On Tuesday, Mar 3, 2020, 11:37 PM, I finally started working on something I’d been putting off for months.
I had to edit 40+ articles, starting from 2015, and put more than hundreds of them into boxes, figuratively and literally.
In true new year resolutions fashion, I finally did it. It took me almost a year, but I’m here to share my findings.
These lessons cover topics such as skills, failures, business, why I was scared to go back and read my old work and what I found.
In case your work or hobbies are at all related to websites, optimization, content, tech, or blogs, you might find this helpful. (Skip to #6 if you want to see the actual process-spoiler: there’s a reason why it took almost a year.)
#1 Editing is a high-value skill that’s hard to master. And it’s not mine.
Curiosity may have killed the cat, but that never stopped me from trying to find all the answers. If something is searchable, I’ll look it up.
With a quick Gmail search, I was able to find how many times I’ve applied for an editor position. I’ve sent three emails with the word “Editor” in the subject.
I sent the first one in 2017. I never heard back.
In 2018, I sent another one, I didn’t hear back via email, but they called me in for an interview and hired me on the spot.
The other one was sent (I was gonna say this year, lol) in 2020 for a content editor/developer project with a psychologist. She replied:
Thanks for your reply.
Onto something else right now, can you contact me again ny mid/late June?
Onto something else myself, Claudia. Plus, it wouldn’t have worked out.
As it turns out for the 100th time, the best way to find out if you’re fit for something is by doing it.
I’ve heard YouTubers say that one of the worst parts about being one is having to look at your face, voice, and “silly” mannerisms for hours while you’re editing.
Similarly, having to edit 50+ articles was pretty brutal. I don’t know if it would be better or worse if they were someone else’s.
For a while, I considered hiring someone to help me edit articles and create the proper categories. If getting a job or a freelance project entailed spending 50% or more of my time editing, I’d struggle.
At the places I’ve worked full time where I was the only writer, I sometimes had to edit other people’s presentations or texts. I did not enjoy that.
However, I know that every job has its downsides. Being trusted with words is pretty low in the list of significant drawbacks, if you ask me.
#2 As far as content strategy goes, it’s always better to start and fix as you go than wait for perfection
Editing articles I’ve written *stares into space, holds her chin in between thumb and index fingers, it takes her ~2 seconds to find what 2021-2016 is* five years ago was a lesson on patience and growth.
A lot of things go into launching a successful new business, whether it’s a product, membership program, SaaS, or service-based.
- Brand guidelines
- Ideal customer avatars
- Web/app development
- Finding manufacturers, shipping companies, web hosting providers
- PR strategy
- Content strategy
- and much, much more.
If I had waited to create the ultimate content strategy, I would have never started.
While knowing what your ideal client or reader likes helps you serve them just that, and while I believe there’s no such thing as too much structure, if I had decided to do this categorizing and editing work upfront, The Inner Dolphin wouldn’t exist.
As Isaac Newton came to discover, “Objects in motion tend to stay in motion and resting objects tend to remain at rest unless acted upon by an external force”.Using Newton’s First Law to Combat Overwhelm, 2017 me
Don’t let the overwhelm get to you, be that force and just start.
#3 Thought refinement
I was a bit scared to go back and read my old work.
Back in 2015, I was writing for myself. I wasn’t drawing inspiration from anyone else (well, partly true, we all steal from each other,) I wasn’t writing for a living, I had no idea of SEO or sentence readability, and an overall disdain for rules.
Was my “raw” writing better? Had I lost my zest?
Well, *drum roll* I’m thrilled to announce that I found the opposite to be true.
Look, I enjoy my old writing, the points I made, and the topics I covered.
But I’m more respectful of other people’s time and attention now. If I want to go on a tangent and talk in circles about nothing, my journal is the place I go to.
When choosing between simplicity and wittiness, go for the former
I deleted an article or two because they said nothing.
It took almost a year to edit tens of articles because some of them had grammatical and spelling errors.
Some were tiring to read and hard to understand FOR ME, the person who wrote them, let alone you!
I had to edit because some paragraphs didn’t follow a logical route. Often, the point was hiding between sentences of nothingness. A few featured images or titles had little to do with the actual articles. The title I’m in Florida. Here Are 17 Random Thoughts is better than Particles, I feel like.
I talked about this realization with my boyfriend. He said he’s read all my articles from the very first one and hasn’t struggled with them at all, but he loves me so he might be biased lol.
