I woke up this morning and realized that I’ve been blogging on a weekly basis for over a year.
When the notion struck, and after my first Nescafe, I started to think about lessons learned (as one does). Very quickly, I distracted myself with other things because a reflection piece was not of interest to me today.
But I have a streak to keep in tact. It’s Thursday after all.
Read on for lessons learned. (Scroll down for a while if you’re eager for the takeaways).
First: A long-winded intro that circles back to the theme eventually. Per usual.
The idea of pursuing writing or of becoming “a writer” has been brewing for several years.
Last February, I began to put pen to paper while in Budapest. This was the second leg of my Eastern European Trip, Pt. 1 (Act 2): The Prelude, and I had determined that a month in Hungary’s capital city would be the perfect place for a “writing” sojourn. The vision in my head was myopically poetic.
I imagined frantic notebook scrawling in cafes during the morning and long soaks in thermal baths in the evening. There would be walks in between and plenty of goulash sampled on my traipsing through the city (or whatever it is they ate in Hungary). I also kind of hoped I’d become an alcoholic, because that seems to be a thing good writers have in common.
The script didn’t go as theoretically conceived (for one, the beer wasn’t very good there). But, I did write (poems and essays mostly), and more importantly, I began to believe it was possible.
Life progressed and the idea of giving a go at “writing” niggled it’s way irreparably into the depths of my brain. Like a parasite that couldn’t be satiated.
(Which is probably necessary because writers don’t make a whole lot–outside of the power-law-few anyways–and you likely need to be slightly delusional / intrinsically motivated to pursue such a fool’s errand. But hey, at least I’m not a poet.)
Come November (2018), I committed to posting at least one article per week on this blog.
There were several reasons for this:
- The main aim was simple: To write more.
- I needed to start somewhere, and you only get better at writing through the act of writing.
- It was a schedule that I could stick to, and I wanted to prove to myself that I could be dedicated to a craft.
So I began, and the weekly streak is alive. Onto the lessons learned.
You never really know what’s going to catch fire.
This goes for what you like to write about, and for what gets page views. If I’m being honest, I was banging my head against a wall for a longtime trying to figure out what I wanted to write.
I actually enjoy creating poetry, but that wasn’t going to further the cause of becoming a writer. My early essays and observational travel pieces felt a bit flat to me then, and read that way to me now. Upon reflection, I know that it’s because they lacked a certain essence or deep-rooted interest for me (poet alert!: He said, “essence”).
For whatever the hell reason, climbing has been the muse that’s really launched things in a new direction: It’s personally intriguing to me, I see plenty of potential to tell different kinds of stories, and I actually get paid to write about it.
The takeaway here is: You need to start writing, try a bunch of shit, and hope to God you come across something that tickles your pickle.
As for page views…
Give the people what they want. (Sort of).
No one really cares about my broken heart.
So I’ve been told on a few occasions. But they love climbing related shit. Like The Coolest Climbing Festivals in Europe that has been far and away the most popular post, and continues to brings in consistent organic traffic each month.
Additionally, distribution matters a lot more than the content.
Every post that’s brought in high volumes of traffic (note: It’s all small-small numbers) has been shared by others through social media.
This is because the readership on the blog is somewhat contained (mostly friends and family–thanks for reading!–and people who subscribe). The only way for articles to spread to the wider world is when I beta spray and post them around, or other people do.
For people to share, it has to be of value to them. Things like informational pieces, destination guides, how to’s, etc. lend themselves more to spraying.
Growing the readership and “creating a brand” haven’t been the priority so far as I just wanted to focus on “writing” and “finding my voice.” I’m not sure if I’ll try to do more with this blog, I kind of like the liberty to talk about whatever.
It’s fun. It’s creative. It makes people more likely to talk to you.
By far the coolest part of this is that people are open to chatting with you.
It’s like getting a license to reach out to whomever and ask all sorts of questions you would normally be too modest to ask of your friends.
As a result, you get to help share stories about people who aren’t typically covered. Oftentimes these folk are inspiring, relatable, kind… and doing really cool shit!
Through this process I’ve flexed my journalism muscles (which I’ve found I quite like), experimented with markety-type content, bared my heart (take that, haters!), and played with a variety of other forms of writing.
It’s changed my life.
Not to be dramatic about it…
If you had asked me last year if I thought I would be able to make a living through writing in 2019, my answer would be emphatically, “No way, dude!” Quickly followed by, “But like, that’d be really cool!”
And now here I am in Queretaro, Mexico getting paid to put words into 1’s and 0’s across the interwebs.
A lot can happen in a year, apparently. Such as it is.
To be clear, it wasn’t the blog all on its own. Rather, it’s been the process of writing, learning that this is something I can do, and then going out and doing it (plus some luck). Still, the blog has played an important role.
There you have it, some begrudging lessons learned from this past year.
“Onwards and upwards!,” as one of my former bosses liked to say.