Shifting focus

Tilt shift photo of a wall

Just over a year ago, I started blogging again. Shortly afterwards, I committed myself to publishing a blog post a day. Most of these would be “links that made me think”. I saw this as quite an easy way of publishing something daily.

This seemed to work pretty well at first. But gradually, I began to realise something disturbing. It was taking me far too long to push these link posts out.

Here is my blogging workflow. Whenever I read an interesting article I think is worth linking to, I add it to a backlog. When I have some spare time for blogging, I go through this backlog, re-read those articles, consider if I still find them interesting, then figure out if I have something interesting to say about them.

I would often schedule these posts way in advance. This worked really well if I was going on holiday. I could have two weeks’ worth of posts lined up and ready to go. But that brought other challenges. I had to avoid really timely topics. Although since it took me so long to get through my backlog, timely topics usually fell by the wayside anyway.

Sometimes people would say to me in person, “you posted an interesting article today”. But I couldn’t even remember what I had written and scheduled for that day.

If I was feeling really lazy, I would simply post a link, just with a quote from the link, without adding anything of my own. After a while, I stopped myself from doing that.

I ought to add value, by adding my own commentary, or some kind of response to the article. Otherwise there is no real point in my posting a link.

Also, most of the links I published didn’t actually attract much traffic. People seem to be more interested in my longer articles, when I write about myself, or what I think about something.

In a way, that makes sense. Why would anyone go to the Duncan Stephen blog to follow external links? As much as I might like to be, I’m not a curator or an aggregator. The point of a personal blog is that it’s personal — about me.

Most absurdly of all, I have a large backlog of links that I have loads to say about, but I haven’t. Because I perceive that I don’t have the time to. Because I thought I needed to write about less interesting articles once a day.

I expected August to be the toughest time of year to keep up the daily blogging routine, because it’s such a busy time of year for me and I was going on holiday. But things actually ground to a halt in October.

I found myself staring at a backlog of articles that were either slightly dull, or I didn’t have anything to say about. Meanwhile, further down the list, there were a set of articles and topics I’ve put off for another day when I’ve got more time.

The tail was wagging the dog. This was completely the opposite of the situation I wanted to be in when I started blogging again. I had wanted to be in control of what I published. But I let a self-imposed routine take control of me.

So about a month ago I loosened up my rules. Gone are the daily link posts. Gone, possibly, is the commitment to post daily at all.

Then the floodgates opened. Suddenly, I was writing more freely. I found myself tapping out more longer articles every week — sometimes a handful of them a one day.

I had gone from agonising over what to say about a link, to genuinely writing about my own thoughts and feelings. It feels much better.

A technical note

I have changed the way different post types are organised. I had tried two previous out-of-the-box options — IndieWeb Post Kinds and WordPress’s own Post Formats. Neither of them worked quite right for me.

So now I have implemented my own custom taxonomy. Quite why I hadn’t done that in the first place is a mystery to me now, since custom taxonomies aren’t actually that difficult to set up in WordPress.

This does mean that I have to go through and add all of my archive posts to the new custom taxonomy. I’m about a quarter of the way through. So some archives posts will look a bit odd for the time being.

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