Retrospecting the blog

Back in the beginning of June this year, I left my previous job after six years. Since I wouldn't start my new job until September 5th, I had a nice long summer vacation ahead of me! In fact, my vacation even started before my son's (who's in school) and my wife's (who's a teacher), so I would have some time on my hands. One of the things I decided to do with this abundance of time was to start blogging every day.

A tweet reading: I'm starting a nice long summer vacation today, and I'm going to try a blogging challenge wherein I write and publish something everyday, even if it's a tiny thing. I'm sure there will be some Clojure stuff, some Arsenal stuff, and likely some NixOS stuff as well.

Ironically, despite posting this in the morning of June 13th, it wasn't until noon on June 15th that I posted my first blog entry over on Medium. In my defence, I did spend the 13th and 14th feverishly working on chapter 1 of "Story of a mediocre fan" for my friend Tim's blog, but I have to admit that the optics aren't great. 😉

The reason for deciding to blog every day, as I intended to explain in my first post but got sidetracked (no surprise to people who know me) and ended up talking about tennis, was to improve my writing. As a kid, I read voraciously, and loved books so much I decided to start writing them. My first efforts were picture books, which my mom showed me how to fold and bind with a stapler, but then I moved on to a mystery, inspired by the Hardy Boys series. As this was a serious novel (according to my 7 year old perspective), I needed a more serious writing tool than a pencil. We didn't have a computer yet (that would come the following year, and is a story that I really should write about, if I haven't already (oh yeah, I kinda did already, though I feel the story would support a lengthier treatment (haha, I just realised that I put a parenthetical inside a parenthetical 😂 (what am I, a Lisp programmer?)))), but we did have a typewriter. This was a real typewriter too, not one of those fancy IBM Selectric ones. When you wanted a carriage return, you needed to reach up there and pull a lever (at least you were rewarded with an incredibly satisfying ding!).

I don't remember much about that book other than there was a scary cave chase scene. I'm not sure if I ever finished it, or even what my definition of finishing it would have been back then. I do remember that I started writing a Tolkien-inspired book about elves and such at some point, but I'm sure I didn't get very far with that. I wrote a few chapters of a spy thriller starring characters called The Sniper and The Assassin. I did a bunch of writing in high school, as you do, and then did even more in university, and then pretty much stopped. I did write stuff at work, of course, but it's mostly emails and technical documents, which is a very different sort of writing indeed.

I'm not one of those people who just knows that I have a great novel in me, and by golly I'll write it one of these days, but I am someone who enjoys writing and misses not doing much of it. So when a summer with no work unfurled before me, I decided I was going to seize the day and get to writing: one blog post a day for the rest of the summer.

In the 88 days since I made that decision, I've written 57 posts (including this one). If I saw my goal as writing one post a day, every single day, I would have to conclude that I failed to reach that goal. However, the real goal was to get better at writing through frequent practice, and the act of writing one post a day was simply the process by which I planned to accomplish this. As with any process, the point is not to follow it to the letter, the point is that the process is supposed to enable you to make progress towards whatever your goal is.

Speaking of process, a vital part of any good process is time to reflect, which is formalised in many software methodologies as a periodic meeting called a retrospective. In the retrospective, the team discusses how things have been going and what could be improved. This concept is useful even in individual work, and in fact in individual work, we often don't allocate sufficient time for reflection, which can greatly harm our ability to learn from our mistakes and our successes.

This post is a retrospective of my summer of blogging.

What went well?

What could be improved?

What did I learn?

I'll wrap up this retrospective with some statistics. Here are the 10 most popular posts from the summer:

I suspect the "Story of a mediocre fan" series got even more views, since they were posted on a very widely read Arsenal blog, but I don't want to bother Tim to get those stats, since the point of all of this wasn't page views. 😉

Now that this experiment is over, I've concluded that I like blogging, and it's something that I want to continue. I won't set a regular schedule for posting, but rather set aside time for writing (and hacking on quickblog and Blambda and the stuff that I often write about) and post when I have something interesting (to me) to post. I also want to try writing some more focused pieces, which I'll edit and get feedback from people and so on. We'll see how it goes! 🙂

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Published: 2022-09-10

Tagged: waffle blog