Write For Yourself so That One Day You Might Write For Those You Look Up To
Write for yourself so that one day you might write for those you look up to
If there's one message to take from this article, take that one.
Blogs are a hot topic.
- Should you start one?
- Are you good enough?
- Who should you write for?
- Where should you put it?
- What should you write about?
- What's my style?
- Did someone already write about that topic?
- Will anyone care?
- When should I post it?
- Will anyone read it?
- How do I write for super-cool-site.com?
I completely stand by that. It's hard to convey all my thoughts around this subject in 280 characters though.
Let's dig in!
Should you start one? permalink
If you've even considered writing content. Don't keep thinking about it, do it!
And I mean that in the best way possible.
The sooner you start, the sooner you can hone your skills at writing and find your voice as a writer.
Are you good enough? permalink
Let's move on.
But, seriously, you are. It doesn't matter what level you're at. People enjoy relatable content. That doesn't only apply to when you write tech content. Share your journey and the things that interest you.
Who should you write for? permalink
Write for yourself. Write as if this is a reference for you and you alone. If you're writing a tutorial or something for other people to follow, the same holds true. Of course, consider that you'll want others to understand it. But, the number one concern is that you understand it. Perspective is everything and can drive your content as you gain more experience. More on this later.
Where should you put it? permalink
This is one I see all the time.
I'm thinking of making a blog. Where should I put it? Should I build something with "Hot spangled new blog platform X"?
If you want to write content. Write content.
Where you put it shouldn't be a blocker to you writing content. If it is? Ask yourself if writing that blog post still interests you?
That said. There's nothing wrong with trying out awesome tech stacks to host your own blog. I'm all for it and I plan on doing it soon. It's awesome to learn things. My first attempt at this was using Jekyll for the record.
But, the purpose of this article is to get writing content. And if that's your primary goal, the platform should be the afterthought.
Heck. You could even create a new Github repository and start writing in Markdown right away!
My personal journey: Self-hosted Jekyll, Medium, CSS Tricks, Dev.to, etc.
One thing I will say is that you're more likely to get engagement on the bigger platforms in my experience. This of course depends on your site traffic if you're self-hosting, etc. But, something to be aware of. If I were to recommend a starting point now? It would likely be here on dev.to.
What should you write about? permalink
Write about things that interest you. Don't write about something because you think it's what other people want to read about. The exception here being if someone says they'd like to read about your take on something. Even then, only do it because you want to.
Write about things you enjoy. Write about things that you'd like to reference later. For example, learn something new on that last thing you made and inline comments won't do the job? Write a post on it so you have something to look back at.
The more you write, the better you will get at writing. Write about different things and you'll find the things you like to write about. That could take you in a direction where you can shine.
My first published posts are about things I learned or things I enjoy. One such post is about Pug(It was then named Jade). The first paragraph is more about me than Pug ha. It's clear I wanted to write things. I've since revisited some of my earlier articles to clean them up a bit. But this article about creating image overlays with CSS was something I wrote for myself. Others found it useful and let me know.
And that's a key point to be aware of. Because you hit "publish", doesn't mean it's set in stone. You can edit it later or update it. If you don't like it, you can take it down completely. I've done that with some of my content.
What's my style? permalink
You'll find this as you go. The more you write, the more likely you'll find a style that suits you.
There's one thing I advocate if you're writing about tech and there's code involved. Please leave a link to some code or a demo.
One format I worked towards for a while was leaving the demo and the code right at the top with a TL;DR.
That might sound counter-intuitive. You want people to read the whole article right? Well, I want to share something. And if people want a quick route to the answer, I provide that. That's what I look for. But there will be those that read the whole thing too. But think that if someone only grabbed the solution, it helped them, and they shared it. Then that might bring more of an audience.
Another style I like for me is "Learn something in X minutes". I guess what I'm getting at is, you won't know your style until you try things. Try different ideas and see what works for you. I quite like the "X minutes" ones because it means I am trying to keep the content brief. But, for an article like this one, I'm sitting here writing my thoughts and enjoying it.
Did someone already write about that topic? permalink
This one is huge! Please don't hesitate on writing a post because someone wrote about the same topic before. This is like the number one rule!
Consider it like this. And please correct me in the comments if this is wrong. The analogy still applies though.
Motorola released the first cell phone in the 80s. Now, if everyone stood back and said "They've made a cellphone, we can't". There would be no iPhone, no Android, etc. Perspective drives innovation. It takes someone to see something a certain way to think about how they might take it to the next level. Does that make sense?
And this can apply to your own writing. Your perspective and the way you write about something might be ideal for someone. They may have read ten articles already. But, yours was the one that gave them the "Aha" moment. And now they could be on their path to something great. How awesome is that?
Perspective is everything. Don't discourage yourself.
Will anyone care? permalink
Don't make this your focus. Flip it on its head. A more important question is, do you care? Because if you don't care about your writing content, why are you writing it?
When should I post it? permalink
I've seen this one a lot recently.
My response goes something like this
And I stand by it. There's no formula or "best time" in my experience/opinion. Exactly 15:17 on a Tuesday isn't going to solve your problem. Do what works for you. You could post the same thing 3-4 times on social media and people are still going to miss it. That's how it goes.
Content will always prevail and you never know what that might be when you start. You're finding your way with it.
The first post that worked for me? A thirteen-minute read about creating pure CSS masonry layouts in 2016. I posted it because it was something I enjoyed exploring. A week later it had a spike in views and I had no idea why. It didn't matter when I posted it. It gained an audience a week later.
Before that, I'd been writing about various topics. But because of that post, my other content became seen. Content that I'd posted almost a year earlier gained attention.
It echoes the points from before. Write about things you enjoy. Post them when it works for you. Don't pressure yourself. You never know who might be watching.
Will anyone read it? permalink
Of course, we want people to read our content. Otherwise, we wouldn't publish it. But by not focussing on that, it can happen. That almost sounds counter-intuitive.
But from that previous example. I wrote for myself and it happened that others were watching.
That said, there are some tips for getting your written content in front of people.
Most of the platforms support some form of tags. And this must help in some way. I can't vouch for every way of doing this but here's my experience.
Tagging things on Medium helped to get it in front of people. Then publications would request to add the article to their publication. That gains more traction and go from there. With Dev.to, use the tags and make use of "Suggested tweet". You get the opportunity to have your content shared with people by a popular account.
How do I write for super-cool-site.com? permalink
I can't vouch that my journey will work for you. But I do believe being consistent and writing content can lead to great things.
I've been fortunate to write for some of my favorite publications. All because I started writing for myself. I wrote about things I enjoyed and things that interested me. I didn't write because X, Y, or Z was watching.
It took time though. I've been writing content for around 6 years at the time of writing this. Something that I've only realized writing this now.
It's no secret, I love CSS. One of my biggest goals was to write an article for CSS Tricks. At the time of writing this, I've got five published on there now.
How did that happen? I said I'd like to.
A lot of the big publications have guest author programs and info on their sites. Reach out. Propose an article. What's the worst that can happen? They say no? They could decline. But, even if they do, I'd bet they'd be willing to help you. Help you in a direction that will lead to writing content for their platform.
That's it! permalink
Write for yourself so that one day you might write for those you look up to. Be interested in what you write about and share your journey.
The best time to start is now. The best time to share it is when it's ready. If your content interests me, I'll be there to read it, wherever it is.
This is my story. I look forward to reading yours!