As a teenager, you may have once pined over a boy or girl and thought, They don’t even know I exist. Well, it can feel just as bad when you create a new blog and no-one seems to be reading it. In fact, it may be even worse because Google Analytics will confirm your suspicions without a hint of sympathy.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to spend thousands on your blog to be successful. You don’t need hundreds of thousands of pageviews. Or even a super slick blog design. In fact, you can be extremely successful and barely spend any money. But what you do need is a plan.
What is the 10,000 hour rule? How long is 10,000 hours? Have you blogged for 10,000 hours? How?
This is a “rule” that Malcom Gladwell popularized stating that approximately 10,000 hours of practice are needed to master a skill (in the simplest terms). For now I will ignore the many arguments against this rule. Instead I will focus on the fact that it basically shows that a lot of volume is needed to work towards mastery of anything.
Many circles apply this rule to athletes, pointing to the amount of hours of practice that they need to get to the elite levels of competition or expertise. Volume is not the ONLY factor that contributes towards mastery, but 10,000 hours is widely recognized as a bar that many reach for.
How Long Does That Take?
Some basic math (assuming 2 weeks vacation) showed me that if you put in 40 hours a week, you would reach this mark in 5 years.
10,000 hours / 40 hrs/week = 250 weeks
250 weeks / 50wks/year = 5 years
Is this realistic? Nope.
As a gymnast, growing up, I practiced for 3 hours a day 5-6 days a week (on average). That would put me at about 12-15 years to get to that mark of 10,000 hours.
This lines up well with high school athletes looking to compete in college. If they start young, like I did, they hit that mark just before, or during, college. I won’t go in to the various opinions on whether or not athletes should be multi-disciplinary in their younger years to round out their athletic foundation…I am focused on the raw volume for now.
Applying The Rule to Blogging
Does this mean you should blog full-time?
Why do you think the full-time bloggers are so good?
This was quite a realization for me. Largely because I’m not even close to 10,000 hours of blogging.
However, if you look at blogging as writing, then you can give yourself more credit towards that 10,000 hours. High school was hopefully a time to lay the first building blocks of your writing skills; with college giving you a serious boost towards the reps and volume you can’t avoid when honing a skill.
Let’s assume, for arguments sake, that by the time you have finished college you are at about 4,000 hours. (2 hours/day, 5days/week, for 8 years) While that is very optimistic, you still have 6,000 hours to reach the aforementioned Gladwell benchmark. Seeing as how most successful bloggers start off with a “regular” job and write on the side…let’s say you write for 4 hours per day. (That’s still a ton and probably not realistic for most)
6,000hrs / 20hrs/week = 300 weeks
300wks / 50wks/year = 6 years
6 years post college to become a “good” writer (blogger)!!!
That seems like a lot.
But it’s not. I would bet money that most successful bloggers didn’t find their success for at least that long…if not longer. I wrote about Jason Kottke not long ago and how he was running his website for 7 years before deciding to give blogging full-time a try. He has now been blogging full-time for 15 years and his blog is 22 years old.
Seth Godin…has been doing what he does for almost 30 years. He wrote his first book in 1999…his blog coming later. Talk about volume.
How to Get There
A couple years ago, I was traveling from Memphis to Portland with a connecting flight through Dallas Forth Worth. A cashier in DFW mentioned to me that I appeared to be in good shape and asked if I had any advice for him when it came to putting on muscle.
While the comment and question caught me off guard (because I was in a candy shop of all places), I assumed he was emboldened to ask because of the Crossfit shirt I was wearing.
In an instant, I thought of the thousands of hours of practice and working out I had accumulated for over 30 years. I asked myself, What one thing can I tell this random guy about my lifetime of fitness?
“Consistency man…go to the gym even when you don’t feel like it.”
I said as he handed me my receipt.
I couldn’t tell if the look he gave me said “true, true” or “that was lame” Nevertheless, it was the best piece of ‘gym advice’ I could think of as, ironically, I was walking out with a bag full of gummy bears.
I learned a lot about consistency and self-discipline from my years of gymnastics. Yet, I find I still need these reminders as I work on becoming a better writer:
Becoming a better writer will take time…a few years by my calculations, probably more.
There are no shortcuts…no matter how many Medium articles I read that promise me ‘5 Tips to Becoming a Better Writer’.
Consistency is key…I have to write even when I don’t feel like it.
Now you’ve read this article and learned in 5 minutes what it took me decades to discover.
Knowing these 3 insights alone won’t guarantee your success…but they sure as hell will help.
I went out on my daily excursion to sit on the front step of my building for ten minutes holding my breath when people walked by. Normally, I spend the time diddling around my phone, but I forgot to bring my phone this morning, so I just looked around.
