Words on a Page Writings about writing

Calling it a day

The word 'Finish' written on the pavement

This is the last blog post I’ll be publishing in this space. Probably ever.

There are a number of reasons for that, but mainly I’m, in the words of Derek Sivers, giving up something I love. And that something is blogging.

Believe it or not, I love blogging. I’ve been blogging since the early 2000s and have enjoyed it immensely. However, it’s starting to become more of a chore than it should be. Also, blogging (and freelancing in general) hasn’t been working out for me for a while now. I’m finding that the benefits and the rewards of blogging are no longer commensurate with the effort involved.

So, it’s time to turn the page on the blogging chapter of my life. Will I blog again? My crystal ball is cloudy, but I won’t say never again. For now, blogging and I are parting ways.

You’ll be able to find this blog in this spot until January 1, 2018. That’s when the domain expires; I won’t be renewing it. However, all of my blog posts will be available (as Markdown files) on GitLab or GitHub, depending on which service you prefer.

The posts that make up this blog are licensed under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0 license, and will remain that way.

In case you’re wondering, I won’t be giving up writing entirely. For the foreseeable future, much of my written work will be over at Opensource.com. My writing may also pop up elsewhere on the web from time to time. And I have a couple or three books left in me, which I hope to publish by early or mid 2018.

Well, that’s that. Thank you for reading this blog, and its predecessor, over the years. I hope that you found what I wrote to be useful, interesting, and enjoyable.

You need to act

The word 'Success' written in the sand on a beach

A few years ago, I co-organized a blogger’s meetup in Auckland, New Zealand. A new member showed up to one meeting and began telling me and my co-organizer about his blog. He specifically mentioned the large number of daily visits his blog got — a number that many bloggers would kill for.

Then, he asked Why am I not making money from this?

There was a pause, then I asked What are you doing to make money from your blog? That question stopped the conversation dead in its tracks.

If you build a blog, people may come. They may come in a trickle or in waves. Or they might not come at all. But if you do nothing to promote your blog, to find ways to earn money from it then you won’t cultivate an audience that keeps coming back.

The success of your blog is up to you. You need to act. If you want to expand your blog’s readership, you need to make more of the online world aware of your blog. If you want to earn money from your blog, you need to find ways to do that through advertising or sponsorship or selling something that readers want.

That goes for success with other forms of writing, too. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard people complain that the breaks they desperately want don’t come to them, that other writers seem to get all the work. Guess what? Those writers didn’t sit around waiting for gigs or assignments or book contracts to fall into their laps. The world doesn’t work that way.

Those writers put themselves out there. They hustled. They sweated. They made contacts. They sent out a deluge of queries and proposals and pitches. They took chances. They piled up rejection slips. But they stuck to it and made headway.

Unless you do that, the writing success you want will never come your way.

You’ve got to write, apply query, pitch, and then repeat. If you get knocked down by rejection, you need to pick yourself up. You need to walk it off. You need to learn from your mistakes and try again. And again. And again.

As someone once said, the road to overnight success is a long one. Unless you act, unless you start walking down that road you’ll never succeed as a writer.

Would you rather have a blank page or a bad first draft?

Working hard on the first draft

I know which of the two I’d rather have. And it’s a bad first draft.

A bad first draft shows that you’re writing. It shows that you’re not intimdated by the empty page or by the task at hand.

A bad first draft is a start. It’s a base on which you can build a finished product. It shows that you’re serious about your ideas and want to see them through.

A blank page is, literally, nothing. It shows you’ve fallen victim to perfectionism paralysis.

A blank page shows you don’t appreciate your ideas enough to get started, let alone to finish them. It shows that you’re not serious about writing.

A first draft, regardless of its quality, isn’t perfect. It’s not supposed to be perfect. Don’t expect it to be. But you can shape a first draft into something better. You can edit and rewrite a bad first draft to improve it. You can’t do that with a blank page.

Write that first draft. Don’t worry about how good or bad it is. Embrace that first draft and finish what you’re writing.

If you do that, you’ll improve. You’ll be ahead of writers who let the demon of perfectionism stand in their way.

A few links for the end of the week

Typing in a browser's address bar

Editing: the secret to good writing

Editing on paper

If writers were like magicians, I’d probably be blackballed from whatever organization I’d belonged to for what I’m about to write.

After speaking at a conference a few years ago, I was talking to one of the people who attended my session about creating minimalist documentation. Although he wasn’t a writer, he had to create documentation. During our chat, he mentioned that writing was difficult and that he always had a hard time getting what he wanted to say, in the way he wanted to say it, on paper.

I told him that writing is hard, even for people who do it professionally. But the secret of good writing isn’t simply being good with stringing words together. The secret is editing.