Commit to it and ship it!
The process of pushing yourself to write and publish blog posts for 7 days straight
Today, I’m sitting at the Espresso House in Bergen, Norway. Less than 24 hours ago I returned back to my hometown for Christmas and some much-needed vacation. A couple of days ago I read the blog post If You Can Do It Every Day, You’ll Be Enormously Successful. It reminded me of the importance of being a doer. It struck a nerve.
Too often I choose to do what feels better than what is most needed. This is especially true when it comes to personal development. I enjoy writing and the fact that I learn through putting words on the paper. Despite my wish to write more, and also use it to help others who are starting their entrepreneurial journey, I’ve only published exactly 0 pieces in 2017!
With 2018 around the corner, this had to happen now. From experience, I’m much better at following through on things when I have a commitment to someone else. I discussed the article with one of my best Silicon Valley friends and true hustler, Tiff Willson, during one of our weekly climbing sessions. She had been thinking the same thing for a while and wanted to get back to writing her story. As we were high on adrenaline from ascending one of Mission Cliffs many challenging climbs, we agreed to write every day for 7 days during Christmas.
What usually happens when something is hyped, is not following through. To assure that Tiff and I weren’t only bullshitting around, we formalized the commitment over Messenger the next day. The deal went down as follows:
Write a draft every day, get feedback from the other, then publishing it the next day. That meant in theory that we have to write something new the same day we publish yesterday’s draft. There were no word limits and a focus on getting something ok out today rather than perfection next week. Thus: quantity over quality! The goal was to prove to ourselves that we were able to create and publish: “Commit to it and ship it!” as Tiff responded.
As I learned from doing The five min journal, to increase the chance of following through, we should agree on a reward for success and contingency for failure. Our award would be to buy some nice new workout clothes. Random, I know. If you failed you would have to donate $250 something Trump-related (totally ouch!). If neither of us was able to follow through, we would together have to run (again) the Rock & Roll Half-Marathon in March. We did that last year and it was awful! This made us incentivized to push each other.
So how does that leave me? Motivated to make this thing happen! Right now I’m certain that the humiliation of supporting something Trump-related with $250 is greater than publishing something that isn’t perfect. $250 is also a lot of money for an entrepreneur… The contingency should sting!
I’m also really looking forward to reading Tiff’s posts. I’m expecting us to approach this challenge differently, but through learning from each other, we will be inspired to write better, more concise, and work from each other’s ideas and thoughts. I couldn’t imagine anyone better to be working on this with!
Now that my commitment is clear, how will I actually be able to complete this challenge? My ideal process would be to:
- Start by writing offline at the beginning of the day.
- Have no filter on what I write in my drafts.
- Give this 5 hours a day: 2 hours to improve and proofread yesterdays draft. 3 hours to work out another.
- Go to bed at a reasonable hour and get up.
- Printing the draft out to proofread before publishing.
So here I am, on my first day of this challenge. It’s 9 am a cold and rainy Bergen morning. It’s midnight in the Bay Area where Tiff is hopefully asleep. I’m off to write my first piece of content.
I find that I immediately start looking for procrastination by starting the tools I’ll use. I buy a license for WriteMapper, a product I found on Product Hunt a few months back. It didn’t work for me then, but they have apparently fixed what didn’t work. WriteMapper should help me create mind maps as pre-draft.
Two years ago I wrote my most read piece: The Secret: How to write a perfect Medium post, after attending a workshop by Medium and The Hustle. I was surprised by the feedback on the post because I am not known for my precise writing. Even one of my co-founders proclaimed: “This is the best piece you’ve ever written, Aurora!” Thanks, Nicolaj! 🙌
Now, two years later, I must remind myself not to bother with fixing my spelling mistakes as I write a shitty first draft. I’ll cut and then cut some more.
Just letting the words flow. Yeah, that’s right. Letting them flow .. flow .. flow!
I guess I’m also relying on Tiff being able to help me fix a few non-native English speaking mistakes.