As I was taking in the emptiness of the street, a little glint caught my eye in a patch of dirt on the sidewalk. I bent over to look closer, and there was the glint again. It wasn’t a normal glint like from a shiny rock or a piece of metal—it was a little pinprick of flashing light.
Intrigued, I was now on all fours looking closer. And I saw the most surreal thing.
Like tiny houses. Each about a millimeter high, like ornately carved grains of sand.
I was either dreaming or looking at the coolest, cutest little art project ever.
As I examined the microscopic village, I noticed what looked like a scrawl of teeny letters on the dirt next to the houses. It said:
Blogging full-time is a goal for many…he made it happen before it was a thing.
Not sure if you have ever heard of Kottke.org, but it’s one of the internet’s oldest and well-known blogs. Somehow I stumbled across a 15-year-old post over there, when Jason Kottke wrote about going “full-time blogging”.
After thinking about it for a few weeks, I had a bit of an epiphany. The real problem was the tension between my web design career and my self-publishing efforts; that friction was unbalancing everything else. One of them had to go, and so I decided to switch careers and pursue the editing/writing of this site as a full-time job.
I would imagine that was as terrifying then as it is now…probably more so. He had been working full-time and keeping up his blog as it picked up steam for about 7 years.
Think about that.
7 years keeping his blog up and running before he jumped in to it full time.
Ok, but why else are you doing this?
Blogging — or personal publishing in general (not that they’re synonymous) — as a pursuit has been somewhat marginalized as a hobby or something one does to support other more worthy and/or lucrative pursuits. People leverage their blogs in order to write books, write for magazines or newspapers, pursue art or photography, go work for Gawker, Mediabistro, or Weblogs Inc., get jobs at startups, do freelance design (as I used to), start a software company, or as a vehicle to sell advertising. All worthy pursuits, but I’m interested in editing kottke.org as my primary interest; blogging for blogging’s sake, I guess.
I have always seen blogging as a way to share my interests…and I think most folks see it the same way. Many might see blogging full-time as a dream job, but I bet it’s a lot of work too. What’s the saying?…
Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life
We have the benefit of hindsight and reading this post from 2005 is pretty cool to see. Jason’s write up still holds up all these years later.
Note: I saved that post to read later and write about here and little did I know that just a couple days later (March 14th to be exact), Kottke.org turned 22.
Hello all. I know there’s a pandemic going on out there, but I wanted to take a moment to celebrate kottke.org turning 22 years old today. If you’ve been reading along the entire time or for only a few days, it’s been an honor for me to inform, provoke, entertain, and possibly even infuriate you all for a few minutes every day. Thanks for reading — and an extra-special thanks to those who support the site with a membership. As I said a few weeks ago, all this really means a lot to me.
Deep dive on my WP theme, mesh WiFi routers, and that company that raised their minimum salary to $70k a year…
I’m the Grinch who grumbles about every WordPress theme. Except one. After years of resisting change, I finally switched FilterJoe to a modern, responsive theme: Twenty Sixteen—the new default theme included with WordPress 4.4.
My only temptation has been to leave WordPress for a simpler and more writing-focused platform like Ghost or Medium. While WordPress was for blogging at first, it expanded over the years into content management and an online application platform. The original focus on blogging has been diluted, and WordPress themes often reflect that.
However, WordPress now offers Twenty Sixteen for modern blogging, and it is good.
In this post, I detail how Twenty Sixteen makes me comfortable with it as a wonderfully content-focused blog theme.
This is the Theme I am running right now. This guy nailed it in so many levels.
A few new opportunities have arisen recently, offering up an equally exciting opportunity to reassess my camera kit. Now, I have friends — knowledgeable friends, very wise friends — who have made it clear I have very little rational reason to make any changes. But want is a pretty significant factor, specifically when it comes to photography kit.
Amazon’s Eero routers are the first out of the gate with HomeKit support, which promises to provide greater security to your Internet-connected HomeKit devices.
The update, which appeared today via an update to Eero’s iOS app, walks users through the setup process of adding their Eero gateway to the Home app. Along the way, the Eero app explains that enabling HomeKit support allows Eero to firewall off each HomeKit device, so they only communicate with approved devices and services.
I bought an Eero mesh WiFi router when I moved to a bigger house. Totally worth it.
Remember a few years ago when the owner of a credit card payment processing company based in Seattle raised the minimum wage of his employees to $70,000/yr while taking a huge pay-cut himself and capitalists the world over, afraid of their beloved & apparently suuuuper delicate system collapsing from such madness, flipped out?
One of the things that I have been very honest about when I started up this website was that I was going to try and make some money with it.
