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There’s little doubt that come January 1st many people recognize that their figure is best viewed with a fun-house mirror, and most make resolutions to drop the extra pounds in order to become worthy of accidentally seeing the cover of Cosmo again.
All too often step 2 is hiring a personal trainer, charting a radical new diet, and making stern 7 day a week gym commitments. This precedes step 3 by just a few days, the step where their trainer is leaving them passive aggressive voicemail which goes unheard since they’re at the E.R. having their fat hand surgically removed from a can of Pringles.
Blogging is, like most things, primarily about forming a long-term habit: the habit of regular writing. However, most people approach personal improvement by waffling from one extreme to another. As with exercise, personal commitment to do the work needed to blog is important, but not if it isn’t sustainable.
At the 10,000 view mark The State of Houston is just barely established, having passed this milestone abruptly with a few moderately popular breakout articles. As such, when I reflect on the site so far my lessons learned all have to do with the enormous challenge of just getting started already. Friends and coworkers often tell me about the idea of a blog they one day hope to write, their enthusiasm seen at the distance of years gone by. What follows is just what helped me avoid that same trap. It may not work for you, but it passes for “advice” just the same.
Create Deadlines… That You Can Actually Meet
For this site I have committed to write at least once a week, leaving the door open for more if I have the time. Honestly examining my life (I have a full time job with a high level of responsibility and a wife and infant daughter that take my highest priority) I recognize that this is actually an aggressive goal that I can still meet.
There are those that will tell you that anything short of daily updates won’t bring dedicated readers, and I’m not going to say that isn’t true. But part of starting a new habit is recognizing that pushing your own boundaries is going to be your first goal no matter where you want to end up. And nothing helps you push forward to the next level like a little success at meeting lesser goals. Set yourself up to fail early and you’ll just end up hosting a pity party where you’re the only guest.
Don’t underestimate the power of little, achievable goals. For example, one year I made a New Year’s resolution to read a little each day. The catch: “a little” was the only requirement. It could be a page, it could be sentence. As long as I opened a book every day I was off the hook, guilt-free.
By the end of the year I had read more than a dozen books without once changing my rules. The results on their own sound impossible given the other crazy things that happened that year, but “a little a day” always sat snugly in my busy schedule.
Don’t Limit Your Range of Topics
I have found that allowing myself to write about whatever I want whenever I want has allowed these early posts to happen organically in my busy life. Again, this may be counter intuitive when considering what seems like good advice for a blog in general, namely targeting a specific audience, narrowing your field, and delivering routinely.
However, when you’re just starting out I’d wager you don’t really know what you’re interested in talking about, and I’m even more certain that you know nothing about what people want to hear. Once again there’s nothing preventing you from narrowing your focus later, but giving yourself freedom makes the habit forming process much easier.
When cobbling together a post at the last moment on a tangential topic, you just might stumble on pools of interest you didn’t expect to find. The Stupid Interview Questions series was started because I didn’t have time to write a formal op-ed post and I had to meet my weekly deadline. Imagine my surprise when my hastily dashed out posts instantly became the most popular and controversial pages on the site.