Writing is as hard as it is rewarding. I think that’s a part of the reason why NaNoWriMo is so popular. For those unfamiliar, November is National Novel Writing Month where people around the world spend 30 days writing a 50,000 word novel. A novel is a big dream for many people out there, but it’s also pretty intimidating. That’s one of the biggest appeals of this month for those participating. It allows people to try out the writing process and see what they can come up with on four quick weeks.
As popular as NaNoWriMo is, I find it a bit confusing. In 2016, we read books on devices or by listening to them. And, if we’re being totally honest, not many of us are committing to reading entire books. We read personal stories of successes and failures in business. We read those stories on sites like Medium where everything can be read start-to-finish in 20 minutes or less. We keep up with our favorite personalities on Youtube and through their blogs. And most of us are getting our current events dose from social media, where character limits rival those of your average text message.
Just because books are waning in popularity, it doesn’t mean writing in general is a dying skill. Blogs and microblogs – especially ones focused on ever-changing software and development – are still incredibly valuable. And blogging about code is the quickest and probably easiest way to contribute to the community. That’s why I think this is a good time of year to consider tech blogging over writing a book. Blogging will always be constructive, and this month is a great time to start.
The purpose of NaNoWriMo is two-fold. First, it’s to write your version of the Great American Novel. It’s about dedication, consistency and accomplishment. Fifty-thousand words is no easy feat, especially in 30 days. But the bigger thing coming into play here is the community. People are participating in NaNoWriMo all over the world. People join Facebook groups for accountability, and that quickly turns into community building.
Blogs have the same benefit. Everyone knows that great blogs build communities. People are constantly scouring the internet to find their tribe, and blogs are a great place to start. Blogging consistently both connects you with an audience looking specifically for what you are talking about, and forces you to be accountable for creating valuable content consistently.
For tech bloggers, a good chunk of this content will be tutorials. Sharing your code and explaining what you did is the quickest way to build a following. Showing your work helps those both learning to code and looking to pivot to a new language. For devs especially, starting with tutorials is a lot easier than writing about anything else. This content is ready made; you’re already coding at work or for fun. Use what you have to get you started, and you’ll quickly contribute to the community.
When you do want to branch out, though, writing posts less focused on code and more on soft skills or current events is a good compliment to tech-heavy content. Writing is one of the skills no one thinks they’re good at but pretty much everyone has to do it at one point or another. We’ve all written a cover letter and a Facebook post. But no matter how many emails we send, there’s always some anxieties surrounding the written word. NaNoWriMo is a good exercise in creating a lot of content in an abbreviated amount of time. Although some people do end up sharing their finished product with others, many people use it as a personal project that no one will ever see. And this is one of the steepest benefits of blogging.
Blogging forces you to get over whatever insecurities you have about writing. And quickly. When you’re writing a blog for an audience, it’s truly not about you. It’s about creating good content that will either help or inspire your reader. This requires some empathy. You have to know your audience and what topics are of interest to them specifically. You also need to marry your own writing style – your voice – with the voice your audience needs to read to receive your message.
If you want to start a tech blog, start with picking a niche that best compliments your skillset. As you post more on it, the community will find you. When you get more of a following, you can then branch out and explore other topics that interest you. So instead of writing a novel this month, consider a blog. Create content every day for thirty days and publish the stuff that you want to share. The biggest factor in a tech blog – or any blog – is consistency.
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