From January to September of this year, I published 26 blog posts.
In October, I published 27.
When I set myself the goal of publishing a blog post every day for a month, I had no idea how it was going to go. In the past, I’ve announced multiple times that I was going to start posting every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and rarely managed it for more than a week.
What was I doing thinking I could publish every day?
Especially during a month where I’d be travelling for most of it. Especially as I didn’t have any drafts to work on. Especially as I’ve never been a prolific blogger.
The Blog Posts I Published
Let’s start with a list of everything I wrote in October:
- In October, Something New
- Conquering My Fear of Sailing in Greece
- Month 56: Travel Summary and Statistics
- A Carry-On Packing List for Sailing in the Greek Islands
- Why I’ve Stopped Travelling Full-Time
- That Time I Stayed in a Hotel Without Walls
- I Was Abandoned at the Burmese Border
- How to Find Cheap Flights Around the World
- Month 57: Travel Summary and Statistics
- 11 Highlights From My First Trip to Greece
- A Fleeting Glimpse of a Crowded Venice
- How I’ve Overcome My Fear of Flying
- Berlin: The Most Expensive Trip I’ve Ever Taken
- How to Back Up Your Photos While You Travel
- Month 58: Travel Summary and Statistics
- Exploring a Berlin Air Raid Shelter as a New Zealander
- I Love Luxembourg
- A Trifecta of Shit Airbnb Experiences
- How Much Does it Cost to Travel in Taiwan?
- In Which I Lose My Mind and Sign Up for a Running Tour
- Month 59: Travel Summary and Statistics
- Welcome to Belize
- Xunantunich: My Favourite Mayan Ruins
- Stepping Back in Time at Cahal Pech
- Into Guatemala via the Worst Bribe Attempt Ever
- Sunrise at Tikal: A Travel Highlight
And here’s what I learned.
I Did This to Combat Perfectionism
I used to take pride in being a perfectionist.
I thought it was an admirable quality to have. That it meant everything I produced would be perfect. That I wouldn’t ever publish anything I wasn’t happy with. That I would be more successful the longer and harder I worked on something.
While I was in Berlin, I reread Brene Brown’s the Gifts of Imperfection — the book that’s had the greatest impact on my life to date — and this passage on perfectionism jumped up and smacked me right in the face:
“Perfectionism is a self-destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: “If I look perfect, live perfectly, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame.
Perfectionism is defeating and self-destructive simply because there is no such thing as perfect. Perfection is an unattainable goal. Additionally, perfectionism is more about perception – we want to be perceived as perfect. Again, this is unattainable – there is no way to control perception, regardless of how much time and energy we spend trying.
Perfectionism is addictive because when we invariably do experience shame, judgment, and blame, we often believe it’s because we weren’t perfect enough so rather than questioning the faulty logic of perfectionism, we become even more entrenched in our quest to live, look, and do everything just right.”
Oh my god, I thought. She was describing me.
I published so little this year (and every year) because I’m obsessed with only sharing what I deem to be perfect.
I toil over blog posts. I spend weeks editing them. And honestly? I spend a huge amount of that time procrastinating on Twitter. When I’m aiming for perfection, I usually end up coming to the conclusion that it’s unattainable, which leads to me doing whatever I can to avoid facing it.
This isn’t a new development. I started Never Ending Footsteps six years ago and I’ve posted 350 times since then. That’s an average of one post every two weeks. I’ve always been an irregular blogger, but it’s something I’ve dreamed of changing.
I had other things to focus on first. Like writing my book and promoting it, then overcoming my mental breakdown.
Now that I’ve finally beat my anxiety into submission, though, I can start concentrating on improving other aspects of myself.
First on my list was tackling my perfectionism.
In order to do this, I set myself a challenge to post every single day in October.
And It Worked
I had so much fun writing my blog posts in October!
Without my crushing goal to make everything as perfect as it could be, I could instead focus my attention on enjoying the writing process. I no longer had to agonise over every word choice. Posting whenever I knew something was good/great rather than perfect took an enormous amount of pressure off.
I started enjoying hitting the publish button rather than cowering from it.
It Boosted My Creativity, Too
I enjoyed getting to cover a wider range of topics than I usually do.
