How one year of daily blogging changed my life
A year ago from today, I was creatively dead. Frustrated. Coming off of three years as a freelance copywriter, being the father of an almost two-year-old, and the husband of a wife who was in the throes of starting her own ed consulting business — I was exhausted.
I was taking work as it came in. Hustling, squabbling over rates, and trying to collect on long past-due invoices. I can feel the knots in my stomach to this day.
I had no platform. My personal blog had 30 email subscribers, mostly composed of family and friends. I was burned out. My muchness was gone. I needed to get it back.
It was around this time that one of my favorite internet people — Casey Neistat — had started his daily YouTube vlog. On his first episode, he explained how he was tired and busy as ever… Which is why he needed to (wait for it…) create something every day. In his case, a vlog.
I was inspired. Seeing that, combined with years of reading Seth Godin’s prodding to blog daily, I reached a point where something gave way. I had to do it. I had to stop complaining about my lot and start creating.
Every. Single. Day.
The initiation of a daily blogger
At first, it was crickets. But it was cool. Because I had no idea what to write about or who my audience was, I wrote whatever came to my mind that day. I was my audience and I wrote strictly for the process. I tried my best to divorce myself from results. Blogging became my meditation. Being in a quasi-depressed state, I used it as a daily excuse to publicly elevate my lowly thoughts to a more positive, life-affirming place.
I started to get a little traction. Recommends trickled in from strangers. Each one fueled me more and more.
After a month, I decided to write about my month-long daily creative experiment. I hit publish. Went to bed. And woke up to a vibrating phone full of tweets, recommends, and shares. The post went viral (not mega-viral, but viral enough for me).
I was getting tweets and emails from publications like The Daily Dot, The Observer, and Huffington Post.
Just like that, I’d staked my little claim on my tiny corner of the internet.
All those years of writing in notebooks, untitled Google docs, and for thankless clients had actually shown a result. My personal brand had started growing. After years of rot, something had taken hold.
And just like that, I was all-in. The momentum was too much to stop. I was a daily blogger. I decided to take my daily exercise of elevated thought and create a Medium publication thusly titled, Higher Thoughts.
To date, it’s grown to almost 17,000 readers with posts having been translated in 4 languages. I’m the sole writer and editor. I did this on purpose because I wanted it to be a collection of me. A digital footprint of my evolution as a human and creative over the course of time. By doing so, I started a body of work. My body of work.
But the road over a year wasn’t all rainbows and unicorn dumplings. It damn near killed me.
The challenges of daily blogging
When I started out, little did I realize the storms ahead. Daily blogging is no sweat when you have a plethora of ideas and time to translate them into writing. At first, this was the case. I was a fertile wellspring of ideas and could articulate them with ease. I was high on daily blogging. The inertia carried me for awhile. But soon, the idea of me continuing this daily activity started looking grim.
A few months into my endeavor, we took a three-month trip to Europe. My wife had gotten a research grant from the Swiss government to look into their higher education and vocational schooling model (yeah, I married the smart one). We went to New York and Philadelphia for a week to visit family before heading to a town in France just across the Swiss border. Alex drove into Basel, Switzerland most days to do her research while I hung out with the kiddo. Then, she’d come home around dinner, we’d eat, and she’d hop on Skype to meet with her US clients.
It was a cramped schedule with a lot of traveling — all with a toddler in-tow.
But, on planes, trains, and in the passenger seat cruising down the autobahn, I wrote. During the windows of time that my wife and kid slept, I made it my priority to get a post out to the world. I had to get it in during the nooks and crannies. Sometimes it was easy. Often times, it wasn’t.
I remember one particular time when we went for a weekend trip with some friends to their chalet high up in the Swiss alps. It was a beautiful weekend. After a relatively rough beginning to our stay abroad(we discovered the hard way that running a new business from a different country was damn near impossible — plus, it’s real, the French generally love being assholes to Americans), it was nice to be hosted by English-speaking locals for a change.
But the problem was, there was no WiFi where we were in the Alps (silly Swiss). I didn’t even have 4G.
I wasn’t going to let this end my run. I’d gone this far, I couldn’t stop.
I woke up after our first night’s stay at sunrise before everyone else (as usual) just to be able to honestly tell my readers, once we’d returned to civilization, that I’d not missed a day — that I’d earnestly written this post, but could not share it with them. I wrote the post on my iPhone ‘note’ app. And somehow, just like that, my phone was graced by the Swiss gods above with two bars of cell reception. Just like that, a beam of telecommunication had shot over the alps and showered my cell phone in its glory. I was able to keep my obligation, stay true to my mission, and post.
