Lessons from Blogging Every Day in April

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I know, I know. It’s not April anymore. Why the hell am I still talking? Trust me. I’m as shocked as anybody else that I still have anything to say. If April went on for any longer, I’d be forced to write posts reviewing YouTube drag queen videos (Um that actually sounds entertaining now that I think about it). But I did want to spit out some thoughts on writing everyday this month before I binge more Hulu shows and forget what I wanted to say.

Writing every day last month was an unexpectedly informative journey. I basically decided to do it because I was bored and needed a project. I had no end game and wasn’t trying to build a fan base or rough draft a book. But those two things accidentally happend by the way!  I just knew on some level that writing everyday would be good for me. So I hopped into this whole endeavor with zero plans or expectations. To my surprise, this little 30 day exercise taught me a whole bunch about myself. Here now are a few of the lessons I learned along the way.

Marathon Not a Sprint: Fairly quickly, I dunno maybe around April 5th, I realized the breadth and scope of what I was doing. It felt overwhelming and more than that it felt like I was going to struggle to keep it fresh and entertaining for 30 days. Luckily, I didn’t think about it too much and just wrote everyday. I did make little notes on things I wanted to talk about and came up with a calendar of posts that was flexible enough if decided to write about something else. All of this helped the project feel less overwhelming and allowed me to just do what I could do everyday and that was simple: write.

Feed The Beast: Although writing as an activity happens, cue the Celine, all by myself, it very much relies on the outside world to survive. After all, you can’t write about food unless you cook all of the time. You can’t write about art unless you look at art all of the time. So for me as a writer of pop culture and recovery, I had to lap in as much of that stuff as possible. This past month, I needed every tv show I watched online, every movie, every walk with friends, every conversation, every meeting I went to and most importantly every single thing I read. Without any other stimulation, I become dry, dull and repetitive. I know for a fact if I’ve run out of things to say there’s a huge problem and usually that problem can be fixed easily with reading. Reading brilliant and funny essays by Lindy West, Melissa Broder and Phoebe Robinson helped me so much as that’s the kind of stuff I want to write. By keeping myself “well-fed” creatively, I had more inspiration and energy to continue.

Look Out Weekends: It’s always interesting to look at when my blog gets the most reads. Until April, I just assumed it happened randomly. Like people stumbled on it whenever as if it was a dollar they found in their pocket. Turns out, thanks to WordPress’ algorithm tools, there are actually times and days when more people look at my blog. Thus it would make sense to publish on those days. Duh. For me, y’all like to read me on the weekends. And I’m okay with that and being the people pleaser I am will take that into account from here on out.

Reader Knows Best: That handy-dandy data also helped me figure out what kind of posts people liked to read too. The one common thread in popularity in my posts? The truth. When I let go and let you have it, the posts did really well. The more honest the post, the more readers. Pre-calculated and overwrought pieces rarely did well. But then again, my readers also like stuff that deals with life right now. So posts about a current tv show or movie or life change did in general better than the ones that dealt with a memory. These are good things to keep in the back of my mind when developing new essays….

But Also Write Whatever The Fuck You Want: I can’t get too tripped up about what people want to read or what I think they want. Talk about exhausting. Sure, it’s helpful to see what’s trending and gained popularity on my blog but it can’t be the whole reason I write certain posts. Readers see right through that nonsense. Instead, this month taught me to go with my gut and write posts from the heart that oozed honesty. 9 times out of 10 people responded when I stayed true to my voice.

Burn Out & Breakdown: Halfway through the month, as I have discussed here and on Twitter, I had a meltdown. Not like a Mariah Carey on a 5150 type of meltdown, mind you. But after days of spilling my guts on the page, I felt raw and like an exposed nerve. I thought I was breaking down because I’d hit something really personal in my writing and unleashed a mess of emotions. This was in fact part of it but not the whole story. I was also just burnt out. I was tired and out of gas. I needed to refuel and relax. This minor bump in the road was incredibly helpful because it made me prioritize self-care(things like rest, eating well, walking) and make it work in tandem with my writing practice.

Rehash & Recycle: Another thing I learned in this process? Some days the brilliant thoughts aren’t gonna come. Some days the well is just dry. So for these days I have plenty of drafts with a couple of sentences of half-formed ideas to help form new posts. Also I have an old blog filled with hundreds of posts and some of those ideas could use a fresh take or new spin. While for April I did write each post fresh every single day, there were a couple of posts who were born from an old draft, old post or just a simmering idea I jotted down a few words about. The challenge of breathing new life into an idea that was DOA is a good one and helped a few posts turn into something cooler and bigger than I could have imagined.

Trust It: Without a desired destination or preordained specific goal in my mind when I started this project, I really had to write with a whole shit ton of faith. I had to turn fear and preconceived notions off and just keep writing. I had to be creative and simply trust that creativity was enough. Which is not at all easy. Just trusting yourself as a writer and a creative being is some ninja bad assery. Still, when I let go and trust this process that’s when magical posts appeared out of nowhere. More than that, it’s these posts that I was the most proud of and that were the most meaningful. No, I didn’t sit down in the begininng of the month wanting to write about potatoes, showers, burritos, Mavis Staples and my ass. But by trusting the process, I did write those posts and I’m really glad I did.

So would I recommend writing a blog post every day for a month? Absolutely. It’s a really great way to get your writer muscles in shape. Would I do it again? Absolutely. But not in May. I promised you guys I’d shut up for a bit. And by “a bit” I mean I’m now only publishing three times a week.

 

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4 comments

  1. Sober Tony · May 1

    Congratulations. I missed the beginning of this but did you have a minimum word count?

    Big respect, you put out seriously long posts each day too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • seanpaulmahoney · May 1

      Thanks, Tony!
      700+ words was the goal but they usually tapped out around 1100 words on average. I gave myself a break and kind of just let the posts be as longs as I needed to tell the story.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is great advice for any long-term writing project.

    Liked by 1 person

    • seanpaulmahoney · May 2

      Thanks Mark. I know you get it. 😉It’s crazy how quickly a practice like this can change the entire creative process.

      Liked by 1 person

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