The tricky part is making money without being obnoxious, bringing down the quality of my site, or generally putting out garbage. I refuse. I don’t know about you, but I cannot stand websites that are riddled with ads and hurt your eyes with all of the click bait and pop-ups.
My initial goal is to be able to get enough income streams from various sources (affiliates, Medium.com partner plan, tee spring, etc) to be able to remove ads from here and break even on the cost of keeping the site going. The google Adsense advertisements that come with wordpress plans are ugly in my opinion…but I’m still trying to see if they have any benefit. If they don’t…perhaps I’ll get rid of them anyways. Luckily…quality content is always king.
When I was going hard on YouTube in 2018 and pumping out vlogs, I saw a lot of YouTube creators talking about their Patreon pages. I finally got curious enough to check them out but never signed up for one. It never really clicked for me until I came across Dusty Porter and his YouTube Creators Podcast. He is always talking about his Patreon page and calling out his patrons, encouraging folks to join his Discord channel to chat with likeminded folks.
After gaining a bit of inspiration from this creator…I have launched my own Patreon page.
But Scott…you post everything here for free…why a Patreon page? First, I do plan to offer early access to my longer form write ups. I haven’t mentioned it often, but I’ve posted some of my longer articles over on Medium and made a few bucks along the way. One thing they give writers that write for their partner program is a family and friends link for each article writen and published behind their paywall. This gets anyone with the link behind that paywall.
Medium has a ton of great content and I pay for the annual membership. I’d check it out if I were you. Hopefully $1/month is worth early/free access to articles I spend more time writing up. They’ll still get posted here, just a week or two after they go up on Medium.
Get free access to my Medium.com longer form articles with a Friends and Family link posted for Patrons only
Get a shout out on my next YouTube video
Access to chat with the community in our Discord channel
Not a bad start in my opinion. Honestly, I’m going to try it out and see where it goes. Let me know what you think about a Patreon channel and writing. I’m not sure how it will work out…but stick around and I’ll tell you.
If you didn’t consider speed when picking your WordPress Theme…
In my research on SEO for a small website, one topic I came across a few times was experts saying that my site should have a “modern design” and that it needs to be “mobile ready”. The writers of these articles almost always mention website responsiveness, speed, and loading times.
Websites should load in under 1 second!!
Said many of the articles I read…referring to short attention spans, mobile internet speeds, etc.
With my past websites, I would dabble in trying to make my site a little more lightweight, but I never really cared too much. If it loaded in a couple seconds then I was good.
However, a couple years ago I came across this website speed test over at Pingdom.com. It opened my eyes as to how slow some sites are, including my own past blogs!
But no more!!
After a bit of research, and some fiddling with various WordPress themes, I’ve found a theme that has significantly sped up my own site. I also adopted some tools and tips on things to consider when trying to make your website faster. While load speed isn’t quite the same as mobile SEO…if your SEO is amazing but your site won’t load, will people read it?
WordPress hosting and themes aren’t just for the little guys either. Here are some pretty big sites and companies that use WordPress.
The New Yorker
The Official Star Wars Blog
What is a WordPress Theme?
Essentially the theme you pick is the layout of your website. According to WordPress…
a theme is a collection of templates and stylesheets used to define the appearance and display of a WordPress powered website.
This is basically how your site will look and your theme will dictates how your readers will interact with your site. If things are not laid out well, your bounce rate (when people come to your site and leave without clicking around) will be much higher.
Why Does a WP Theme Matter?
Design matters but not 100%. This is largely because you probably don’t want your website to look like something from the 90s…unless that is what you’re going for. You will want to get your site looking like you want, and how you want people to interact with it…but load speed will be a HUGE component of your initial traffic inlet…or at least what lands people on your front page or keeps them reading your blog link they clicked. You are MUCH MORE LIKELY to have someone come to and browse your website (or conduct a session as Google Analytics calls it) if it loads as fast as possible when they click that link.
I mentioned Pingdom.com and the speed test tool that it has. If you are curious, try out your own site, then try out some of the one I listed below in that speed test tool. (Or just look at the results for each that I screenshot and put below)
I was surprised when I saw that my website got the best grade out of all of them. Especially Daring Fireball, as John Gruber is known for his take on design and simplicity. Yet, as you can see…if you are a giant news outlet or popular apple blogger…you don’t have to worry about it as much because in the end…
Content is King
How do I pick a good WP Theme?
First it helps to have a vague idea of what you want. Don’t be afraid to preview a WP theme for your site and go ahead and activate it, throw your URL in to the Website Speed Test tool and see how it does. Make sure you write down what your current theme is so you can switch back if you don’t like the ones you are testing, and I would also do this in the off hours of when your readers normally come to your site. (Google Analytics has a great readout for higher traffic hours if connected with your site)
Read some of what Pingdom.com says is slowing your site down (large images, url redirects, etc) and see if you can find ways to improve in those areas. Or…find a theme that does those for you, like I did.
