Happy birthday! Not to me, but to my commitment to building a writing habit and publishing a new article every single week.
On February 23rd, ironically with my procrastination article, I announced to the 1200 people that followed me on Instagram that I would write every Sunday.
Now, I divided this article into a few categories, answering a few questions.
Case study: How long does it take to get blog readers? The stages of blog growth and my timeline before this commitment
As I was explaining why I was the right person for this writing project that I threw my hat into the ring for, I realized how nonlinear my timeline is.
I actually added a TL;DR (too long; didn’t read) in the email:
TL;DR Timeline: started freelance writing in 2017, worked FT content roles since 2018, and been a full-time writer since 2019.
I didn’t want to disorientate them by also adding 2015, the year I published my first 5 articles:
- A Promise of Immediate Happiness: Taking On Shawn Achor’s “Challenge” November 17, 2015
- Taking On Shawn Achor’s “Challenge”: What I’m Grateful For November 18, 2015
- A Bomb Threat and Choosing Life November 20, 2015
- Gary Yourofsky’s Best Speech You Will Ever Hear November 27, 2015
- Until the Morning December 1, 2015
Writing regularly, but never sharing
In a way, 2015 doesn’t count because I managed the extremely vulnerable, nerve-racking process of putting yourself out there in the world by umm, not doing it.
Even though I wrote those articles, I didn’t tell anyone, not even my friends.
Back then, I obviously knew nothing about SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and how to increase the likelihood of being discovered online by people who were searching for the things I was writing about.
So, no one could find my articles. That’s not exactly nerve-racking. As I wrote in The Reason Most Artists Will Never Share Their Talent With the World (And Why They’ll Be in Their Deathbed, Dreading All the Art They Didn’t Create):
In books about artists, from artists to artists, it’s often joked around that the worst thing that could happen to your work once you publish it for others to see, is not for it to be disliked, hated, or even torn apart artistically and critically.
Artists’ worst fear is for their work to be ignored.
The opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s indifference.
In February 2017, I returned back home from Sri Lanka with a lot of realizations (I will write that story too someday), the most important of which was… I wanted to be a writer.
On March 20, 2017, my piece was published on Life in 10 Minutes. The next day, I shared the article on The Inner Dolphin’s website and posted about it on my Instagram.
Granted, the image I chose was from a coffeeshop (?) and I probably had 300 followers, all of which were friends or friends of friends, so again, pretty low risk.
My impostor syndrome would’ve really kicked in if I’d posted a screenshot of The Inner Dolphin site or my name featured in Life in 10 Minutes.
For a while, March 21 2017 held the record for the highest number of visitors in a day, almost 100. (The current winner is the day I shared my corneal ulcer story, with ~4X that amount, 390 people in a day).
The Rule of Seven for writers
I have no recollection of this, but apparently, I wrote a lot after that 2017 Spring Equinox, 18 articles in the span of a year.
I didn’t share any of it with anyone. I’d shared my site once already! If someone wanted to, they would’ve seen it already.
It seems like back then I was in a strange position. I was self-conscious (“Who do I think I am to tell people whenever I write something new?”) and self-absorbed (“People frequently check my profile and are up to date with what I’m doing.”).
A common concept in marketing, called the Rule of Seven, states:
a prospect needs to see or hear your marketing message at least seven times before they take action and buy from you.
This number has been debunked, I believe, but the point still stands. You can’t expect to be read by hundreds if you’ve mentioned your site once. There’s no shortcut.
Hoping for consistency, I started writing every day in May 2018, starting with Routine Optimization. I got my first full-time content role a few days later. I wrote every day until June 19.
The reason I stopped was very concrete and sad actually, but as a writer, I’m a sucker for metaphors and turning ugliness into art, so I wrote about it cryptically, yet openly: What the Water Gave Me- Why I Stopped Writing Every Day.
I started writing every day again. It lasted 5 days. Listen, daily writing works for Seth Godin and Austin Kleon, but not for me. It wasn’t sustainable.
The next pieces I wrote were “inspired by” the here and now:
- I went to a protest and wrote about The Types of People at an Albanian Protest About Domestic Violence.
- I was researching serotonin and wrote about it.
- There’s even the odd I’m in Florida. Here Are 17 Random Thoughts.
But the thing that most described my situation was this article, How to “Just Write” Without Having to “Sit at a Typewriter and Bleed”. I was struggling to write.
On February 23rd, I shared the procrastination article, which was featured on Thrive Global (Ariana Huffington’s Behavior Change Platform), and told people I planned on sharing a new article every Sunday.
