A Start

All the thoughts

All the thoughts

I’m slightly cheating here.

The first day of Marc’s 30 Day Writing Challenge started when I was sunning myself on a lounger in Morocco (a cheeky 4 day break during Easter) and there was no way that I was motivated to be writing, or indeed thinking, about anything other than when to get another beer.

Well, that’s not strictly true, as it was our last day I did allow myself to start thinking about work again and scribbled a few pages of notes down, stuff that had accumulated over the intervening Easter week, but nothing suitable for publishing.

Anyway, it’s Sunday the 3rd of April and I need to play catch-up, so let’s set some ground rules.

Where will I write?

This one is easy. I already have a blog, so I’ve created a new category and will post everything publicly to that.

What will I write about?

On first glance this is relatively straightforward.

I have an entire section in my personal OneNote dedicated to content production, a page of which has thoughts about things I could write, or as Marc puts it:

Keep a spark file; a single document to keep ideas, thoughts, quotes, or anything you think might be relevant.

Ok, good news that I’m ahead of the curve here, but I’m hesitant to use this list much. Why?

Well, for years I have blogged. Before it was even called blogging. But it was very unstructured. I would post jokes, personal pictures – in my defence this was before Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – and a LOT of technical how-tos.

The latter posts turned out to be very useful as I ended up ranking highly for PHP related subjects which in 2006 when I left my first business and started Siftware meant I was turning work away due to all the Google juice I had.

The problem is that I stopped writing for sometime as I had a crisis of confidence:

  • I lost interest in the technical side
  • I really didn’t like blogging about personal stuff (and yes other networks had now been formed for these types of content)
  • I wasn’t sure who I was writing for

Ultimately, I didn’t know what to write. I eventually solved this internal dilemma by deciding a few things and then archiving out all previous articles into a legacy section and only showing posts that met the following rules on my homepage.

I decided that:

  1. I would write for myself. I wanted the practice, heck I needed the practice. Each post I wrote took days; I would agonise over what to put and how to structure it. The idea being that the more I wrote, the easier it’d become. This has mostly proved to be the case, though more on this below
  2. I would only write for a single perceived audience*: people like me interested in self-improvement or web business related topics
  3. Each post must contain useful and/or actionable content. I have always been conscious of my tendency to refer to myself when writing and rightly or wrongly – I am British after all – this felt self-aggrandising. I now try hard to remove that, but even if I do refer to myself it’s OK as long as it is personal experience directly related to what I’m writing about.

* for the record I don’t like the negative connotations of this word in today’s context. It implies a certain amount of pre-meditated thought about the content, with a marketing spin, and can feel a bit – as our American friends would say – douchey. Well, I’ve gotten over this now. I don’t have a particular personal brand – oops, a bit of bile came up there – agenda, I just want to write, get better at it and – most importantly – share what I’ve learned in the hope that it’ll be helpful to others.

So, this all said, why can’t I start knocking out posts from my list?

I still take too long to write. For something to be useful to others it needs to be researched and structured well. I’m improving on this count but it still takes too long and I want to meet the goals of the course and get the practice in.

For the sake of this course the rules are on pause. I will write about whatever I fancy on a given day. I have lots of work related content to produce, sales copy, email drip campaigns and the like, but just to get the practice in I’ll also write about how I’m feeling that day or about something that may have happened. This should hopefully tone my writing muscles and ultimately improve my ‘real’ output as a result.

What are my goals?

I will write daily, at least 500 words. I will also log how long it took. Aim: 1 hour maximum.

When will I write?

This is also not easy. I’ll probably write about this more but I already have a set morning routine, something that became the foundation for me turning my life around a few years back. I get up early (5:00 to 5:30 am), I think, I journal and I exercise. I have to do all of this before 7am as I then have to get not only myself fed – with decent food , I always cook something from scratch – and dressed but also get three kids out of the door and my youngest dropped off at school.

Mornings are mostly out so I’m going to have to find time elsewhere.

Therefore, I will time block an hour a day, during the work day, except when that’s not possible and if so it’ll have to be after work. This is going to be interesting as another rule I have is no screen time after 9pm!

In summary:

  • Posts go to Bealers.com
  • Subject matter is wide open, whatever takes my fancy (though leaning towards things that will help me at work)
  • Daily posts
  • 500 words minimum
  • 1 hour maximum
  • During the work day or early evenings

Word count 973. Probably took a bit over an hour as I had to go and pick my son up from his school trip half-way through.

This post is one of 30 I wrote daily during April 2016 as part of the 30 Day Writing Challenge.