Because here’s the thing: when I was only publishing once every 14 days, I believed every single post had to be about my travels. As a result of my slow posting schedule (and the time I spent writing my book), I now have roughly two years’ worth of adventures to catch you up on. I could never justify writing resources about how I find cheap flights or how I back up my photos — things I’m asked all the time through email — because I didn’t feel as though I could use one of my two topics a month on something that wasn’t furthering my story.
In October, I felt as though I could spend time creating helpful posts in addition to travel narratives. Without so much pressure to catch up on what I’d been up to over the past few years, I found time to experiment more and try different styles of writing.
I felt a fresh burst of enthusiasm for Never Ending Footsteps when I decided to start writing about Belize and Guatemala, just because I’d always wished I’d had a chance to share what my experiences in these countries were like.
I Learned I’ll Always Go Long
I thought I’d end up writing a whole lot of short and sweet blog posts in October, but the exact opposite happened. Only a couple of them were less than 1,000 words. My longest post was over 3,000, and most of them were in the 2,000-2,500 range.
Long-form writing is my jam.
The short 500-word posts I used to publish back in 2011 aren’t something I can see myself returning to in the future. A big part of this is due to the evolution of my reading habits in recent years — I actively seek out longer, more detailed pieces when I’m hanging out online, and that’s greatly influenced my own writing.
It Wasn’t as Hard as I Thought
I expected to find writing so frequently to be tough, but it wasn’t. It turns out when I set myself a deadline rather than giving myself a vague amount of time to write a post, I can actually get stuff done.
I mean, I wrote and edited the best 90,000 words of my life in just 90 days when it came to writing my book, so I already knew I had the ability to pull something similar off.
I found that it took roughly four or five hours for me to write and edit a blog post, which meant that even while I was travelling, I was able to find the time to sit down and bash out a few thousand words.
Interestingly to me, the four days where I missed publishing a post were all while I was at home in Lisbon. I found that when I had 16 hours to sit down and write a post, I was far less likely to finish it than if I had three hours in-between sightseeing. Deadlines are also, apparently, my jam.
How Did it Benefit My Site?
In the back of my mind, I hoped I’d see a benefit businesswise, but if I’m being honest, I saw more negatives than positives.
With the exception of a couple of posts that did great (my post on finding a base and why I’ve stopped using Airbnb), traffic to Never Ending Footsteps remained much the same. The vast majority of visitors to my site come from places like Google and Pinterest, from which traffic numbers remains steady every day, regardless of how much I post. While I experienced a boost to my traffic, relative to my overall numbers, it was small.
And that growth definitely dropped off towards the end of the month, when I think you guys were suffering from Lauren overload.
Additionally, I had more email unsubscribes than subscribes for the first time in the site’s history. Unsurprisingly, it turns out when you email somebody every single day, they tend to get annoyed with you. I should have done this differently and sent out a weekly email sharing all of my posts from the past seven days, rather than one for every single post. I’ll know for next time.
My Facebook engagement took a huge tumble this month, too. Sharing a new blog post every single day massively decreased my reach and therefore the amount of people who were clicking through to read. Even when I paid $10 to boost a post, I only ended up with around quarter of the likes as I used to get a few months ago.
Finally, the number of comments on my blog posts also dropped. I pride myself on having a large, helpful, fun community on my site, and when I published so frequently, comments dropped off massively. Nobody was having conversations. Rather than getting 50 or so comments on a new post, I struggled to gain anything more than single figures.
Towards the end of the challenge, I was so conscious of my falling stats that I even stopped sending all of posts out by email or sharing them on social media because I was concerned I was annoying everyone.
An Experiment That Worked, But That I Won’t Continue
I’m pleased I decided to take on the challenge, because it did exactly what I needed it to do. I’m no longer crippled with hesitation whenever I hit the publish button, because I know I don’t need days and weeks to edit an article to perfection.
Because there’s no such thing as perfection.
As I mentioned above, though, I didn’t see many benefits to convince me this is a Good Thing for the site. I felt as though I was annoying my readers, that people were reading fewer of my posts, and that I couldn’t dive deeply into a subject with such little time.
Going forwards, I’m hoping I’ll finally be able to hit my twice or thrice a week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday, most likely) posting target that I’ve probably announced a dozen times in this site’s history but failed to stick to for more than about three days. Behind the scenes, I’ll most likely continue writing blog posts regularly and saving the extras in surplus in order to remain consistent while I’m travelling or (please god no) if I find my anxiety has returned.
And because I personally enjoyed Blogtober *cough* so much, I’m thinking I’ll try the exact same thing next October, too.