I use the Hermes Theme by Themes Harbour and it was mostly by accident that I realized how fast it was. I was actually looking for a specific design, tried this one a few others out (Canard, Verity, Dyad 2, Carbon) and once I saw this one in action I was sold. I had to customize it with some of my own CSS to tweak it to my liking, but that is a post for another day.
Ultimately it’s what you want…and I used to accept that C or D grade as long my site looked the way I wanted. Now, with more than 50% of internet searches generated via a mobile device, mobile SEO and site design has never been more important.
People think that summiting the mountain is the goal…they’re wrong.
People think that summiting the mountain is the goal…they’re wrong.
If you start a new job, build your own business, or begin a training plan to climb a mountain, you better realize that your goal should not be promotions, contracts, or summits. All of those things are the result of a lot of hard work and dedication, but they should not be the outcome you seek.
After finishing college, I took up rock climbing to fill the void that being a college athlete had filled. Like most people I started in the gym to establish my confidence and skills, and before long I was lucky enough to befriend folks who climbed outdoors.
Fast forward a couple years and I was now an experienced indoor and outdoor climber, working part time at my local gym, climbing bigger projects outside, and even volunteering with a local Mountain Search and Rescue Team.
The more I was around my outdoorsy kin, I learned lesson after lesson…but none stuck out to me as much as this one.
It’s not about making it to the top. It’s about making it back down.
In the Search and Rescue world, “the way back” is always at the forefront of everyone’s mind. Why? Because SAR folks are out there rescuing people who reached the summit and didn’t plan (properly) on how to get back down to safety!! It is quite literally, life and death on the side of a mountain if only one half of the equation is considered.
The same can be said of a lot of things in life. (maybe not life and death…but failure and true long term success)
Author and entrepreneur Ryan Holiday was recently interviewed by GQ, and addressed a comment about how motivation should not be outcome focused:
I work with lots of different writers. I ask, “Why do you want to write a book?” And whenever someone tells me it’s because they want to be a New York Times’ bestseller, I’m out. Because it’s a bullshit goal. It’s a goal that you have almost no control over. So the idea that you are going to spend a year or two years or five years of your life engaging in a process to get an outcome that you don’t control is insanity.
When your motivation is not really outcome focused, and you intrinsically like the thing, I would argue that the best work comes from that place.
Writing a book (or climbing a mountain) is a fantastic pursuit, but when the goal of that process is only recognition (a summit in the mind of the writer) you are destined to ultimate failure. You may summit that mountain, but you will be up there all by yourself, with no plan and now way down.
You will freeze to death in the cold of desolate success. Unless you consider the whole journey.
It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters in the end.
How to avoid the outcome focused cliff
1. Don’t get locked in on the goal
Avoid being like the intrepid Wile E Coyote, who gets so focused on catching the Road Runner that he falls into the canyon amidst a cloud of dust. Force yourself to step back and look at the big picture. Only then will you see the hazards that are just past the “prize” and know to adjust course to avoid disaster.
2. A partner can keep you in check
In the mountain climbing world, a solid partner is not only competent and as motivated as you are, but will also not be afraid to tell you when to turn around. It’s easy to be so motivated to achieve the goal you set for yourself, that you lose sight of everything around you. Like a snow storm that envelopes the top of a mountain, reducing visibility to only your own feet; your career dedication has the potential to harm you more than help.
A worthwhile partner can pull you out of that haze and show you the abyss you were about to march right in to. We all want to see that life changing sunrise come over the horizon…but sunrise is when visibility is at its worst….your partner can tell you that light you see is a train about to hit you, not the sun.
3. Accept the cliche: you have to love the process
If you are reading this article then you’ve probably heard “you have to love the process” a thousand times. That’s because it’s true. In the context of this article…if you don’t love the process and are only focused on the goal you set, you will be let down once you reach that goal. Sure you’re a success…but was it at your own expense? Others expense? What’s next?
Passion for the process safeguards you from those potential pitfalls; and that “process” may mean different things for different people. For some, it may mean the actual work, for others it may be the people they work with, and yet for a few it may be the overarching mission of their organization. Either way, the passion is there and will keep you steady.
“The big picture doesn’t just come from the distance; it also comes from time.”
Implementing this ethos in your life and career takes time. It’s hard when all you see in the short term is the restrictions all around you, not allowing you to do what you would like. Yet, if you can keep coming back to those three things to steer away from that cliff…you will be shocked at how beautifully things can turn out for you in the long run.