I don’t write to be liked, but the least I can do when I know people are reading is make it worth their while. You can disagree with my point, but I need to know I tried my best to manifest my thoughts in the real world as clearly and meaningfully as possible.
You might rightly state that the answer to that question belongs to my readers, not me. Well, my inbox is always open and I’d love to know your thoughts! 🙂
#4 “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”
I created a category about the concept of time. Time is a trippy notion that I find myself thinking and writing about often. As we speak, the category includes 21 articles. That number is about to turn 22.
Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. Known as Parkinson’s Law, the concept proved true again and again during my little experiment.
“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.”Henry Ford
Whatever time frame you give yourself to do something, that’s how long it will take.
- If you tell your colleague you’ll send her the presentation before Thursday, generally, it will take you until Wednesday afternoon to do it.
I took a work (and social media) break from Christmas weekend till January 4. You’re an OG if you’ve seen this.
Even though I started the categorizing and editing work back in March, I had no timeline in mind. But I told myself I’d get this done during the break.
And well, well, well, what do we have here? A finished editing and categorizing process!
P.S. Understand and use Parkinson’s Law to your benefit. Make sure you’re spending time mindfully and setting deadlines that work for you, not against you.
#5 “Some perfectly healthy people can’t remember their own lives.” Write things down.
The sentence in quotation marks is the title of a British Psychology Society article.
The researcher Daniela Palombo and her team found that some mentally healthy, “normal” people may have an inability to recall or relive events that happened to them in the past.
“There is no evidence to support a neurological or psychiatric explanation for our findings”.Some perfectly healthy people can’t remember their own lives
What do you think a life without autobiographical memory would look like?
What would it feel like if you could clearly remember facts, but not things that happened to you?
I don’t know. What I can tell you is that even though I’m in my 20s, during this editing year, I realized that I don’t remember writing some of the articles.
Granted, I’ve written 100+ articles for The Inner Dolphin and another hundred for clients and managers in the past three years. I also took a burnout-guaranteed oath to write every day back in 2018, plus the trauma, so it may be understandably hard for me to remember.
I feel grateful that I’ve been journaling for years now, even though on and off, and more off than on than I’d like. Journaling daily has been a goal of mine for a while. I even mentioned it in my What I’m doing now page (it needs some serious updates). I think I’ve finally gotten the hang of it, and as long as I don’t skip two days in a row, I’m set.
“On the other hand, the written word carries a kind of mystique. Perhaps this goes back to ancient times when priests or magicians were the only ones who could read and write. Whatever the origin of our fascination with the written word, it is definitely something to be aware of and to take advantage of.”
– Zen and the Art of Making a Living: A Practical Guide to Creative Career Design, Laurence G. Boldt
“Some perfectly healthy people can’t remember their own lives.” Write things down.
#6 Don’t worry about others. If no one’s doing what you’re doing, no one can tell you what to do.
To no avail, I Googled relentlessly:
- “ideal number for blog categories”
- “how to choose categories for my blog”
- “how many post categories in WordPress”
- “best practices name of categories for websites”
- “creatively naming categories in site”.
The last inquiry turned almost nothing remotely similar to the question in the results.
I was able to find some articles that came close to answering my actual question: How to Choose Creative Categories for My Blog.
- This 8-year-old article about The Most Popular Blog Categories According To Google. Music, fashion, and cars were in the top three.
- A ProBlogger article from 2008 about choosing categories for your blog. “Mistake 1- failing to plan.” Considering it took me almost a year, it’s safe to say I planned ahead.
- CoSchedule told me to “Get rid of the categories that don’t have many posts.” Oh, also, “to be consistent in how I write them” and “choose categories that are keywords.”
There are no clear guidelines about the ideal number for blog categories, besides the obvious “don’t create more than you need or make sense for your site.”
How to Choose Creative Categories for Your Blog – My process
I started from the beginning (duh) with the first article and worked my way up. These (on the left) are the categories I came up with for the second and third articles.
I chose 3-10 words that explained what each article was about- for example: time, the concept of time, university, friendship, lessons.
After going through 100+ articles, I had come up with some simple words to explain what each article was about.
For example, these are the words I came up with for Using Newton’s First Law to Combat Overwhelm:
- getting shit done
- Newton’s law
- just start
These are the 72 creative blog categories I came up with for 100+ articles.