Besides this, even after returning back to the US, there were the sick days, the holidays, and the days I was creatively blocked that I had to battle through. I tried to post out of sight of my family so I could fulfill my one main job as a husband/father — to be present in their presence. But some days — actually, a lot of days, looking back — I couldn’t. I had to flip open the laptop during family time and post.
But, something kept me going.
This was the most important work I’d ever done in all my life.
I was opening a vein and connecting with a real audience — something I’d wanted to do ever since I first knew it was possible. Ever since I read that first post from Seth Godin all those years before. I was establishing a true connection — albeit a digital one — with more and more people everyday.
The spoils of daily blogging (and why you should do it)
So here I am. One year of daily blogging on Higher Thoughts. Before I go, I want to highlight the most important takeaways from this last year. These are ways that I’ve grown in direct relation to this endeavor. Things I’ve gained that will never be taken away.
I found my life
Blogging every day forces you to notice the details of your life. You need fodder for the day’s post. And you’ll scour your world to get it. You become hyper-aware. You find ways to turn little subtleties into big ideas. You start writing with questions only to be faced with answers by the time you reach the end of the post. Your headspace literally becomes transformed.
My muchness has come back
The act of making something every day — even something as small as a blog post — is huge for your idea muscle. You will transform. There really is no choice.
I found my voice.
I won’t lie. I pulled a lot from others. Especially at first. I had to find seeds of ideas in the work of other people in order for me to expand on, especially when I was running short for ideas (I credited them all, don’t worry). I played around with writing in their style. I colored my pieces with the intonation, punctuation, and wordplay I observed in the greats.
But soon enough, my voice emerged. Writing became almost effortless. My voice started flowing easier through my fingertips than through my mouth. The keyboard became an extension of my soul. Once I had the slightest idea, I found myself taking off and running with it. I could articulate with ease. It was like a dam breaking.
I found my people
Sure, there’s always the trolls (although not many at all), but I started getting emails from people from all over the world telling how my words were changing their lives. One woman told me how my posts inspired her to reconnect with her daughter. A guy emailed me saying how my posts were helping him tremendously with his PTSD.
I was blown away. Still am when I think of it.
There are the countless people who’ve digitally high-fived me, saying how my musings were motivating them to do better work that mattered. I was helping makers get past creative blocks and pulling people out of the writing closet while inspiring them to show their work to the world. These emails and notes provide a thrill that will never cease to put the wind back in my sails.
I found the power of packaging and shipping ideas
My adventures showed me the value of taking the fuzzy etherealness of my thoughts and forming concrete, digital words and passages from them that would then be transmitted to people all over the world in the click of a button. This concept blows me away. For free (FREE!), I’m able to digitally package my thoughts and send them into the minds of countless people for the chance to possibly change their world. Mind-blowing.
I found how incredible Medium is
Before this, I had a self-hosted Wordpress blog. I don’t want to knock it too hard, it was a great start, and I connected with some great people through it. But from what I’ve found…
If you don’t already have a large audience, a self-hosted blog pales in comparison to the power of Medium.
With Medium, I could write my nonsense randomness on my personal profile if I wanted. I could create publications (as I did with Higher Thoughts) as collections of ideas, anecdotes and stories when I felt inspired to do so. I could find and contribute to others who’ve started publications while opening myself up to whole new audiences.
And they’re not slowing down. Medium is in a place of tremendous growth and cooking up ways to support publishers and create a community of readers and writers.
Why you should try it
I urge you to try this. Mind you, they don’t have to big long posts. Most of mine were 200–300 words. Some are even a few sentences. Just something, every day, in public, from you. Not every post will be great. A lot will suck. You will want to quit. But when you do it, something in you changes.
If you grow an audience, awesome. But even if you don’t, you’ll have built an incredible body of work. A digital trail that chronicles your evolution. You’ll have built a personal brand — a sharp investment in time, but something required in this day and age.
Many of us have daily regimens or habits. Some of us meditate or run or read, etc. I highly recommend taking up blogging. You’ll find that, by sharing your truth with others on a daily basis, not only will you be contributing to them, you’ll start to know yourself at a level deeper than you’ve ever experienced.
And then you’ll be sitting there, thinking… Damn. Should I do it again?
Jonas Ellison is a writer who teaches therapeutic journaling for creative and personal growth to both individuals and groups. His work has been featured in the Huffington Post, Observer, The Daily Dot, and more.
To download his free audio workshop and accompanying ebook on Intentional Journaling, click here.