And today we’re here.
How Long Will It Take to See Results From Blogging? My numbers
For transparency’s sake, I’ll include my numbers. I already shared these on Instagram, so feel free to skip if you’ve seen these already.
I’m always cautious about sharing numbers, or focusing on other people’s numbers- comparison is the thief of joy, but this was so cool.
Over the last 6 months, I had 50.500 impressions (that’s the number of people who saw my articles on Google).
The platform I used is Google Search Console. It’s free and shows you how people find you, other people linking to your website, what countries your visitors are from, etc.
- The main way people find me is by Googling a variation of ‘pros and cons of psychology major‘
- My top 3 countries are the US, UK, and Albania (where I’m from-represent, shqipe!)
Then, I shared my Google Analytics numbers. Just 8000+ people casually hanging out on my little corner of the internet. I love it.
Research shows that most people spent fewer than 15 seconds on a page. But people spend ~a minute on The Inner Dolphin, with a total of 168 hours spent here since July 2019. How cool is that?
What I learned from writing and sharing an article every week for a year, no matter what
A few people have asked me how I did this. By now, I hope you know you won’t find advice like “wake up at 5am and write for two hours before leaving for work” in here.
As with many things online, the main focus is on how. Well, that’s how my heading starts so I guess I’m adding to the noise.
My theory is that it isn’t related to how you do it at all.
Here are some of the most important factors when sticking to a routine.
Factor #1 in building a writing habit- our fight with time
“After he heard me talk about Einstein Time at a seminar, a Manhattan stockbroker sent me an e-mail telling me about what had happened recently on his daily subway ride to Wall Street. He said that he was running late one morning and had sprinted to catch the train, trying to balance a cup of coffee, a bagel, and his briefcase. Jammed in with the other riders on the crowded train, he started to look at his watch but couldn’t raise his arm because he was wedged in so tightly between people. He felt a wave of panic building because he couldn’t see what time it was or assess how late he might be for his meeting. Suddenly he recalled our conversation about Einstein Time.
Wait a minute, he thought, I am time, and I’ll make enough of it so I won’t be late for my meeting. He relaxed his body and tried to focus on enjoying the moment in spite of his wedged-in state. Since he didn’t have to worry about falling over, he closed his eyes and put his attention on being just where he was. Soon he reached his destination and walked out into the crisp morning air. Again he felt the urge to look at his watch, and again he let the urge pass. When he got to the meeting that he expected to be late for, nobody was in the room yet. He sat down alone and relished the at-ease feeling in his body. Soon people began streaming in, full of complaints about late trains and buses, slow-moving lines in coffee shops, and such. He just smiled.”The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level, Gay Hendricks
What is Einstein Time?
According to the Newtonian paradigm, there’s a finite amount of time (“It’s exactly the same problem we would have if we assumed there was a scarcity of food. We’d always be hungry, and we’d always be afraid there wasn’t enough food available.”)
In Einstein Time, you are the source of time.
For example, I love to read and I want to read as much as possible. While I may not always have my Kindle (ebook reader) with me, I always have my phone and therefore the Kindle app. The process of getting a gel manicure takes 1.5-2 hours and while there’s the occasional chit-chat, I spend most of my time there reading.
I read the chapter about Einstein vs. Newtonian time as I was getting my nails done.
The stockbroker’s story really resonated with me. I’ll admit, I had to re-read a few passages to understand what the author was saying.
Honestly, I’m not sure I fully understand the concept of Einstein time- at least according to Einstein’s definition of understanding:
“‘If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.”.
But I felt that story and I said to myself (in silence, not to freak out the nail technician): I am the source of time. I even thought about removing my watch, then I was like, relax cavewoman.
Often, tips about “how to do X” focus on finding the time. But time is ours. Your time is yours. I apologize if this seems painfully obvious, but you make your own time.
Inspired by the author, Dr. Hendricks, I’d like to invite you to make friends with time, specifically to not complain about time for a day, then for a whole week.
Factor #2 in building a habit- Judging our worth based on our achievements
Anything that acts as a facilitator in you seeing your worth more clearly, do that.
Manage everything in your power to increase your value, as often as possible, as ruthlessly as needed.
Form no attachment to your present version.
Allow and welcome upgrades regarding who you are, what you do, and who you surround yourself with.Your Worth – See it, Increase It, Don’t Get Attached to It
Our worth (or lack thereof) is a touchy subject. Attributes that indicate worth like wealth, professional accomplishments, busy social lives, can protect people from ever having to mull over their innate worth.
