As of this post, I've hit 15 days of blogging!
I've got to give one more shoutout to Jonah Baer for getting me started on this challenge, and a kudos to him for completing his 30 day foray into blogging as well.
When I decided to start a blog I set out with a few specific goals in mind, which I then posted on the blog welcome page. I wanted to:
-Workshop my writing
-Work through some ideas publicly
-As Seth Godin would put it, "Ship it."
These were pretty modest goals, and I think they were bound to get achieved as long as I wrote something. This initial challenge to myself was all about getting words on paper; Focusing on quantity over quality and action over perfection, and in that I'm proud. I even came across this tweet by James Clear (who has already featured heavily on this blog) that reaffirmed to me that I'm thinking about this in the right way:
Doing this 30 day blog challenge is definitely a part of the quantity phase, and I expect to stay in that phase for quite some time. Having to research and write for a post in the same day has given me a great deal of respect for journalists who are able to churn out quality stories as they unravel in real time, it's not easy. At the end of the 30 day challenge, I intend to slow down the pace of writing so that I can delve deeper into topics than a 24 hour research > write > edit > post cycle allows.
All that being said, what I've discovered is how to find quality through quantity. I was definitely under the impression that posting daily meant that my writing would decline over time as I ran out of things to write or as I struggled to keep up with the posting schedule. What I've actually noticed is that the more I write, the better I feel about what I create. Rather than a battery that slowly drains to empty, writing to me has felt like a muscle that's grown stronger with use.
How to Research Anything (and Everything)
Another concept I've been trying to internalize is looking for material everywhere, and it's been slowly changing the way I consume information. I've read James Clear's Atomic Habits twice now, the second time to aid in writing many of the posts for this blog. I quickly realized that a passive reading style doesn't cut it when you're trying to write about what you're taking in, so I began using a system introduced to me by Ryan Holiday called Commonplacing.
Commonplacing has revolutionized the way I read books, articles, and even listen to podcasts. It's a research process used by figures throughout history like philosopher Michel de Montaigne, Napoleon, Ronald Reagan, and Thomas Jefferson. The idea is simple, you create a centralized place to keep the most important ideas you come across. For Montaigne, this was a commonplace book. For Holiday, and what I've been doing, it's an army of 4 x 6 notecards. While I'm thumbing through a book, listening to a podcast, or scrolling through an article, I'm paying close attention for quotes, standout concepts, or anything that I can break out to one of these note cards for later use.
These are the 56 cards I took while reading through Atomic Habits:
I'm just as happy as you are that it created an even rectangle.
They also happen to be the cards I used for writing the blog posts on habits that you'll find elsewhere on the blog. Commonplacing forces me to pay closer attention to what I'm reading, and shortens the gap between research > writing since I've already pulled from the material what was most useful. I've also found it to be a useful way to determine the value of what I'm reading; if an article isn't generating any cards a few hundred words in, then it's probably not worth spending my time on it.
Once the cards are created and the blog post written, they get filed away in a plastic envelope with dividers that I've organized by category: Quotes, Life, Philosophy, and Science to name a few. This allows me to return to these cards for future projects, and shorten the writing process there as well. My ultimate goal with commonplacing is to create a "database" of information I've found useful that I can eventually use to work on larger projects, like books and guest articles. It's also a really useful way to discover what I'm naturally drawn to. Each card acts as a vote for a topic that I can use to narrow down what to write about, and what direction to take my work in.
Why I'm really doing this (again)
That's enough about research, I wanted to close by thanking my readers so far, and any new readers that will come across this post. My underlying goal with doing any type of work is always helping people. I went into VFA because I believe startups are the key to unlocking enough wealth for everyone to live well. I chose Tech Elevator because of their mission to elevate communities through transformative coding training. Finally, I'm writing to this blog in the hopes that even one thing I write makes a difference for someone out there reading. Whether it's starting a good habit, or what to do now that the election's over, or learning more about workout recovery, I hope that you've learned something useful you'll continue on this journey with me as I write the words.
P.S. My goal for the next 15 days is to get better about promoting the blog, expect to see more shout outs about this work in the coming weeks!