A Year of Blogging
At the end of 2013, I made a New Year's resolution to "write more". At the time, the most sensible way to write, to "publish", and to get feedback on my writing was to start a blog - and that's how bitsandbites came about.
Now at the end of 2014, I am amazed to be able to say that I actually kept to this resolution (this is probably the first New Year's resolution I've ever completed...) - this is the 50th post on my blog. To close off the year, I figured it would be fun to retrospect a bit on what happened this year.
Goals relating to this resolution
- Write 50 posts for my blog: Done. Interestingly, I came up with the number 50 only a couple months into the year, after I realized that it was a nice, round number that was both a stretch goal and a reasonable one.
- Publishing once a week (in practice, having a pipeline of at least a couple posts ready to publish at all times): Check, starting when I resolved to aim for 50 posts. There were only a couple weeks when I wrote something just-in-time.
- Adhering to better writing habits: Not really. I had wide ambitions of improving my writing style for this medium, but many of these goals turned out to be harder to track and more costly to adhere to. For example, I wanted to keep posts to < 1,000 words (took way more time to cut down drafts than I thought), be less wordy (sorry readers), and write more clearly (attempted to use Hemingway, but didn't edit as much as I could have). Given that my main goal was the total number of posts for the year, the right incentives weren't there for this sub-goal.
- Covering topics I like: Halfway. I wrote a lot about tech, drawing on own experiences heavily, which was a great way for me to stay mentally involved in that community after I started at business school. However, I had hoped to be able to do more research and thinking about food and restaurants, but I didn't find enough time to do that.
Some of my biggest learnings
Writing takes a lot of time, and it's hard to work it into a habit. I usually only write when I travel, and I also tend to binge write 2 or 3 drafts in one sitting, to add to my pipeline. I have a much, much deeper respect for people who write professionally.
It feels uncomfortable talking about my own opinions. Even though I know the readership of this blog isn't large, there's something a bit intimidating to publish something online and commit myself to an opinion, as strange as that sounds. What if my opinion is wrong? What if the words don't come off the way I want them to? This discomfort is probably a signal that this is an important skill to practice for the future.
It's hard to do research, especially for something like a blog post! It's funny because back in school I used to love research projects, when the prompts were clearer and I knew where to start looking for information. Researching for a blog post, however, is much more free-form, takes way more effort, but feels much more rewarding. I wish I had more time to do it.
Friends are probably too nice to be your editors. My friends are, at least, and they spared me from all the times they probably thought that my writing was complete garbage. Without a wide readership, it's hard to get real feedback on your thoughts or your writing. For something like a personal blog, this probably isn't a big deal, but I wonder how professionals solicit useful feedback that they can trust (i.e. isn't from trolls).
Throughout the year, I've been re-posting my writing to Medium as another distribution channel. The good thing about Medium is that pieces there are more easily discoverable and sharable. Another advantage is that Medium provides some nice, simple analytics on the readership of your posts.
Based on stats from Medium, my most popular posts this year seem to be:
- The "Learning to Code" series (Parts 1, 2, and 3). These were my first three posts, so perhaps I started off too strong and have just been going downhill ever since :)
- My posts reflecting on Wealthfront and Reserve, which were part of my mini-experiment to see what would happen if you tagged the subject of your post when sharing on Twitter. Turns out people (and companies) really like retweeting positive opinions about themselves! (So yes, these being "top posts" is a bit tongue-in-cheek.)
- A comparison of the Ghost, Jekyll and Medium blogging platforms. I think this is also the post that has the highest rankings in Google search results (for given queries), so by proxy I guess this is the most "useful" post. Go figure!
- A reflection on Venmo's Lucas ads. Not sure how this one became a top post to be honest
- A commentary on the biggest weakness of split testing. This was a fun one to write, because it was a topic always on my mind at my last job.
- A post on ibanking vs. startups for a recent college grad, and one on comparing working in ibanking, corporate strategy, and a startup. These were purely based on my own experiences, but my hope was that they would be helpful for people starting off their careers facing similar opportunities as the ones I faced just a few years ago.
Excuse me while I become a bit sentimental.
A lot of my writing occurred when I was in transit. It's incredibly appropriate that I'm writing this last post of the year on the Amtrak Northeast Regional, where so many other posts were written as well. I never understood why trains are so closely linked with writing until I tried the combination myself. There's something about watching the landscapes of America flying by your eyes that's really humbling and hypnotic, elevating you to a more contemplative state of thinking.
There's also something amazing about looking back at a year's worth of posts. A lot has happened this year, and all these posts remind me of how fortunate I am that I have all these opportunities in life. I can't really find the right words to express the appropriate amount of gratitude for this.
And finally, I hope this isn't the end of my blogging. I hope that without a New Year's resolution driving me, I'll still find the time and energy to write. I probably won't be publishing weekly, but the exercise of thinking, learning, and putting words down on (virtual) paper is a worthwhile one that I've come to appreciate more this year. So, this definitely isn't goodbye :).
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