Last week marked the 5-year anniversary of shawnblanc.net.
Writing this site has been and continues to be a lot of work and a lot of fun. Thanks to all of you who have stopped by at some point over the past five years and stuck around to continue reading. And thanks to all the members who make it possible for me to write this site every day.
Over the last half-decade I’ve learned a few things which have helped me persevere in my writing and keep the site growing. Here they are as an unordered list.
- Show up every day.
- Give yourself permission to stink.
- As your talent as a writer grows your own perception of your writing will likely stay the same.
- I still get a little bit nervous every time I post anything, even a trivial link. And I think that’s OK because whatever goes on the internet is instantly global and permanent — don’t write something you wouldn’t want your mom or son to read.
- Saying no to opportunities and ideas is very important.
- Go to conferences.
- Build relationships.
- Being Internet Famous is like owning a semi-successful coffee shop on the corner of town. It’s not so much about being popular but rather that you have a sustainable customer base to keep the lights on.
- Always be honest.
- Always be sincere.
- There are a lot of people with similar interests as you. Your honesty about your opinions is what will help set you and your work apart.
- Hold fast to your values and viewpoints.
- Build your website on trust.
- Don’t be rude.
- Attention is far more important than pageviews.
- Sensationalizing your work reaps no worthwhile long-term benefits.
- Take your work seriously.
- Don’t take yourself too seriously.
- Lots of amazing and interesting people have low follower counts on Twitter.
- Go outside.
- Work hard. Really hard. But don’t work nonstop.
- Don’t be embarrassed about trying to make a buck doing what you love.
- Fiddling with your setup is also known as procrastination.
- Inbox Zero means not allowing the incoming to dictate your priorities.
- Send short emails.
- Send shorter emails than that.
- Admit when you’re wrong.
- Never pretend to know more than you actually do.
- An article doesn’t always have to be published the moment after you’ve written the last paragraph.
- Think about it.
- Have an ideal reader.
- Find an editor you trust.
- Don’t use cheap hosting.
- Encourage others.
- Family always comes first.
- Producing a great project requires a lot of time and attention.
- Know your definition of good enough. Make your work great, but know that it won’t be 100-percent perfect and it’s more important to hit publish.
- Give credit to your readers. They’re smart.
- I have never liked the word “blog”.
- You’re not a blogger, you’re a writer.
- Thinking about writing is not the same as writing.
- Reading about writing is not the same as writing.
- Tweeting about writing is not the same as writing.
- Having a conversation about writing is not the same as writing.
- Break those broken workflow habits.
Modern Art: “I could have done that.” “Yeah, but you didn’t.”
Blogging: “I could have written that.” “Yeah, but you didn’t.”
- Trust your gut.
- Take risks.
- Learn something new every day.
I realize much of the above list actually just common-sense life advice. And so if I had to narrow it down to what I consider to be the most important advice I have for writing a successful weblog, it would be consistency and honesty.
Consistency for two reasons: (a) the internet thrives on patterns and regularity; showing up every day lets people know they can rely on you to be there. And (b) even if you’re a talentless dweeb, writing every day will help you become a better writer and a better thinker. And it’s the combination of consistency, talent, and thoughtfulness that will help you to turn your site from hobby into something more.
Honesty is the most important element for building a readership that trusts you. Being honest and sticking to your guns is how you earn the respect and long-term attention of your readership. And that too will help you turn your site from a hobby into something more.