This week my friend Ed Leighton-Dick(@elieghtondick) announced his New SQL Blogger challenge. It’s an effort focused on getting new bloggers to write regularly and build a habit of blogging. We’ve heard a lot about how blogging can build your personal brand, so I’m a big fan of this challenge and will participate, even though I’ve been blogging off and on for the past few years. So far, some big names have come out in support of this challenge. Awesome to see. Not to try and ride their coat tails, but I want to add my own thoughts because I think it’s incredibly important to participate.
Most community members will be intimidated by this challenge. I say this because I’ve heard (and said) all the excuses that are probably going through your head when you think about blogging. I want to show you how you can overcome that intimidation and participate successfully, jump starting your blogging career.
I don’t have anything to blog about
I hear this all the time. Really what people are saying is “I don’t have anything valuable to blog about” and I completely call shenanigans on this attitude, for much the same reason as why I tell folks they should start presenting. Everyone has something to share. Even if you think it’s simple or a no-brainer, I guarantee you someone will benefit from your knowledge.
Let’s consider why new bloggers get so intimidated. The perception is that current bloggers, especially the BIG names, always seem to have some clever script or gotcha to contribute. Something no one else has ever thought of. It’s a tough act to follow, especially if you are just getting started.
However, to butcher a song lyric, “Any blog is a good blog”.
I always recommend that new bloggers approach their blogging as self documentation. Write for yourself, don’t expect anyone else to read it (and if they do, BONUS!). There have been a number of times where I go back to my blog for a technique or script I wrote in the past. It’s a great entry point to get you to started writing and reduces the “freak out” about other people reading what you wrote.
They’re All Going to Laugh at Me
This could also be the “what if I’m wrong” clause. For new presenters and bloggers, there seems to be a permeating fear about getting called out for something wrong or bad that they publish. I’m sorry, have you met the #SQLFamily? What I love about the SQL Server community is that most folks out there are extremely supportive and helpful. If something is wrong, the community will help you fix it and learn from it.
The bonus of doing this in the internet is making corrections and updates is easy. If someone corrects you or shows you a better way, you can blog about it! If there’s an error, you can fix it! Consider your blog a living diary that can be adjusted as necessary. The only caveat here: Be public about your changes. Either write a new post or make an addendum calling out your edit. Stealth edits look fishy, be public.
Who Has Time To Blog?
Blogging is like any other part of your life where you need to grow: you need to make time for it. It doesn’t have to be much, an hour or two. The trick is to schedule it like any other commitment and stick to that schedule.
My routine is to write every Saturday morning. I found a nice little tea shop near my house and include that in my morning routine:
- I’ll walk to the tea shop around 9 AM. It’s a 30 minute walk and gives me time to think about what I will write about. Plus, the physical activity energizes me.
- Once I get to the shop, I order my tea and breakfast (oatmeal, ‘cause I’m trying to lose ‘dat weight). Then I find a space, get plugged in, and start writing.
- The writing process is very stream of consciousness. I use Google docs and basically just spitball out what’s in my brain. I don’t worry so much about grammar or sentence structure, the idea is to get my thoughts on paper. This also might include hacking out scripts or testing the stuff I’m blogging about if it’s technical.
- Once the writing is complete, I’ll take a Twitter/Internet break (note, I shut Twitter down during the writing, reduce those distractions). Not long, maybe 15 minutes.
- After the break, I’ll do one major pass to clean up sentence structure and grammar. Then I shut it down and go home.
It should be noted that at this point the blog isn’t quite complete, but the bulk of the work is done. Next steps for me are to get to get the post into WordPress and schedule it. I always schedule my blog posts for Tuesdays at 8 AM MDT, giving myself a deadline.
You need to commit to this to make it work. The best way I’ve found to hold myself to commitments is to set deadlines. Need to build a presentation? Commit to giving it on a specific date. Need to get a blog post up? There’s my weekly publish deadline. Will you hit those deadlines every the time? Probably not, but as long as it’s not a habit and you don’t let yourself get away with missing a deadline, you’ll be fine.
How Can I Help?
While I think this is a great challenge, I think it’s fairly obvious I’m not a new blogger. How I’m participating is lending my less-than-expansive blogging experience to get others started. This post is the first portion of me owning the challenge as I hope to show you the path to getting started. There’s yet more that I can contribute. So here’s the next steps:
- Need someone to review your blog before you post it? Hit me up.
- Want to bounce blog post ideas off of someone? I can do this.
- Lacking inspiration for what to blog about? Let’s talk.
Let me help you make the most of this challenge. I’m not a expert, I’m not a big name, I’m just a dude doing his SQL thing. But I think I can share some of that with you to make the road a little easier. Email me via mike at this blog.
Own that $#!+
Blogging, like presenting, is a huge part of building your career and personal brand. It will make you more visible to your peers, help you retain knowledge, and improve your writing skills through practice. By blogging you strengthen the larger SQL community by adding to the pool of tribal knowledge as well as making yourself a stronger member of that group. Remember, you have something to contribute, a unique piece of knowledge that you can share with your comrades in the community. I encourage you to step up and answer the challenge.