I’ve yet to start the actual story for today. Yeah — sure. I’m happy no one will be reading this yet. How stupid of me to write like this? Ehm, actually I sorta enjoy it!
So here we go.
Here’s to the next 7 writing days!
My first rough draft is done. I’ve not read through it yet, and structure is totally off. I’ll grab some lunch. Meet a few friends before giving it a second go.
Alright, the first post is LIVE. Snag it here:
How much I hate WriteMapper right now. If it had saved as it should yesterday, all my notes would still be here… Now, I only have my backup text from yesterday midday stored. Thus, no time specific notes for you, my friend!
Today definitely went mostly to fix and publish Day 1. Probably spent 4 hours on completing it through reviewing comments from friends, cleaning up the text, take it through Grammarly and Hemingway App. Also setting up the TinyLetters account for potential subscribers to the newsletter.
Alright, so let’s get into Day 2 draft!
Draft 2 sent to Tiff!
I’ve slept poorly and can’t sleep anymore.
Finished reading Tiff’s Day 2 post. Wow! It’s really really good. I especially like how she’s structured it and all the great quotes she used.
Damn. Not happy with today’s post. Feel like it’s lacking stuff, but at the same time, I don’t have the energy to work on it further with little sleep. I also have to finish the draft for tomorrow!
Alright, time to crunch it out and review the last feedback. Felt it was a bit weak, so added how Product Hunt has been useful to me too. I didn’t proofread that part properly, so I’ll have to review again tomorrow morning with fresh eyes. Post 2 is live:
About time to start writing the Post 3 draft! It’s so late, and I’m so tired due to jetlag that I’m going to review my notes from a talk I did at Slush 2016 about team processes. I’ve only given that talk once, but I’ve never experienced as much engagement from a presentation before. The main feedback was that I didn’t only address the potential issues, but it gave them actual processes to work out from. Due to this, I’ve always wanted to share this in a post with everyone that didn’t attend the conference.
That’s it. Need to rest to bring my A-game tomorrow!
I realize that the hardest part of this experiment is to make time for writing in between the normal day. I don’t have 5 hours a day to do this! For Post 4 I’ve decided to borrow inspiration from others. And it’s from Brad Feld’s newsletter.
Wow, that went by faster than I anticipated. Instead of finishing yesterday’s draft, I finished what I intended for tomorrow! It’s too late to get going on the other one as I need some sleep. Hopefully, jetlag has left my body now!
Here’s post 3:
The year I returned to reading
I used to love to read as a kid, but then in 6th grade, we had a reading competition against other 6th grade classes…
Time to get going for today! First, in the spirit of Andrew Chen’s advice, check the stats. I wonder who these people are and how they found it. Checking through the referrers page, it seems like only a few people are sharing the posts. I also wonder how Christmas is impacting this. Do people have more or less time to read posts? Are they too stressed about Christmas or will that be the exact result of it: people actually have time and are actively looking for things to read?
Alright, starting to review Tiff’s draft for today.
Man, I suddenly got really really tired! What’s up with that?
Time to finish this post and publish it!
Published! Check out post 4:
Let’s start this draft. I’m not sure where to start…
Draft sent to Tiff. I’m actually quite proud of how quick I was able to put words on the paper!
As you’ll read today, (maybe) our garage was flooded so it’s been hectic trying to save my things (I didn’t publish that post after all).
Almost no reaction and reading to the article. But a cool thing happened: The Startup publication reached out and asked if they could publish yesterday’s post! I’ve no idea how they found it or whether they are reviewing a specific set of tags. Regardless, I’m happy someone found it and thought it was useful:) Will test out what it’s like to have it there and maybe move it over to the Megacool publication once I see how it performs there.
Someone I haven’t spoken to in 4 years sent me a message and said the Medium post was good. Not sure which of the posts he had read, but it’s always nice to get feedback :)
Published post 5:
How to be a mentor
There’s a lot of talking about mentors for entrepreneurs and how to get them, but about best practice for being a…
AND I sent two drafts to Tiff. I couldn’t decide which one I wanted to focus on, so I might as well be early on draft 7 since Christmas Eve is only a few hours away and tomorrow will be hectic.
