This is it. A milestone event for this blog. Post #100. Today’s post is a recap on what worked and didn’t, but more importantly, it’s a testament to the power of passion projects. If you’re wondering whether your bucket list items/someday goals are worth spending time on, the answer is a resounding YES.
Hear me out.
I can only describe my blogging journey through an overused but all-too-familiar analogy. It has been a marathon, not a sprint. And like how I run my marathons, I’ve gotten to the century-mark, not with a bang, but rather a slow, albeit, satisfying slog.
Through these hundred posts, I have made many mistakes and learned so much, not just about writing but also about the very subject of these posts—self-improvement, wellness, and productivity.
I started this blog, Partably a couple of years ago. A bit of a late start for a blog, for sure. Well, about fifteen years late, if the experts are to be believed. “The blog market is beyond saturated, and the world has moved on to other media,” they said. The consensus was that I should be delivering content in 30-second sound bites. No one has the time to read 2000+-word posts.
Fair enough. But I figured I’d give the hackneyed format a go. After all, what did I have to lose? A few hours a week seemed to be worth the experiment. Plus, I really didn’t, and still don’t, have the skills (or, to be honest, the desire) to TikTok, Instagram, or podcast my message away. A message, by the way, that I’m passionate about—self-improvement and productivity.
Why a personal growth blog?
Well, who doesn’t love to give advice? And unlike the almost immediate feedback I get from my teenager on why none of the advice would work, putting out self-improvement and productivity posts for others (not family) to read (or not read) at their leisure is easier on the soul.
Kidding aside, I have found inspiration in many places over the years, but mostly in the written word. Not every book or article I’ve read has motivated me, but the ones that struck have left a lasting impression and life-changing impact.
Partably.com is my way of paying it forward.
I hope that, in these posts, there is at least a little nugget—a word, a thought, an idea, to inspire you to take action.
Selfishly, also, these posts are a way to help clarify concepts in my own head. Writing goes where reading doesn’t: If you want to know, read. If you want to understand, write.
And so, I wrote. In the process, I learned a lot. Not just about writing.
Here are ten lessons I learned over the course of writing these hundred posts. These are not writing lessons.
They are universal in nature—equally applicable to you whether you want to start a new hobby, YouTube channel, diet or exercise program, or a new business.
Cliché alert: I apologize for the many clichés that will fill the next few paragraphs. Mainly because they are true. Sometimes you do have to state the obvious.
1. Start. Already.
Are you thinking, “If one more person says the best time to start was yesterday, next best time is now, I’ll lose my mind?” Sorry, but it’s true. The best time to start is now.
Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance ― Steven Pressfield
I could have started the blog fifteen years ago. But the fact is I didn’t. It would have been less competitive/novel, easier even, and perhaps more interesting to readers (given the dearth of online content then). But I was waiting to learn more before dipping my toes into the pool of blogging. And here we are, almost a couple of decades later.
All my thinking and strategizing for fifteen years didn’t prepare me for when I actually started. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that pretty much the entire learning happened AFTER I began.
Lesson: Don’t wait to perfect your research, proposal, or whatever the heck it is you are waiting for. Start now.
2. Commit. To yourself.
A weekly publishing schedule seemed like the Goldilocks zone—not too frequent, and at the same time, not too stressful. I told myself I’d put out a post at least once a week on Fridays.
And then I acted like the schedule was set in stone. Sure enough, it got me to a hundred posts.
I won’t lie. It wasn’t easy. I stressed about this arbitrary deadline quite a bit, especially initially as I tried to determine my writing cadence. There were also times when I genuinely got super busy and other moments when I simply didn’t feel like writing.
But I did.
No one held a gun to my head and made me write. Truth be told, no one was (is) dying to read what I had written, either. So, why the hoopla?
Because that’s how commitments work. They build character. Following through on promises you make, especially to yourself, is the best way to master self-doubt. And who among us hasn’t doubted ourselves?
Lesson: Commit to a schedule. And stick to it. Come hell or high water.
3. Teach an old dog new tricks? Can do.
When I started the blog, I knew nothing about how blogs work, let alone build or host a website. The only hosting I was familiar with involved friends/family coming over to stay.
The learning curve was steep. And slippery. And I hate climbing.
Granted, I may have needed something explained to me more than once. And unlike my student days, the light bulbs in my head just didn’t go off on command. They flickered. A lot. But that’s okay. No one was watching, and no one cared about my learning pace.
I consider it a minor miracle to not only have the website up 24/7 but to have found ways to attract actual strangers to the blog, thanks to the power of search engine optimization (SEO), a concept I didn’t even know existed up until a year ago.
Here’s the thing:
We’re almost a quarter way into the twenty-first century. If you can search for cat videos, you can just as easily search for tutorials on how to do whatever it is you’re trying to do. Whether it’s learning “how to tie a tie,” “how to destroy a psychopath,” or worse, “how to become a psychopath.” (Note: Explore at your own risk.)
Lesson: Everything you need to know is out there. It’s just a matter of ignoring the noise and focusing on the signal. It’s never too late to learn.
4. Practice makes you less-lousy
During the first few weeks (maybe months), my writing process was excruciatingly slow and poor. I still find some articles, especially early ones, quite cringeworthy. And, it would literally take me hours to go from a concept to a structured post.
