Thursday, November 1, 2012

Blogging: How do you pick what to write?

A couple of weeks ago I had a chance to do lunch with my ex-colleague.  It's been a while we had gotten together and there were lot of things to catch up.  After going through news from our family, topic changed to what we were working on.  I mentioned to him that I still blog every day, and have been doing so since January 1st this year.

Friend: Wow.  How much time do you spend to write a blog?
Me: About an hour to an hour and half.

I answered the question with what I thought the average was.  It's true that once you pick a topic and start writing, I can write an article in about an hour.  But the big if is the picking a right topic to write about.  It's really hard to pick a topic every day and write my perspective on it.

I would even say that picking a topic is the work half done.  Sometimes I jump from Google News to Hacker News to LinkedIn News for a couple of hours to find a topic or get an inspiration or read news that I can write something about.  Some days it's really easy.  Some days it's really hard.

That topic turns into a blog title.  With a right title, there is very little stopping.  It's almost like that you push 'play' button on your thought process.  As my thought branches from the title to what I've read or what I've been doing, and my thoughts on that subject, I can just write.  It all starts with picking a right topic.

So how do I pick what to write?  If I were to write a pseudo code to describe my process, it would be something like this:
if (exists(article that I wish someone would have alerted me)) {
  return write(article, my reaction or what I learned)
if (exists(current event that I want to know more about)) {
  return write(current event, what I found about it from multiple sources)
for each (topic = {my experiences during the day}) {
  if (exists(lesson learned by me) {
    return write(topic, lesson learned by me)

Where I end up spending the most time is prepare for the first two if statements.  If I don't have a title in my head by the time I sit down, I am spinning up new browser tabs with dozens of news and articles that look half-way interesting.  Going through them to find if there is anything interesting is where I spend the most time.

The key point that I want to highlight in this topic process is that it's about me.  As you can see, I am not writing about topics that I don't feel I learned anything or would have done fine without knowing it.  Even when I'm sharing lessons from my experience, my writing helps me reinforce the lesson so that I can avoid the same mistake in future.

In short, I am the biggest customer of my own blog.  If I don't get the most out of it, it is very difficult to motivate yourself to sustain the efforts.  Especially when you are committing yourself to do it every day.

Blog for your own benefit.
You should be the biggest winner by running your own blog.

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