The plan going forward 🔗
I’ve been consistently publishing at least one article a month on the internet for more than three years. I’ve since formalized that so that by the third Monday of the month, there’d be a new article. That may not sound like much, but it’s been what’s worked for me.
I’m no longer going to hold myself to that content calendar. I’m still going to write, but I’m going to intentionally break the streak to have something new every month. There will be a new post when I’m inspired or incentivized to do so.
Historical context 🔗
I started writing to kick-start a technical blog of my employer at the time. I did benefit from getting editing and early review from my peers, but wrote all the content off-hours. I enjoyed writing, and I enjoyed sharing it as well.
Monthly there’d be a round-up of posts, videos, documentation, podcasts, or anything else people in the company found helpful. We’d write a small blurb and include a link to it. I organized that effort at the time to make sure there was at least one thing a month posted.
I’d also write at least one other post a month. Sometimes more. This wasn’t tremendously scheduled. Some months I’d have two-part posts that I’d publish a week apart. Some months I would drop my post whenever it fit in against other authors on the company blog.
When I left that job, I kept writing. I dropped maintaining a personal monthly round-up of neat stuff. I did keep up with original content. Occasionally it was about things that were in air with the larger Ruby community. Mostly it was things that were interesting to me at the time. It may have been something I just encountered for work. It may related to a conference talk I was putting together. But, every month something ended up on kevinjmurphy.com.
In July 2022 I started a newsletter. To me, that cemented that I needed to keep delivering on a consistent schedule. Consistency is a core engagement mechanism to cultivate and maintain an audience. And that’s what I’ve done, even before the newsletter. Now it’d be more obvious (maybe?) if I didn’t.
Trial period 🔗
I intentionally said that I’ve been publishing monthly. Lately, I haven’t been writing monthly. I started feeling like I wanted to pull back in 2022. But I had just started the newsletter. I didn’t, I couldn’t, abandon that. Looking back, I think I started the newsletter in the hopes that it would reinvigorate my writing. I’m still very thankful that I have the newsletter. Thanks to everyone reading this who subscribes. But it hasn’t gotten me excited to write. It’s made it more public (maybe just to me) whenever I got close to missing my self-imposed deadline to write. Which has not been the best environment to write in for fun.
Coincidentally, at the same time I was just about to have a fresh stream of content to publish. I delivered a fresh conference talk at RubyConf Mini 2022. Not one to let content go to waste, I turn each of my talks into blog posts. Conference talks tend to be more dense in the amount of material, so they usually become a blog post series. This talk was no exception. I had the posts written, along with writing the talk. I had published the first entry before the conference. It was content I had to cut from my talk, so I used it on my blog to promote the upcoming conference. I released another just before the talk, but didn’t publicize it until the day of the talk.
That still left three posts ready to go. Previously, I would have published these maybe a week or so apart. But I did something different this time. I sat on them.
Instead, I published my year in review post in December. That followed with an unexpected post to end the year about a contribution to Ruby. Then, because Ruby 3.2 was top of mind at the start of year, I wrote about new 3.2 functionality in January.
I didn’t get around to continue publishing the Anyone Can Play Guitar series until March. At that time, I had a healthy backlog of articles ready to go. But I held off on publishing them. I intentionally only published one a month.
That gave me breathing room. In March, I knew I had articles written that would last me through August. I didn’t stop writing. I stopped writing because I felt I had to. I had a set of posts ready to go to fall back on. When I’d write a new article, I’d decide if I should publish it more immediately, or move it back in line behind the others. For example, I’m writing this post in August, 2023. I know it’s not getting published for a while though. I’d shift things around. Is there a big conference coming up? I’d publish posts I had ready to go about preparing for, or going to, conferences. Is there something that I’m really excited that I just wrote? I’d move it to the front of the line.
I kept the schedule, but I didn’t write to the schedule.
Settling in 🔗
I prefer this writing arrangement. I put something together when I have the time, or when I’m particularly motivated. I’m not out of ideas. Much like my list of conference talk ideas, I have pages of ideas for blog posts unwritten. And new ideas spring to life, taking priority over those other ideas. When I feel like writing something, but don’t know what, I scroll through my list. I see what catches my fancy - or what generates a different idea.
I still have some posts already written that I’ve been sitting on. I’ll probably space them out to publish a bit further than every month. If something comes up to fill the void, great - I’ll hit publish on it. Otherwise, I’ll wait for the time to drop the written post.
And when those run out? I’ll write when I feel like it.
In terms of building a brand, or an audience, I’m led to believe this is death. Consistency and guarantees help breed expectation and comfort. I’m breaking that guarantee to take the expectation off of me.
I’ve never published something that I thought was bad because I thought I had to. But I’ve definitely written under a time schedule that was entirely my own doing. It’s less fun to do it when you have to.
And that’s why I do this - for fun. Sure, I do it because I hope it helps someone. Mostly I do it because it helps me. My audience primarily is me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very happy that other people read this. But, I start writing because I want to get ideas out of my head, and/or because I want to be able to reference it in the future.
That’s why I make references or puns that maybe only I get. That’s why some of my technical posts are excuses to accompany a silly title I thought of. I don’t share drafts with others prior to publishing. Partly that’s because I don’t want to burden someone else with that responsibility. But also, my approach has been when it’s good enough for me, it’s good enough to publish.
There have certainly been second-order benefits of writing (or giving conference talks, or going on podcasts). I’ve met people and made friends I wouldn’t have otherwise. My increased visibility made it more helpful when I had a public job search in 2022. It’s a huge thrill when I see an article end up featured elsewhere. It’s one of the most meaningful career experiences I’ve had hearing how a post or talk helped someone. It’s a delight finding out that someone liked what I wrote. Or even simply that someone read it.
But, for now, I’m coming out of the content mines. I’ll keep delivering posts, but not with as much rigor. To keep the analogy going, I’ll instead visit alluvial deposits to sift for gems to publish on occasion. That’s one of those references that is just for me. This one is from one of my talks.
What it means for you 🔗
Probably not much? If you subscribe to my newsletter, you’ll keep getting posts in your inbox when they’re written. If you follow me on social media, you’ll keep getting posts in your feed when they’re written (unless any algorithm says otherwise). If you follow this site via RSS, thanks for keeping RSS alive - and you’ll keep getting posts in your feed when they’re written. If you come to this site when my posts are featured in other publications, you’ll never read this, but you’ll keep seeing them when they’re featured, if you click on them.
You just won’t see them as often. At least that’s the plan. Who knows - maybe this will make me realize I should actually push something weekly. Just kidding, I could barely make monthly work. Maybe I’ll have more time to catch up with you directly. Drop me a line however we’re connected. I’m happy to hear from you.
What it means for me 🔗
This frees me from my self-imposed deadlines and anxiety about publishing something. It gives me a chance to dig into something that may be a little meatier, but may not be ready in time. It gives me the license to just…not write something. I’m not entirely sure what it means for me. But I think it’ll be good for me (otherwise, why do it?). And if it’s not? We can all have a laugh about that time I made this self-aggrandizing pronouncement. Like someone slinking back to social media after announcing their exit. Hey, I’m sure it felt right to them at the time. This feels right to me now.
Though I’ve planned this for a while, announcing it now makes it public when I know I’ll have to step away from a few things to handle some unexpected family business. So, thanks past Kevin for writing this! It’s all ready to go, and all I had to do was add this paragraph and publish it.
What slow down? 🔗
So, there you go. Over 1,500 words about how I’m going to write words less often. Or, at least, feel forced to publish them less often. The irony is not lost on me. If you read this far, let me know. Clearly, we should catch up.