6 things I have learned from my 1-month blog post writing challenge
In February of this year, I took a decision on the spur of the moment. Inspired by a brilliant session at our monthly Public Speakers Association Spain meeting, I decided to accept a challenge. It was going to be tough!
The session was given by Gordon Tredgold, a leadership expert & coach, public speaker and prolific blogger. He had explained the importance that writing had on his career as a recognised expert in the leadership world.
At the end of the session he dropped a bombshell. How many of the attendees were willing to “walk the talk”, put into practice what Gordon had taught us and commit to writing 20 blog posts in the 31 days of March?
A “magnificent seven” people took up the challenge…and surprisingly (to me), I was one of them.
I had known for some time that something had to kick-start me into writing and this challenge was what I needed.
To give some context, my own blog page was quite poor at the time, with only 12 posts in as many months.
Each time I wanted to post something new it took me ages to think of a topic. So long that between posts I forgot even the basics of how to change fonts of the text and add photos.
The whole thing was a chore. Recently I had started to post on LinkedIn, which was an interesting new world for me, but the idea of posting on my own blog, the idea that Gordon had presented, appealed even more to me.
A personal blog allows for more introspection, more detail, more intimacy (and more waffle at times - like now!)
I was all in to see what happened.
Here are 6 things I learned. Let´s start with…
WHAT DIDN’T WORK
1. I didn’t manage to build a writing habit
I love investigating and employing the habit-building process. I know exactly what it takes. According to several studies, for most people, habits take an average of 67 days to build (some even longer). 20 days of writing in March wasn’t enough to consolidate this habit for me.
My failure here was that I did not write every day without fail. Also, I didn´t write in the same place and the same time every day (both strong habit building methods).
On top of that, I started the challenge badly. I spoke at a Conference in London at the beginning of March and couldn´t get down to my first blog post until 4 days into the challenge.
Additionally, I couldn’t plan my day easily. I have a full-on day job and I so happened that In March my company won a major deal. The month went mad for me at work and I was under pressure all along.
Personally, I don´t like being on a computer late at night (which is what I am doing right now!) but to produce 20 blog posts I had to do that consistently.
Overall, I may have got more used to writing, but a habit has not been built…. yet.
2. I didn’t find my niche
I write and speak on leadership. It is a VERY wide topic. I am passionate about so many things related to the subject. I also have a long history in leadership positions, so I have anecdotes and stories galore to share.
As a leadership speaker, my main theme is how courage is a vital factor for effective leadership. Related to this I used the challenge to write blog posts on subjects such as difficult conversations, saying No, Resilience and how Stoic philosophy helps strengthen a leader´s mindset.
I also touched other topics that I love such as habit forming, negotiation skills, holding efficient meetings and coaching. I even wrote about the leadership lessons of Michael Jordan!
I enjoyed writing about such a variety of things, but I had hoped I would find a common theme and niche down more. I did not.
3. My blog writing and production time didn´t reduce
I expected that as I churned out more posts, it would all take a lot less time to produce them.
On one hand I definitely got better at the technical side of posting (editing text, finding and posting photos etc.). I am happy with that as I am not very technical and learning these skills now lowers the barrier to me producing more posts in the future.
On the other hand, at the end of the challenge, writing and editing the posts took me about the same time as when I started. About 1 hour on average.
It wasn’t that I was looking for perfection, rather that my first drafts were quite awful! I also think my posts were too long. I get into too much detail. I have the same criticism when I write my speeches. I pack in far too much.
I need to apply the KISS principle a lot more often (so let me stop here!).
WHAT DID WORK
1. I found an abundance of topics
Gordon gave us a great method for identifying speech topics, which I used. It worked!
I found that the more I wrote, the more topics I discovered. I grew antennae and I picked up new ideas everywhere. I also realized that many posts I wrote could easily expand into a series of 3 or 4 parts.
I may not have niched down my topic, but I could visualize a wide audience for my writing (perhaps too wide). I now have a lot of material to work on which will inspire me to continue and to go more in depth on some of my favorite subjects.
Finally, I have confidence now that I can find new material both for future writing and speeches.
I guess you could say that my Muse has found me (or I have found my Muse) and for that I am very grateful for having entered this challenge.
2. Committing publicly worked
I have long heard that committing publicly to something was powerful. An example that is often used is that people who want to give up smoking should declare that desire to their friends and family.
The more public the commitment, the more chance of success it has.
I knew that in theory, but most of my goals are still private, or shared only with close family. For this challenge though, Gordon made sure it was very public. The 7 participants formed a WhatsApp group and every day we publicly shared our progress and posts.
The process inspired me (thanks to encouragement from Gordon and the other writers), educated me (I read their material and learned a ton) and most importantly, gave me a kick up the backside
We weren´t competing with each other. It didn´t matter who wrote the better articles, or even if someone couldn´t finally complete the challenge. It was intrinsic motivation for each of us.
What I learned was that publicly declaring my intention spurred me on. It is a technique I will use again and recommend to others.
3. I stopped being such a perfectionist
Before the challenge, when I wrote I wanted everything to be of great quality. So much so, that I would not write much at all and when I did, I would leave the draft on ice for ages until hitting “publish”.
I DO want it to add value and not churn out rubbish (otherwise why would I bother writing?).
However, since the challenge I am now OK if my ideas don’t hit the mark every time or if some posts don’t quite work. I have learned that I have to publish them anyway. It is important to “publish and be damned”, to put the ideas out there and see what works and what doesn’t. It is one big experiment.
I am now more comfortable with producing posts that are imperfect but good enough.
In summary the positives I have learned from this challenge massively outweigh the negatives. I may not have built a daily writing habit (yet), found a perfect niche or become an efficient writer, but I will now be writing a LOT more posts than before.
To boot, I have a more interesting looking website and material to expand upon and build for blog and LinkedIn posts. I have also learned some tech stuff and even produced a couple of Vlogs. I have stepped out of my comfort zone and learned a lot in the process.
It has been a bit stressful but it has been fun.
My final lesson is that any challenge in life is much easier to tackle when you do it with friends, which leads me to my closing remarks:
Here is my “Twenty Day Challenge trophy acceptance speech” (without Will Smith slapping Chris Rock)
Thanks to Gordon Tredgold for setting this challenge, for his advice and encouragement over the course of this month. A leadership guru who is a true leader!
Thanks to my 6 fellow challengers! I already knew that they were all magnificent speakers (being Members of the Public Speakers Association, Spain ) but now I have seen with my own eyes that they are all excellent writers too! (click their names to see more from them):
Finally, thanks to my wonderful daughter, Laura, for putting up with me throughout this challenge, for inspiring me and for adding her amazing creativity, especially when editing my videos - You are the best!
The 20-blog challenge is hereby completed!
If you too would like to meet your own personal and professional challenges, reach out to me for coaching on my mail address below.