But then, magically, the time it took for me to go through drafts got shorter. I’m far from writing clean drafts, but the process from start to finish is most definitely quicker than it was when I started.
As a non-native English speaker and someone with no formal writing training, I’m amazed at the progress in this short time, even if I say so myself. No credit to me. All credit to the process. Practice hasn’t made me perfect, but it has undoubtedly made me less shoddy.
Lesson: Consistent practice has this amazing ability to make even the most laborious and daunting tasks seem more manageable. All you need is time and consistency.
5. Inspiration doesn’t come knocking. You have to find it.
Before I started the blog, I was worried about finding the time to write, locating my voice, mastering technical aspects, identifying and reaching an audience, etc. One thing I was NOT concerned about was content/subject.
I assumed the ideas would just find me when I needed them. Dead wrong!
Contrary to my expectations, I wasn’t flooded with ideas. Yes, I had the occasional 3 a.m. Eureka moment, but I soon learned I needed to plan out a content calendar, so I wasn’t left scrambling close to the deadline. This meant intentionally thinking, searching, and seeking out ideas. Equally important was to document these ideas, so I didn’t just forget about them.
Whether it’s a blog post, a new business, or a weekend dinner party, it’s essential to set aside time to plan on what you’d be creating. Planning is as much a part of the creative process as execution is.
Lesson: Your motto should be ABT —Always be thinking (actively or subconsciously) about the project.
6. Don’t try to please all
I think pizza is over-rated. But my five-year-old niece thinks a slice of cheese pizza is the bee’s knees of food.
We differ in what we like. And thank goodness for that. Imagine how drab life would be if everyone thought the same way.
Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. How often have you called something spectacular, only for a friend or family member to scoff at it?
It is hard to create something universally appealing. It did not take long for me to learn this lesson. I stopped being surprised when a post would trigger genuine interest and feedback from some readers but crickets from others. To each her own.
While it’s important to have an avatar in your mind of who your audience/end-user is (even if it’s yourself), trying to please all is a road to nowhere. The person who’d end up most displeased in this situation would be you.
Lesson: Be authentic.
7. Your passion project. Not theirs.
Following on from above, set reasonable expectations, or better yet, set no expectations for your creative endeavors.
Yes, we are all too human, and whether we admit it or not, we like to be liked. Especially so for our creative pursuits. However, putting your work out on social media or any other platform and constantly refreshing the screen to see if the “Likes” are rolling in is an enormous waste of time and energy. Wonder how I know?!
I may spend hours writing a blog post, or you may spend hours creating artwork, developing an app, or knitting a sweater. But when it's done, let's move on. The only benefit to waiting with bated breath for the kudos to kick in is potentially increased lung capacity.
Lesson: People are too busy chasing their own passion projects to care much about ours. So, let’s be grateful for the times they indulge us instead of beating ourselves up when we feel ignored.
To borrow (and twist) a famous breakup line, “It’s not you, it’s them.”
That said, it’s vital to build an audience.
8. Build and they will come? Not quite.
I’ll be honest. Of all the things about writing and publishing, my least favorite part is promoting my work. The very thought of asking someone to read what I write makes me squirm like a worm. Sure, psycho-babble will tell you there’s a degree of impostor syndrome hidden there. Still, I speak for most of us; it’s not much fun to be tooting your own horn constantly.
But the reality is that writing to the void isn’t much fun either. It can get old pretty fast. Ultimately, yes, if you have a compelling product/service, you’ll get noticed and won’t have to force your way to an audience. Typically, though, it takes time (and luck) to build a groundswell of loyal followers. Until then, it’s your job to both build and drive traffic to your building.
Lesson: Most creative endeavors start as personal passion projects. It’s okay if you’re doing it only to please yourself. But if you are hoping to reach an audience or a customer eventually, then better get used to the M word. Marketing.
9. The best kind of dogs? Underdogs.
Sorry dog owners.
I had no templates to follow or boxes to fit into when I started. The beginning was hard. But an empty slate and creative freedom are two sides of the same coin. Sure, I made (and still make) plenty of mistakes along the way. But like war wounds, those are defining features and have shaped me into who I’ve become.
There’s something to be said for being a no-name underdog when you get started. Yes, you have no credibility and possibly no audience. But you also have no rules to follow and nothing to prove. What could be better than being able to chart your own course?
Lesson: Enjoy being the underdog. You have nothing to lose.
10. Pay it forward.
Any creative pursuit aims to evoke happiness and positive emotions. There is no greater reward than when someone reaches out to you to say your work made a difference to their day, however small.
I’m humbled and extremely grateful for the many encouraging words I’ve heard through my blogging journey. Just knowing there are supportive friends and family who have my back is a gift in itself.
But like chain emails*, the positivity needs to be shared. (*For the record: I’m not advocating sharing chain emails. Believe me; no one will die!)
I try to leave a thoughtful comment when I read or see something that moves me. And hopefully, the ripple effect will carry it through.
Lesson: Be nice. It is free. And underrated.
Who’d have thought writing blog posts could lead to an exciting journey of self-discovery? Not me. But that’s exactly what these last couple of years have been for me.
I’m forever grateful to my friends and family, who have indulged me along the way. For my part, I hope I’ve been able to, if not inspire, at least poke and prod all readers towards bigger and better things.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep. I have miles to go before I sleep - Robert Frost