write a few technical posts, but the ratio of business to technical posts was almost 4:1.

I found myself writing about my experiences and how I handle different situations more than anything else. I wrote in the first person most of the time while trying to relay a general lesson from what I’ve learned in the past. I’m not sure if I’m comfortable with this style of writing, but I like it better than attempting to address a general “you” when publishing content.

There were some posts in the past 30 days that I am really proud to have written. I think they provide a lot of value to other or I got a lot of personal satisfaction out of sharing the information. Here’s my top five:

  1. My Freelance Story – I love sharing my experiences and I think my story shows that anyone, even those with limited experience, can be successful with a little bit of hard work and luck
  2. Path to Freelance Success: Part 1 and Part 2 – When I presented this to the team I was working with in Sayulita, I knew I’d eventually want to share it with others and I’m glad I finally did
  3. Easy Freelance Financials – It took me a while to figure out how to approach money and my freelance business and I think this post (along with the accompanying Excel Workbook) will help people who are struggling like I was
  4. How to Write a Bug Report – I feel like this post is one that I can put in front of my clients (and others can use as a reference) in order to improve my relationships and business practices
  5. Building the Multiple Featured Images Plugin – I think this is some of the best technical writing I’ve ever done as I took a small enough problem that I could walk through it step by step without skipping much

There were some posts that I wasn’t happy with as I felt I could have gone a lot deeper and provided a bit more guidance. Of the posts I wrote in the last 30 days, I feel like Google AdWords for Freelancers is the one that could have been improved the most by diving deeper into the subject. Perhaps I’ll follow up in the future with some real life examples and a video walkthrough.

Did I Accomplish What I Wanted?

As a reminder, there were three main reasons I did this experiment:

  1. Develop a public voice
  2. Teach others from my experiences
  3. Build a public profile

I feel pretty strongly that I made big strides forward with numbers 1 and 2. I feel more comfortable writing and publishing now than I did before the experiment. I feel like I have a more coherent writing style and have started to develop a public writing voice.

On the second point, I know I helped at least one person because he said so. I can’t really express how grateful I was for that comment because it really buoyed my spirits as I was nearing the end of the experiment.

I’m not sure if I improved my public profile as much as I could have. I didn’t really promote my posts beyond tweeting them to my followers and posting them on Facebook. My social networks are relatively small (especially for someone in tech) so the exposure my content got was pretty minimal. At this point, I’m OK with that and have ideas about how to improve in the future.

What Did I Learn?

Most importantly, I learned that I can still write. I was worried that my prose would be incoherent and schizophrenic because I spend so much time communicating in chunks with my clients rather than writing long form text. That wasn’t the case and I was relieved.

I also found that writing every day is hard, especially when you’re trying to teach or be insightful in some way. There’s multiple steps to the process. First, I have to have a good idea for something to write about and the knowledge to share a meaningful lesson. Then, I write an outline for the post. At this point, I evaluate whether the topic was something I could do justice to in one day. If I can, I move forward on the post. If not, I take a step back and think of something else. Finally, I write, read, edit, read, edit, read, and (finally) publish the post.

I spent a lot more time writing than I expected to. I thought I’d be spending 30-45 minutes on each post. While that was true for a lot of them, some posts took as long as 3-4 hours. I found it hard to gauge which posts would take that much time. Sometimes I’d be in the flow and write a long post with minimal effort and sometimes I’d have to fight to say what I knew I wanted to say.

Finally, I learned that I love writing and teaching and helping people even more than I thought I did. Every day when I published a post, I felt accomplished and really felt like I had done something meaningful. It is and will continue to be a great way to raise my spirits.

What Now?

I’ll still be posting on this blog. My goal for the rest of the year is to write 2 meaningful posts per week on this site. I will most likely be publishing on Tuesday and Friday.

In addition, I’ve started working on an outline and promotional materials for an ebook I’m going to be writing on a subject I’m an expert in. Most of my writing time will be focused on the ebook for the next couple of months as I work to bring my joy of teaching to another arena (and hopefully make a little money doing so).

Finally, I’m going to look for other things that I can commit to spending 30 days doing. I’ve found that the consistent practice, especially on days where I didn’t think I’d have time, has made me a better writer. I’m sure there are a lot of other things I can apply this model to and I’ll be working to discover what’s next.

If you’re interested in producing content and establishing a writing voice, I urge you to take on this challenge yourself. As always, I’m happy to answer any questions in the comments and I always love feedback and criticism.

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