Say it with me! One more blog! One more blog! ONE MORE BLOG! That’s right. This blog is number 39, which means that it’s the penultimate blog of my #40days40blogs challenge! It’s been a bit of a roller coaster ride, but here is what I have learnt from writing 40 blogs in 40 days…
1. 40 is a really, really, really large number.
OK, duh. But, writing my first post about committing myself to this challenge and creating a cute little hashtag for myself made #40days40blogs seem like a great idea at the time. I’d given up chocolate for Lent before and it was fine. 40 days is long, but it’s doable, right?
Skip forward a couple of weeks and I’m realising that writing 40 blogs in 40 days means dedicating three or more hours every day to writing a decent post (and it’s mostly more). That’s a minimum of 120 hours. That’s at least five whole days I’ve spent on WordPress.
2. It’s always the ones you least expect…
I decided early on to split the types of posts into ‘long posts’ (in-depth discussions) and ‘fluffy posts’ (listicles and photo-heavy blog entries). This way, some days I would be writing more and others less, so I would save myself some time, right?
Oh, Amy, your naivety knows no bounds. First of all, all posts require thinking, planning, writing, drafting, re-drafting, publishing and sharing on social media. Sometimes, I would get inspired and free-write a whole long post in one go. Other times, sourcing pictures took a whole fucking day.
3. Everyone will offer help, but few will give it.
I had no intention of going it alone. Before I even started, I reached out to blogging communities online asking for guest posts and contributions to collaboration posts. Many responded saying they were interested and I felt content in the knowledge that I would have plenty of content.
However, I wildly overestimated how many of these people would follow through. I spent a lot of time chasing up, but many people ignored my messages, gave excuses (some valid, others not) or in a few rare cases, strung me along for weeks on end before trailing off into silence.
That being said, I am immensely grateful for those who did indeed contribute. The two guest posts by Stephanie Fox and Sarah Tamsin were absolute lifesavers when I desperately needed a break. And a big thanks to those who contributed to collaboration-style posts too.
(Also, an even bigger thanks goes to my mom, who I think shared almost all of my posts on Facebook, even when I scared her for Mother’s Day. My mom is my biggest fan!)
4. I’m a poet and I didn’t know it.I don’t write a lot of poetry and that which I do write I rarely share. In fact, I haven’t shown anyone poetry I’ve written since creative writing workshops at university and even then it was because I had to (not counting my post on an Osaka day told through haiku, which was just for fun!).
Fueled by desperation, a lack of inspiration and a sprinkle of ‘it’s OK, no one’s reading it anyway’, I dug up some things and shared them with the Internet. Not only did I surprise myself in doing so, but I actually received a lot of positive feedback from those who read them!
5. A little bit of cheating is OK.
My aim was to write 40 blogs in 40 days for Lent, starting from the 1st March and ending at Easter. Following Lent traditions, this meant I would post every day except Sunday (thank you, Lord, for the Sabbath).
But, you guys. Sometimes I didn’t have access to Wi-Fi or I was interrupted by life or I was just really, really, really tired. So, more than once, I switched my Saturday post to Sunday instead. Don’t judge me!
6. What’s the point if no one is reading?
So, one of the reasons I wanted to challenge myself to write 40 blogs in 40 days is because I’m challenging myself to really work on my blog this year. Last year I wrote and posted and shared for fun, but this year I want to see if I can make something of it (why not?).
However, when I spend all of my time writing content for the sake of hitting Publish, but no time sharing it on social media, or optimising it for SEO, or actually working on the blog itself, the effort is a little futile.
One thing I have learnt is that equal effort needs to be put into writing as it does into being active on social media (cringe) and to working on the blog itself. Otherwise, how will anyone know that the content is there?
7. Quality always wins out over quantity.
One of my golden rules of this blog is that I never publish without editing. It sounds obvious, but I have to get to the point where I read the whole post through without correcting one thing before I hit the Publish button. Yeah, sometimes typos slip through, but mostly I’m happy with it.
In the name of my 40 blogs in 40 days challenge, I’ve tried not to compromise on this. After all, why should I expect people to spend time reading a post if I can’t be bothered to spend time editing it and making it pleasurable to read?
That being said, there are definitely a few posts that I probably would have rewritten or worked on more if I’d had a little more time. After all, one beautifully curated post that comes from the heart is worth a thousand bland ‘listicle’-style posts that offer little value to readers.
8. Preparation is important!
Oh my god, this was a major letdown and his friend colonel cock-up. I should have prepared a lot more in advance. Sure, I had a spreadsheet with scheduled blog post ideas, but what happened was I wrote on all the topics I wanted to write on first, then I didn’t want to write any of the others.
In hindsight, I should have spaced these out better and written a few rough drafts or notes to work on later. Oh, and I really should have had at least a few ‘back up’ posts for those days when I wasn’t feeling it.
9. You don’t have to publish everything you write.
You might think that in my desperation to get something (anything!) published that day, that I just wrote any old thing that popped into my head and didn’t care what it was.
Not true. I have at least three fully-written, but unpublished, posts saved on my computer. Why? One was too personal, one was too controversial and one was on a topic that I realised too late I didn’t have the authority to write on.
It was so disheartening when I realised that I would have to start from scratch, but sometimes you don’t see that something is inappropriate to publish until you’ve written it and read it back. I’d rather not publish anything than publish something that I’ll later regret.
10. If you write every day, it comes easier to you.
I’m not saying I’m the most talented wordsmith in the world, but I feel like I have the basics OK. Before this challenge, I only ever wrote when I felt inspired. I would think on a topic for a few days or weeks, research a bit, write a skeleton of an outline and slowly piece something together.
This challenge has taught me that this isn’t the only way to write. Some of the posts I’ve been most proud of these last 40 days have come when I just sat in front of my computer and just started typing words to see what came out.
Surprisingly, even when I had no idea what to write, I still wrote something that I was eventually happy to publish. I realised that, although you can’t force creativity, you can just quickly get some words down on a page and then shape them into something good.
This new skill also translated into my work in copywriting and social media. Instead of pondering the perfect turn of phrase, I just wrote whatever came into my head, edited and was still just as happy with my work as when I was taking my time.
11. I should probably pat myself on the back more.
I’m a little surprised at myself. Not to sound arrogant, but I knew I had the determination and willpower to write 40 blogs in 40 days because I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo twice and won twice, even when I was backpacking around Asia.
Instead, I was more worried that I wouldn’t find enough hours in the day, that I would get writer’s block, or that I would end up writing and publishing utter crap that I would later regret. By some miracle, none of these things happened.
I knew I was determined, but I didn’t realise I was also disciplined enough to make sure I wrote something that wasn’t utter shit.
40 blogs in 40 days: If you can do this, you can do anything.
It’s a cliché, but it’s also true. One of the big reasons why I gave myself this challenge was because I needed to keep up momentum with my writing.
As documented in the very blog posts I’ve written, I’m struggling to find writing work in the UK relevant to what I want to do (or at all). Before I started this challenge, truth be told I was neglecting this blog and my writing in general in favour of fruitless job-hunting.
So, as cheesy as it may be and as much as I’ve complained about having to write yet another blog piece when inspiration is running low, it’s sort-of saved me. It’s given me something to work towards and get excited about at a time when I’m feeling a little uninspired by life.
40 blogs in 40 days was a mountain to climb, but I did it. And now I’m at the top, I’m looking down at how far I’ve come and I’m impressed. I feel good about myself. And if I can write 40 blogs in 40 days, then I can find that job, I can pitch to publications and I can finish that novel.
If I can do #40days40blogs, then I can be a writer.