Every year for the past 5 years, I've started the new year with the fervent goal to write more frequently. As is often the case, enthusiasm is quickly overshadowed by immense self doubt. Despite my best intentions, I'm often left with only a handful of published posts and a smattering of half baked drafts by the end of nearly every one of those years. This year, I decided to give myself a significant head start in my writing goals by writing every day for the entire month of January. To give structure to this content, I themed this project around all things JAMstack and in the spirit of a good pun called it #JAMuary. The goal of this project was to answer questions about the JAMstack, and identify common misunderstandings of a surprisingly elusive term. In the spirit of transparency and openness, I thought I'd share some of my learnings from this project.
- Create a content calendar
- Research all the things
- Plan main ideas of your post the day before
- Short posts > Long posts
- Change tasks when you hit writer's block
- Believe in youself ❇️
When I embarked on my month long journey, I had prepared a content calendar with specific topics to address every single day. The hope in doing this was to break down a rather gargantuan task into manageable, actionable tasks and to remove the anxiety of ambiguity altogether. With a clear plan, I had no choice but to keep to my schedule of writing every day. To prepare for a month full of content, I trawled the internet for all sorts of JAMstack content from talks to blogposts and stack overflow posts. This research helped me get the pulse of the community and seed questions that I could then tackle in my posts.
The process of organizing a content calendar for the month proved to be an iterative one. Throughout the course of the month, I reviewed this calendar and course corrected to make sure my content was specifically addressing the needs and doubts of the community. This sometimes meant changing the topic of a planned post to respond directly to feedback and questions I received from my posts. Thought it threw a wrench to my otherwise perfect plan, it was a great way to engage with the community.
To maximize my chances of completion, I also restricted the length of posts to 1-2 paragraphs. In my opinion, smaller microposts are much easier to write and from a reader's perspective, easier to skim. Because my posts were posed as answers to a question, the shorter length meant I could get to the point quickly and succinctly. To give more context to the question at hand and allow readers to explore ideas further, I chose to include resources as additional reading. This was also a great way for me to highlight the work of so many wonderful folks in the community.
Contrary to what you may be inclined to believe, I have terrible writing habits. As a perfectionist, I frequently agonize over the starting few sentences of a post and spend far longer than I'd like to admit tweaking words and sentences. This bad habit of mine meant that the process of starting posts was an incredibly excruciating one. Thankfully, writing for 31 days has a striking effect on one's stamina and by week 2 (probably closer to 3), I was able to get a post out much faster (~1-2 hours).
Since posts were typically written on the day they were published, I'd start the day with writing and try to finish them before my mid to late morning meetings. Posts were then reviewed in the sliver of time between meetings and published by early afternoon central time. The relevant tweets were then tweeted.
Writing is a pretty focused task that demands significant concentration to follow a thought through to its logical conclusion. Unfortunately, concentration is a scarce resource these days and a strong willpower is necessary to stay on track. In spite of my enthusiasm, there were days when I simply didn't want to write. One strategy I found that worked for me was to get a workout in right when inspiration and motivation hit a low. I'm a pretty active person and exercise helps me sleep better, and cope with stress and anxiety. Even 5 minutes of a HIIT workout is enough to pick my mood up and set me up for a productive day.
A caveat worth noting is that writing marathons are incredibly unsustainable in the long run. When done in short spurts however, i.e. 24 days or 31 days, they are great to establish good writing habits and identify your own writing style and quirks—turns out, I say however a lot. Organizing a theme around the marathon also helps with giving structure to writing and inspiration on what to write and how. They're particularly excellent to deepen knowledge and contend with your own biases with regards to a specific topic.
As crazy as these marathons may seem, I do hope that you'll give it a try. I think you'd be surprised by how much and how well you'll write as a result of it.