A year of blogging

It’s traditional at this time for bloggers to take a look back over the year and give an account of their blogging misadventures. This week also marks the first anniversary of this blog. It hasn’t gone too badly, as far as ill-conceived endeavours go.

How it started

I’ve written before about getting into the blogging racket, but my previous posts are somewhat misleading in that they explain this project as it was already underway. But I didn’t start out with a plan. For better or worse, creativity is fuelled by desire and discipline. This altercating pair is what keeps us up at night, gets us going early in the morning, drives us to show up day after day. If anything does.

Back in December of 2014, I was working at a full-time job, with a taxing freelancing gig on the side. I hadn’t taken a break for months and was exhausted. When Christmas rolled round, email slowed to a trickle and then ceased altogether. I wrapped up some urgent issues, sent a couple emails that required follow up, put my phone in aeroplane mode and then slept for about two days.

There was also cake. But mostly sleeping.

When I woke up my health and mana bars were full, my inbox was still empty, and I had nothing to do for about a week. I saw friends. I saw a film. I saw clouds pass overhead.

Once I didn’t have anything on my plate, I looked for something to put there. Because I knew that I would have to get back to my hectic schedule soon, I didn’t want to start anything overly ambitious. So I bought this domain and began designing an online portfolio for my past work. That would have been a manageable project, but I got sidetracked.

Somewhere in the vastness of the internet I came across a link to Christopher Murphy’s site, Monographic, which at the time had no style sheet. Being a good netizen, I sent him an email to tell him there was something wonky with the site’s CSS. The next day, on the 1st of January 2015, he replied that it was intentional. He was redesigning the site and had removed the style sheet in the meantime.

We exchanged a few emails. He was planning to get back into blogging and thanked me for my email, as it prodded him to start tinkering creatively from the beginning of the year. I shared with him the draft of my site and he urged me on. We started talking, as one does, about typefaces.

I didn’t know Murphy at the time, but I started reading his work then and have been following it ever since. You can find his intelligent and heartfelt writing at the Pastry Box, as well as on his own site.

My brief, unanticipated exchange with Murphy inspired me to wrangle the portfolio site into a blog. On January 4th I published my first post, announcing to the world that I was planning to update every week.

That was overly ambitious.

How it went

Over the last year I published 24 posts, totalling just over 17,000 words. That’s less than half of my original aim of 52 articles (or one per week). But compared to having written nothing, I like to think of last year’s run as wildly successful.

I also wrote 7,000 words of unpublished drafts. Some of these might still be salvaged with revision. I’m not in a hurry. I first outlined “The end of time”, the last post of last year, in the spring of 2009 for a publication that no longer exists.

The shortest published article was “Pish” (193 words), while the longest one was “Practicing writing” (1541 words). I kept cutting “Pish” until almost nothing remained. Editing that post down was one of the ways I worked through my frustration with the Greek bailout referendum, a topic I had treated earlier in “Ish”. “Practicing writing” began as brief response to something Gabe Weatherhead wrote, but then ballooned into something else altogether.

The average length across all posts was 715 words, which is remarkably close to the 700 word mark I usually shoot for and, almost always, miss.

These word counts are slightly overestimated as I am using the wc UNIX command to count, which includes image and link URLs, as well as other metadata in the total. If you are fascinated by command-line geekery, Dr Drang recently wrote about using wc to gather statistics for static blogs.

My most popular posts covered technical topics. “Pushing to multiple git repos” was the most popular by far, accounting for over a third of all visits to the site. I got the SEO mix right — a practical topic with a clear title — on my second try. It’s been downhill from there.

The most popular non-technical post was “The regularity of less”. I published this half-way through the year, after I had abandoned the idea of posting once a week. It combined a story of personal failure experience with recent readings and my general preoccupations in a way that was, for the first time, reasonably cohesive. I’ve written better things since then, but that was the first post where I felt things click.

The most popular post after that was, to my complete surprise, “Funny”. Although it’s one of my most personal posts, the situation is entirely fictional. I haven’t clearly marked them as such, but the “vignettes” (as I call the slice-of-life posts), plunder my imagination and autobiography about equally. Their level of truth is about what you’d expect from a stand-up comedian telling you that something is absolutely true and that it totally happened to them.

The popularity rankings are subject to vagaries of analytics. Although this site receives a lot of referral spam, I’ve cleaned up the analytics so that all page views should represent humans1. But I have no data as to how many of those humans were inebriated, lost or under duress while viewing this site.

Last year I also wrote two posts for the Digest, a new online publication for creative professionals. These were not originally published on this site, but as of today I have restored them in their proper chronology2:

A look ahead

This year I won’t be so presumptuous as to announce a fixed publishing schedule. But my tentative goal is to double my word count.

Here’s to thirty thousand words of wit, wisdom and weird — or whatever it is I’ll muster.

  1. Thanks to Steve Dobkins for helping me figure out how to spam-proof this site. This guide helped as well. ↩︎

  2. Thanks to Ed Vinicombe for the permission to re-post these articles here. ↩︎

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