Yeah, about getting to bed early… Christmas Eve was fun but didn’t allow me much time to write. Luckily I’ve received good feedback from Tiff and Torstein on the drafts. I don’t feel so confident about the post on how to deal with setbacks (in reference to my storage being flooded Saturday). It misses depth. Thus, I’ll work on the other post. Tiff wanted more uniqueness to it, so added some, and Torstein thought it was quite short. I don’t want it to be a replica of my post How to stay sane as an entrepreneur and actually answer the title of the post.
So here’s to pushing through in the middle of the night only to be able to not lose the competition. Post 6 is finally live:
Life hacks: Morning and evening routines
I love to sleep, but I also love to stay up late. I tend to find that I’m both productive in the morning and in the…
I must have a habit of staying up late these days. Now, I’m writing this post. I haven’t had anyone review it yet as I didn’t submit a draft yesterday.
But here we go: Post 7 of 7 is live!
Commit to it and ship it!
The process of pushing yourself to write and publish blog posts for 7 days straight
First and foremost: doing a challenge like this over Christmas when you have other obligations like family and work, is really hard. The good thing is that I’ve had a more flexible wake-up time, so crunching words in the middle of the night have been possible. I’ve only had to nap twice this past week. I believe it’s a combination of jet lag and staying up late to write.
There have been several days where I wanted to give up because I didn’t feel that the content was good enough, it was hard to find new inspiration or I was too tired.
A few days I’ve worried if Tiff was slipping through as I didn’t receive a draft. Those days I sent friendly reminders about why we’re doing this. No idea if it helped or not, but she has also followed through on publishing something new every day! I’m really proud we didn’t give up!
I noticed that as the days went by, I became more creative and was jotting down notes on the fly. I’ve several ideas of what more I want to write. At the same time, I realize that it’ll be impossible to keep up this frequency. I also understand how much it helped to be committed to writing with someone else. The contingency has helped me not to quit when I was about to give up. I’m also not clear about “my writing voice” yet and whether I should write more Megacool related, on productivity or about random stuff.
This would have been much harder if it wasn’t for the rough drafts I already had on Evernote. 3 out of the 7 posts were continuing on old drafts. WriteMapper worked well for writing and mind mapping, but I would make sure to export notes often for backup.
I’ve been quite modest in my distribution strategy. It’s scary enough to write. To be honest, I’m not ready to post these on either my LinkedIn or Facebook page. I auto-tweet to Twitter when the post goes live, and then I write a more humane post and do a second tweet.
On Medium I tag people and publications I mention. Hopefully some of them will find these posts interesting and share with relevant people.
The number of reads and views was not the goal of this experiment. After The Startup reached out and asked to publish posts 4–6, the traffic took a significant leap. It seems like other sites pick up what they publish, then distribute it further.
The read ratio is a lot lower on longer articles. For the team post I’m considering moving the TL; DR to the bottom of the post and call it a summary. Maybe that will help the number of reads?
My most popular posts in terms of engagement and highlights are:
I should really not have bothered setting up a newsletter as I’ve only gained one subscriber! But, in the spirit of playing the long game here’s the sign up.
All in all, I’m really happy we agreed to do this and proud to follow through. It’s been a good experience and most importantly: I’ve learned a lot! I’ll continue writing, and my barrier for perfection has lowered. I have to view this as work-in-progress. I can update posts as I receive feedback on them. With 7 posts in 2017, I should write more in 2018.
Thanks to Tiff Willson and Torstein Berteig for proofreading my posts, and to YOU for reading and following us on this writing journey! Here are all the posts:
- Sticking to it
- Change your life with a single tweet
- The year I returned to reading
- How to build a resilient startup team
- How to be a mentor
- Life hacks: Morning and evening routines
- This post 🎉
Here are Tiff’s posts: