Reflections on TIL posts
Here are things I found helpful the past few days:
- Set goals, set time limits, enforce with timers
- Outline, outline, outline
- Be genuine
Last Wednesday, I decided to try out a new blog format with shorter posts covering topics that I was learning about that day. My goal was to write a post a day for 3 days. I anticipated investing an hour a day into this.
Excluding the initial post and this post, I've written 4 posts in the past 7 days. This is not quite a post a day, but it is way better than my previous blogging track record. In this post, I'm going to write about some of the things that worked (adding constraints!), some things that were unrealistic (1 hour for a dense topic), and some things I'm still unsure about (these giant photos at the top of the posts & the twitter cards).
Having an idea for the single point I wanted to get across was helpful for framing the posts and keeping them from going too far off on tangents. I set myself a goal of a 20/20/20 minute split between outlining/writing/editting. I think this ratio was about right, although forcing even more time for outlining could be better.
I set myself timers for each leg of this. By the last post, I was setting myself 10 minute timers so I would know when I was halfway. This was really helpful for keeping me focused. On none of the posts did I actually start and finish in 60 minutes, but knowing the ballpark was useful for making decisions like "Is rewording this single sentence worth another 5 minutes when I only have 10 left?"
One thing I want to try to focus more on is editting. Often, I would be so excited to be done writing that I would do a cursory once-over. I think letting a post marinate overnight and revisiting the next day would be worthwhile. Also, I want to use the editting time to trim down and make things more brief.
As Blaise Pascal wrote:
I have made this longer than usual because I have not had time to make it shorter.
In previous posts, I would meander all over the place, and then realize I still needed to research a whole new topic in order to finish. Taking the time upfront to outline helped keep me focused and to head-off questions. I would have a bullet point like "Sockets are ..." and then realize I hadn't introduced what a socket meant in this context, so I would adjust the outline.
One thing I want to try in the future is having outlines be only incomplete sentences. A few times I was cheating by starting to write during the outline phase. This made it more difficult to abandon pieces since they were fully formed.
I have never been a big social media person or tweeter, but writing these posts has given me a good reason to tweet. I would often be so self conscious about what people would think about whatever I posted that I wouldn't post anything at all. Giving writing an honest try in these posts has made it a lot easier since it's putting genuine thought into them.
My favorite post so far was the T1 ISP post because it was really short, had interesting information, but most importantly, it was fun because I was telling a story about something I had fun digging in to. Some of the other posts started drifting into more text-booky tones which is less fun to read and to write. The posts had valuable information that I'm sure I'll refer back to, but I think future posts should lead off with a little more context about why these things are interesting.
Some things to change
- The TIL in front of every title was kind of annoying. I dropped that for the last post and don't think I'll bring it back.
- The stock image on the page does make the post look better in my opinion, but I would like to try either creating more original content or putting things like the TCP table as the post image (or the twitter card image). The stock photos on the Twitter cards look kind of click-baity.
I also want to continue trying to bite off smaller pieces to write about or potentially splitting my sessions into research and writing sessions. It's hard to do both at the same time when I realize I don't know enough about a particular area in the middle of writing.