I’ve written a bit about busyness as a status symbol, and how research on holiday letters has shown that since the 60s, references to “crazy schedules” have notably increased (Schulte 2014).
If you’re always busy or with friends, alone time might not be in your vocabulary or calendar. Our worth is often related to what we do, what we have, and who we’re with.
People who want to build a regular writing routine, or change any kind of behavior, need to make sure their value and self-worth won’t be shaken up if they can’t stick to the plan.
Sure, make sure is a big word. I’m not sure I wouldn’t feel bad for missing a Sunday.
But I wouldn’t spiral into a dark place. This brings me to…
Factor #3 in building a writing habit- Find your real why and find the right why
Maybe you’re thinking “Are there really people who would spiral into a dark place if they didn’t share an article that week, or didn’t workout, or failed at X today?”
Well, yeah. Me, for one. In How to Stick to Any Exercise Schedule With This Simple Mindset Shift, I shared how years ago, as a half-adult still trying to find myself while navigating the world around me, I made my body suffer along.
Until I stopped.
I used to complete 1000 calorie workouts to punish myself, my body, my appetite. I was happy they existed, so I could quickly undo “the damage” I’d done by overeating.
And I would spiral if I overate or didn’t undo “the damage.”
Messages in mainstream media and even from nutritionists, dieticians, food writers, and even influential figures unrelated to fitness or food, tell us which food is good and which is bad and the next diet trend they’re on.
Oh, by the way, unless you have Celiac disease, avoiding gluten makes 0 sense.
You’re welcome. Go eat some pizza.
Most fitness instructors are still somehow very into body-shaming and bullying. Well, in 2021 a few of them have started covering their disgust with fat bodies and “bad food choices,” but even though the language used is different, the underlying message is the same.
So, listen, can you build better habits or drop unhealthy ones? Of course! No matter how helpless you feel or how many times you’ve tried, you got this. James Clear is the God of research-based habit-building and you can read all his free resources here.
But if you haven’t worked out your self-worth without your position, appearance, or bank account, starting to work on that might be the first step.
Your why will determine for the most part whether you stick to something or not.
Why do you want to do it?
I rarely do 1000 calorie workouts anymore, but I did last week, just to reward myself. Just to appreciate my body and all it can do; to prove again to my body what it’s capable of. Just out of love.
Factor #4 in building a writing habit- Everything else you probably know already
So behind our understanding of time, inherent worth, and why, there’s well, everything else.
After I’d kept up my “a new article every Sunday” promise for a month, I wrote about how I did it.
Don’t worry, I knew back then and I know now how funny it is to claim I can teach you how to do something after doing it for a month myself.
But as I recently learned from Lori Gottlieb’s book, the traditional way of teaching in surgery is “See One, Do One, Teach One“:
This saying reflects the traditional method of teaching in Surgery when trainees, after observing a particular procedure once, are expected to be capable of performing that procedure followed by being able to teach another trainee how to conduct that procedure.Application of See One, Do One, Teach One Concept in Surgical Training, Sandra V. Kotsis, MPH and Kevin C. Chung, MD, MS
My one-month lessons still apply a year later. They cover concepts like public accountability, habit building, how to choose the right time to get shit done, expectation regulation, etc. You might know about some of them, but reminders can’t hurt, and they are the bread and butter of habit building, especially for creators.
“Somewhere someone is looking for exactly what you have to offer.”Louise Hay
Any last words?
I’d be lying if I pretended this wasn’t much easier because of you. Yeah, you! Okay, maybe I would’ve kept this going even if I was shouting into the void. I’d do it for the one person who would love this if they found it.
However, from family members to my incredible boyfriend, to friends, friends of friends, and even strangers, I have read, heard, and felt the support. You’ve made this journey more beautiful than I could’ve ever imagined.
More resources for writing regularly, dropping bad habits, and forming new healthy habits
- How to “Just Write” Without Having to “Sit at a Typewriter and Bleed”
- A Month Later, 5 Tips for Building a Writing Routine, or Hey, Any New Habit Really
- The Reason Most Artists Will Never Share Their Talent With the World (And Why They’ll Be in Their Deathbed, Dreading All the Art They Didn’t Create)
- If you’re a writer/artist/content creator, Why People Don’t Read What You Write
- this brilliant video- Addicted To Work? Here’s How To Not Miss Your Life
- The Habits Guide: How to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones and all the books he mentions