But What if They Forget Me? Here's How to Write When Real Life Gets in the Way
By mid-August, I was on a roll. I was tweeting consistently, engaging with folks on social media platforms, publishing about two blog posts per month, and moving to a biweekly email newsletter schedule.
Then I took a much-needed ten-day vacation. I didn’t do much but rest and hang out with family and I knew that it would take me a while to get back to my usual rhythm once I was back in work mode. (It’s amazing how a few days away from the office can make you forget how you were able to handle so much in the first place!) But I did not anticipate making a major personal life change during this time that, coupled with work-related projects and exciting opportunities (namely, upcoming speaking engagements), have taken up almost all of my time the last two weeks since my vacation ended.
While I don’t mind tweeting and blogging less to focus more on planning, I do sometimes get nagged by that annoying voice in my head. Here are some examples of our ongoing dialogue; it may sound familiar to you:
Q: What if I run out of things to talk about?
A: First of all, we spent the year professing 4 ways to generate new content ideas. You won’t run out of things to talk about. But sometimes we need a break to focus on other things. And that may end up generating better ideas in the future! (As an addendum to this, I haven’t run out of things to talk about at all—I was recently interviewed on Hashnode, featured on a podcast episode of JS Party, spoke to the folks for an upcoming episode of the Stack Overflow podcast, and am scheduled to chat with the Production Ready podcast this Friday!)
Q: What if people forget about me or think I’ve fallen off?
A: I know you feel beholden to people, but the good news is that it isn’t always about you. Folks have other things going on, too. Your audience will be excited when you’re ready and able to come back to things at 100%. NO ONE can sustain a break-neck pace for long periods of time. It’s not sustainable.
Q: What if I never want to write again because a hermetic existence is more tempting?
A: A hermetic existence, while tempting (very tempting actually), is not something we actually want. We want to engage with people! You may not be ready to write the type of blog posts you’ve written in the past few months, but you can still shed light on what you’re working on, what you’re struggling with, and what you’re learning. There is value in sharing the process, not just the end result.
As you can see, the voice in my head is afraid and self-defeating. It also does not have any external data to support the fears echoed in these questions. I'm human and I sometimes self-identify with that voice in my head. Writing down these questions and envisioning a "dialogue" helps me challenge the assumption that I need to validate the "truth" in these questions. I can recognize them for what they are—fears—without feeding into them and creating more stress for myself.
I've also taken some time to understand where I am today and what I can realistically accomplish with everything I have going on. Here’s what I’m doing to honor where I am at in the journey:
Figure out how to balance personal goals with existing obligations: Last month, I was averaging two blog posts and two newsletters per month. The demands on my time mean that I can't publish two posts and two newsletters—but I can publish one of each. This allows me to remain consistent by sticking to a schedule that I can meet without affecting my ability to meet other obligations.
Control the calendar: I’ve had the opportunity to get on coaching calls with individual developers and developer teams this summer which have been incredibly enriching. In light of my other obligations, I’ve decided to offer only eight more coaching slots in September and will close coaching calls until December, when ten slots will become available. (PS, if you want my help with your content, book a call with me before the end of this month!)
Resurface old stuff: I’m a big fan of retweeting older content that has performed well in the past. Very, very few people scroll through our older tweets, and there’s a chance to introduce new followers to things we’ve shared before. I’ve started scheduling tweets featuring blog posts that I’ve published throughout the year to continuously deliver value to folks who are interested in learning more about content.
Take a class: Writing classes have been extremely valuable throughout my career. This autumn, I’m taking a ten-week course called “Writing Online Documentation” through UC San Diego Extension. And the best part: I have a virtual accountability buddy named Jonathan, who is also taking the class! Each week, we’ll send each other a summary of our progress, frustrations, wins, and tips. It’s a way of building camaraderie and mutual support with a fellow classmate in a virtual learning environment. (Fun fact: I wrote The Developer's Guide to Content Creation weeks after wrapping up a novel-writing class!)
These items are all doable and require only slight adjustments on my part. It helps to recognize where the source of your stress comes from; in my case, I was stressed about not writing as much as I did in prior months, but that stress was coming from within. No one was depending on me to blog more. (If you want some tips on ruthless prioritization, this blog post will help you figure out what to cut out and where to direct your focus.)
What’s next for me? Later this month I’ll share more information about my upcoming speaking engagements as well as links to my upcoming podcast features. Stay tuned!