I got used to writing lengthy technical articles over the last few years that I’d been finding it increasingly harder to publish articles that are not lengthy and overly technical over the last few months. This had led me to abandon a lot of rough ideas and article drafts, eventually leading to my blog feeling abandoned for months in a row.
This isn’t just bad because, well, it is bad. What made it worse is the fact that one of my most recurring pieces of advice is telling people to just write — write down what you learned, no matter how big or small. Start a blog and publish your writings there. Don’t think about whether or not people will like or read your articles — just give them a home and put them out there.
Most popular blogs I know started out as a series of articles that were written for the authors themselves, as a way to document their process and progress for their future selves to reference when they needed to. Heck, my own first few articles started out as rough drafts full of notes that I jotted down as I was learning new concepts (“CSS3” animations, anyone?), and then cleaned the notes up into an article so that it’d be easier for me to come back to those notes in the future.
With time, people got used to my writing style, and my lengthy, detailed deep dives that sort of became a distinguishing quality of my articles. So as the years went by, I started judging the quality of my articles by whether or not they match my previous style, and hence whether or not people would like them. And this is where I felt like I started losing my direction.
I completely ignored the fact that I was changing, and so were my interests. Instead of deep dives, I started enjoying writing shorter case studies that contain a lot of various useful tips and tricks, as opposed to deep dives on one very specific topic.
It took me time and practice to bring myself to start writing and publishing more again, without letting that voice in my head tell me my articles aren’t going to be good enough. I forced myself to ignore and silence that voice.
I remember publishing my first “rough” article after spending a couple of days trying to create an accessible tooltip for one of my clients. I found the process harder than I thought, and started writing notes and documenting my train of thoughts as I was learning how to do it. In the process, I was reminded of the “good old days” when I wrote for me, and it felt very nice. So, I decided to publish those thoughts in an article format that was completely new to me. But I did it anyway. I cringed when I hit that publish button and that voice inside my head tried to convince me that I was going to disappoint people. But I did it anyway. And it was absolutely liberating!
More articles started to follow. It felt like a sport: publishing more short, mini-case studies became an exercise in determination and carelessness for my brain. Today, I constantly remind myself before publishing any article that I am publishing this on my blog (which means that I can publish anything I want), and that it doesn’t matter if people read it or not. I’ll just keep doing my thing, because I enjoy doing it.
I even uninstalled Google Analytics because I didn’t care about checking any visitor numbers or bounce rates or whatever. My blog is there, and I will publish content, whether people read it or not. (Also, you know, performance.)
Once I got over my own obstacles, I stopped feeling like I was obligated to meet other people’s expectations. I started enjoying writing again. And so I recently simply started writing again.
What prompted me to write this particular article is the amazing feedback I got to the HSL article I published over the weekend and that I had no idea people would like. Since I want to write more often again, I’m more open to article ideas than ever. And after some people showed interest in learning more about my CSS color format workflow, I thought it would be a good topic to write about, so I did.
I didn’t spend days and weeks writing the article and polishing it like I used to do with my older articles. In fact, I was very deliberate in making it as short and succinct as possible, especially the part where I explain what HSL is and how it works in CSS. I thought most people would already be familiar with it, so I wrote a brief but concice section about it, just to cover the basics for anyone who hasn’t heard about it. And it was in this brevity and conciseness that most people found the article useful.
One particular comment to the article that stood out to me was Nicholas C. Zakas’. I was genuinely surprised to read that he thought this was the best explanation of HSL he had ever read. He pointed out that it was the brevity and conciseness that made it possible for him to not feel overwhelmed with information and therefore understand the concepts better.
In other words, my new, shorter articles have proven to be more inclusive. How great is that?! 😊
The point in saying all of this is to again encourage everyone to just write. What you write might help someone understand a concept that you may think has been covered enough before. We each have our own unique perspectives and writing styles. One writing style might be more approachable to some, and can therefore help and benefit a large (or even small) number of people in ways you might not expect.
Even if only one person learns something from your article, you’ll feel great, and that you’ve contributed — even if just a little bit — to this amazing community that we’re all constantly learning from. And if no one reads your article, then that’s also okay. That voice telling you that people are just sitting somewhere watching our every step and judging us based on the popularity of our writing is a big fat pathetic attention-needing liar. (Saying this felt so good, haha.)
If you don’t have a blog already, make one. Write. Publish. Share. You’ll never know how many doors one small article might open up for you.