Starting a blog can feel like a huge undertaking.
You are your own worst critic, and it's tough to find the motivation to put yourself out there in a format like this.
You might feel like you don't have anything worthwhile to share.
Or you may worry that you'll make mistakes, or struggle to find an audience.
The only thing worse than negative feedback is no feedback at all.
Plus, like said: it's really super easy to just do nothing instead.
You can talk yourself out of writing a new blog post 100% of the time, I promise. Netflix is calling my name right now!
So then, starting a blog and making a habit of writing is more about mindset than anything else.
First you have to decide that you are going to do it.
The rest can only follow once you're committed.
Are you in?
Define Your "Why"
Start by asking yourself, why do I want to write?
OK, so you signed up for Hashnode and you're thinking about writing your first post, but you can't come up with any good ideas.
Before you go any further, you need to define your "why."
What do you hope to accomplish as a blogger?
What do you want to get out of this exercise?
When I started my tech blog, I had a few pretty clear reasons in mind:
- to share my journey
- to deepen my knowledge
- to demonstrate my skills
- to find professional opportunities
- to teach/inform others
If you look through my blog archive, you will see that each of my posts fits pretty neatly into one of these categories.
Your reasons may be some combination of the above, or completely different altogether. In any case, I think it's important to get this straight for yourself.
Why is your "why" important?
It helps you to better define your angle, and your tone, and your audience.
This will help you to more easily brainstorm ideas for things to write about.
Telling my story about how I learned to code has helped me connect with amazing people all around the world, and sharing what I've learned has helped me land freelance gigs, speaking deals, and even my new full-time role at Hashnode. (Dreams do come true!)
Solve Your Own Problems
Write the blog post that would've made your life easier if it had existed when you needed it.
As developers, our core skill set revolves around solving problems.
It's all we do, all day.
Somehow, despite our best efforts, things often go wrong in fun and unique new ways.
And the answer to the problem you're having might not be written down anywhere.
So: you could be the person to write it!
And who knows how many other people will be spared the misery you just dealt with, thanks to the solution that you share in blog form?
Seasoned writers will tell you to "write what you know."
If you have a good solution to a problem you recently faced, you should absolutely share it on your blog.
No matter how simple or trivial it might seem to you, I guarantee that someone out there does not yet know this thing that you could share with them.
My most popular blog post, by far, is My Freelancing Workflow, From Cold Leads to Paid Invoices.
I wrote it because I couldn't find comparable information online, and so I had to learn a lot of stuff that I share there the hard way.
I believe this post is as popular as it is because I did a good job of solving a problem that many people face, but few have offered a solution to.
Don't Reinvent the Wheel
Someone else has already done it better. But nobody can do it like you can.
This is one of the most common questions that new writers ask me:
"Is it worth it to write a blog post on a topic that other people have already covered?
My answer: 100% yes, always, without a doubt.
When I wrote A Clueless Newbie's Guide to Headless CMS and the Jamstack, I knew there were already tons of articles out there that cover this topic in great detail. I read quite a few of them while I was writing the post.
But my goal wasn't to create the most unique and original post full of insightful wisdom that nobody had ever thought of before.
I wanted to deepen my knowledge on the subject, help inform others, and also demonstrate my skills while I was looking for a job.
This article came up in the first few job interviews I had in the tech industry.
Did the interviewers care that "it's been done before"?
They were impressed by my communication skills, and by the level of understanding I demonstrated through my writing.
The topic itself was also relevant to the companies/positions I was applying for. That wasn't an accident!
Dozens of people have written fantastic articles that cover all the same ground as mine.
But none of them were written by me, from my unique perspective.
You friends would rather hear you explain something than hear it from any random stranger.
Your audience - and your potential employer, if you're looking for a job - feels the same way!
Turn Off Your Filter
There are no bad ideas, just unclear and/or incomplete ones.
When you're just getting started, I want you to let go of all notions you might have about whether an idea for a blog post is "good" or not.
If you don't have any ideas for things to write about, it's probably because your threshold for what constitutes a good idea is set too high.
Anything you're considering writing about is worthwhile.
What even is a "bad" idea for a blog post, anyway?
I'd say it's one that's either unclear or incomplete.
If the idea is not fully formed in your mind, it will be difficult for you to put it down on paper.
That doesn't necessarily mean you should wait until you've perfected your pitch to start. Sometimes the real meat of a piece won't be uncovered until you've already begun the writing process.
So how do you actually bring clarity to your ideas?
Find Your MVP
What is the "minimum viable" unit of the thing you want to write about?
In the world of tech and startups, we often discuss the concept of an MVP: "minimum viable product."
In order words: what is the bare minimum needed to pull this off? Cut out the bells & whistles, and what are you left with? Can it stand on its own?
This same approach translates well to writing.
When you think in terms of MVP, you'll be forced to whittle down your ideas to just the essential themes and points you want to cover.
Instead: what's the one tip that inspired you to consider writing a blog post?
Write the best damn post you can about that one thing, and you will be much happier with your results.
You Won't Be Satisfied
You will always & forever be your own worst critic.
Y'all, I've been blogging for a Very. Long. Time.
We're talking Livejournal circa 2001 over here.
Thankfully, my writing skills have evolved at least a little bit since my years of angsty teenage oversharing.
I've been paid to write by a dozen or more publications, and I've self-published lots of stuff that I'm very proud of.
But I'm never satisfied.
I always know that I could do better.
When it comes to writing, "done" is always better than "perfect."
If you're unsatisfied with your blog post - good! Great!
That means you care about doing a good job. And if you stick with it, you will get there.
But when you're just beginning, focus on finishing what you start.
The quality you hope for will come with time and persistence.
For now, just get it done.
And then do it again!
I hope this helps you to get into the right mindset for starting your blogging journey!
If you have any questions for me about the writing process, please don't hesitate to ask! I love talking about this stuff. And I can guarantee that your questions will inspire me to write more posts in the future. ;)
This post is dedicated to my friend Julio Molina who inspired me to share my thoughts on this topic. Hopefully if I link to his Hashnode profile here he will finally unlock his blog and write his first post! :)