This is my 100th blog post. 🎉
To some, that seems like a huge number. To others, it seems like I'm just getting started. To me, it sounds like I've put way more time and effort into blogging than I originally thought I would.
My first blog post was published on April 24, 2019 and was titled 8 Steps to Facilitating a Captivating Retrospective. I wrote it because I thought I was onto something with a way I had come up with to run retrospectives.
Fast forward three years and now I write a weekly blog and newsletter that is heavily focused on all things serverless.
My writing went through very different phases. I used to include funny images at each section header. But I wrote a guest blog and got feedback that it distracted from the content. So I took that to heart and started pouring my effort into the content.
I wandered around topics aimlessly for a while. Jumping back and forth between various developer skills, leadership, and sharing side projects. There was absolutely nothing wrong with this, but my writing lacked focus.
Then I finally found my passion: serverless. I had been working with serverless the entire time I was writing, but hadn't honed in and given it a real deep dive. After writing a few detailed articles around it, I knew I found my niche.
The journey is not at all what I thought it would be. And yours won't be the same as mine. But there will be consistencies that will help you grow as a developer, just like it did for me.
If you want to become a well-rounded developer, blogging is an incredible way to do so. It opens doors both internally and externally that you never would see otherwise. It matures you as a researcher. It helps you find your voice.
Each one of these benefits alone could be considered career changers. But when you put them all together, you're in for a life changing experience (sounds dramatic, I know, but stick with me).
I always cross-post my articles on multiple sites to reach my entire target audience. There are a couple different communities that spread out over the internet that I can't reach from just posting on my personal blog.
Your audience does not live on a single platform.
For me, the serverless community thrives on Twitter, dev.to, and the AWS Community Builder's slack channel. These are all external network sources. I've met some incredible people and have been given opportunities to give talks, come on podcasts, and write guest blog posts because of it.
Internally, my peers primarily use LinkedIn. So I post my content there to share what I'm doing with my coworkers. This has led to internal presentations and a significant amount of consulting across the various divisions in my company. I've been approached by many directors and VPs because they've seen my work and trust that I truly understand my domain.
Without blogging and cross-posting my content based on the audience I'm trying to reach, none of this would have been possible. I would have flown under the radar of many of my new friends and not have gotten the amazing opportunities that have come my way the past few years.
This phrase seemed like nonsense to me when I first got into writing. What does "find your voice" even mean?
It might not seem like it at first, but you have a very unique writing style. One that is very personal to you. And it takes practice to exercise that style and figure out your natural voice when it comes to blogging.
Somebody posted on Twitter the other day:
Which is a great question. The average consensus was around 10 hours for a post. Finding your voice helps to decrease your writing time. Words flow easier. Organization becomes second nature. Your thoughts just flow straight from your head to your fingers.
When you get started blogging it might take more time than this, it might take less. Regardless, as you practice and find your voice, it will get faster.
Finding your voice is also about establishing your beliefs and values. Getting opinions on things you might not have had opinions on before. How do you treat topic X? What about topic Y?
As you write more and more, you will see your personality emerge in your articles. What makes you distinctly you will be reflected in your posts. You might even learn a little something about yourself.
If you want to have credibility in your articles, you must back up your statements with research. People appreciate links in blog posts that bring them to the source of your information. If there is a topic that you cover lightly, your readers might want to dig into it a bit more. Providing them the source directly in your post will allow them to do so.
Writing blog posts will help you improve your research skills by giving you opportunities to learn something new. Find the mechanisms, web sites, forums, etc... that share data in a format that you easily consume. You will quickly discover the best mediums for you to learn. Some people like long form writing, others like videos, while others get their best understanding from things like infographics.
You'll figure out how you learn best.
In addition to learning how to research, you can't discredit the amount of information you're going to learn as well! Your topics are likely going to be things you're already familiar with, but while getting the opinion of others you will likely learn that there is so much more to a topic than you thought.
If you are excited about getting started with your blog, great! Here are a few tips before you do:
Start with what you know - What is your area of specialty? Write about it. Even if there are 1,000 posts on it already, you have a unique take on it. Do your research and see what others say when they write about it. What sets your opinion apart?
Designate a time and place - Set aside a time and place for your writing. Try to do it about the same time and in the same place as often as you can. This will build an association to that time and place and will help you get focused quicker. It doesn't matter when or where it is, but it does matter that you choose it, stick to it, and dedicate it to writing. This will ultimately increase your productivity.
Be consistent - Consistency is everything. Want to get better at writing? Do more of it. Want to get more followers? Regularly create content and share it. I never believed this to be true until I did it myself. I wrote inconsistently for years, sometimes having months between blog posts. But in 2022, I have posted a new article on a consistent schedule without missing a single one. In the course of 7 months, I have dialed in on my voice, reduced my writing times, and grown my followers by almost 700%.
Start small - You don't have to create your own blog from the beginning. Find a website with a low barrier to entry for your first post. There are plenty of sites out there like dev.to, hashnode, and Medium that let you get started for free. Get comfortable with the process and your writing skills before you go out and cross-post your content everywhere.
Write about what you're working on - If you start running low on topics, write about what you're doing at work. What have you learned? What problems did you recently solve? People ask me all the time where I find the inspiration for my content, and I tell them it's just what I'm doing at work. I've spent the time researching, so I can use that to my advantage and help others.
Do it for you - Writing blogs should be for you. Enjoy the process of researching, writing, and sharing with your friends. Find the reason why you want to do it and stick to that reason. For example, I love helping others - so my content is designed to share the experiences I've had to shortcut their learning process.
One of the best things about blogging is that you learn so much more than you would if you were just writing code at your day job. You will learn how to learn, find your voice, and give yourself credibility in your field.
It helps you push yourself out of your comfort zone into a space where you're learning in public. You help teach other people what you have recently learned. It drives your understanding of a topic by forcing you to do your homework.
Remember that blogging should be fun. Don't think of it as a chore. Once it starts crossing that line, it might be time for a break.
Anyway, if you've been looking for a reason to get started, I hope you found it. For me, blogging has led me on a journey I never could have imagined, and I love it. I've learned how to express myself better, I discovered how I can best learn something new, and I've made so many new friends along the way.
Here's to 100 blog posts and hopefully many, many more.