Double click to expand
The problem was that I had hundreds of words. Well, 72, but I didn’t want so many categories, specific for Newton’s law, motion, or overwhelm.
I mean, if I had a physics blog, a whole category for Newton and his laws would make perfect sense. In my case, not so much.
I didn’t consider categories like coffee and drinks (6 articles), faith and God (3 articles), fear (3 articles), and many others that could fit into other broader categories.
After a lot of refining, I came up with (just) 41 blog categories. The number next to each category is the number of articles that were related to the phrase.
More than 18 articles fit into the negative emotions category, for example- cruelty/rude/harm/pain/bitterness/panic/anger.
Did I want a blog category dedicated to negative emotions, though? Nah.
Even for topics that really matter to me, like love; self-love; effective communication; habit building; our relationship with our bodies, food, and movement; strategy; happiness; I wanted broader categories that would make navigation simpler, not more complicated.
Finally, I came up with clear names and a number of creative blog categories I was perfectly happy with, 12.
I think these categories fully encompass most of The Inner Dolphin.
- Building a successful and mindful business (44 pieces)
- Choosing optimism (26 pieces)
- Gratitude (37 pieces)
- Human rights & justice (23 pieces)
- Living mindfully (35 pieces)
- People & creating amazing relationships (58 pieces)
- Psychology & the brain (49 pieces)
- Research (36 pieces)
- The concept of time (21 pieces)
- The creative process (33 pieces)
- Ways to improve a tiny bit every day (52 pieces)
- Writing (37 pieces)
Even though I was super pleased with these and 12 is considered the number of perfection, there was another category that I had to include. It didn’t quite fit anywhere else. That’s Albania & Albanian culture to ya!
So, to recap, this was my process.
6 steps for coming up with creative blog categories
- Draw inspirations from the things and pages you love.
- Start from the beginning (duh) with the first article and work your way up.
- Choose 3-10 words that explain what each article is about- for example: time, the concept of time, university, friendship, lessons.
- Combine these words into broader categories where fit- for example: enjoying tiny victories fits in Gratitude, skills & careers & strategy fit into Building a successful and mindful business, etc.
- Bring forth your minimalist self. Edit ruthlessly.
- When coming up with creative blog categories, think of humans, not search engines.
When I started this process, the closest thing I could find about “creative blog categories” was from that CoSchedule article I mentioned earlier:
“Cute is for kittens. You might be tempted to name your category “Web Wizardry” but your readers will understand “Web Design” much, much better.”
Well, the New Yorker’s “Annals of Technology” and “Shouts & Murmurs” beg to differ.
Plus, what’s wrong with kittens?!
One of my favorite publications on the internet, Psyche, which has the most delightful creative blog categories, also disagrees.
“Psyche is organised into three sections. Therapeia provides expert insights and practical help in dealing with emotional and psychological challenges. Eudaimonia focuses on the perennial puzzle of how to live well in our complex world. Poiesis explores the imaginative, artistic and transcendent facets of life.”
How fucking good is that?
Of course, not every blog is trying to be the next New Yorker. Not every company has Psyche’s audience or goals.
Categories like The concept of time, The creative process, or Ways to improve a tiny bit every day aren’t exactly the safe choice, keyword-friendly, and according to CoSchedule, even though I might be tempted to name them that, “my readers will understand blunt terms much, much better.”
As I mentioned on my refreshed About page: “A lot of people like starting from the very first article and working their way up. Here’s the archive. (If you like the images that come with each article, you might enjoy this view more.)”
It’s hard to fully explain to people what The Inner Dolphin is about.
Yet, more people than I ever thought possible have told me they read and enjoy my articles.
These people (probably you!) have been here despite the lack of organized topics, a clear value proposition (“Why should I read this?”), or a homepage (the current one displays my latest posts, there’s a “real” one coming soon, tho).
CoSchedule says my readers will understand blunt terms much, much better. But it seems like readers found my writing long before I was able to put into words what it was or why it might be valuable for them.
I still secretly hope people will tell me they started reading from the very first article.
But on the new About page, I used the term “Dive into the carefully curated categories below” because I tried my best to carefully curate them. Maybe naively, I truly believe they will make the whole site experience smooth as peanut butter, and responding to “What’s The Inner Dolphin about?” way easier, even if you’ve known the answer all along.