I’ve been blogging on a daily basis since April, 2012. I’ve been a full-time blogger since November, 2012.
I have launched a number of different blogs, and have published well over 3,000 articles over the years.
All in all, it’s safe to say that I invested my 10,000 hours of work.
But all this time and mental energy didn’t make me a better blogger.
Popularized by Malcolm Gladwell in his 2008 release, Outliers, the 10,000-hour rule is a simple and effective way of saying, “if you want to be great, you’ve got to work, work, work.”
But there’s one aspect we tend to overlook: the type of work that we do.
The trick is in the word deliberate.
Any other kind of work will not do. It’s not enough to show up. It’s not enough to mindlessly produce content like crazy.
I have spent my 10,000 hours commenting on as many articles as possible and writing the same type of content, over and over again.
It didn’t make me a better blogger, and while it did enable me to build an audience, it was far from an inspiring experience.
The truth is that those 10,000 hours have to be invested in such a way that you better yourself as a blogger.
This means that you have to:
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Invest in your blogging
This means that you have to learn the basics, master them, and then look for more information. This means investing time, energy, and money in online courses, books, tutorials.
After you do that, you should invest in an online coach. Why? Because you just don’t know what you don’t know, and if you don’t look for the missing pieces of the puzzle, all you are left with is a mess on the floor.
Better yet, after you’ve read about the basics of blogging, you could reach out to a person of authority in your niche and get them to mentor you. Even a couple of Skype calls, where you get to ask them a few questions, will prove to be a valuable tool long-term.
Build a network
If you want more eyes on your blog, it’s as simple as commenting a lot. It works, it truly does. But what I didn’t realize until quite recently was that, while you get a lot of attention, you feel a disconnect from your audience and your topic of choice.
Great blogging is a conversation.
And that’s why you need to deliberately work on building genuine conversations with other bloggers in your niche. You share ideas with one another, you inspire one another, and you keep one another accountable.
There’s also a bit of competition going on. Not the unhealthy, obsessive one, but the truth is that you want to be a bit better than those you interact with on a regular basis.
If there’s one thing that you take from this article, it should be this: find a bunch of bloggers, make friends with them, and then work with each other, give each other feedback (honest and brutal.)
The hours you spend doing this are far more valuable than almost anything else you do, because while in the first step you are reading about what makes a great blog, in the second step you are doing, and you are receiving valuable information on what works and what doesn’t.
Develop a routine that allows you to work at 80% every single day
One of the reasons I failed to get better after 10,000 hours of work was that I was working 14–16 hours on content creation and networking.
That was it.
It’s like working out so much that you just don’t give your muscles any time to rest and grow.
My creative muscle was always under the stress of having to adhere to some idiotic deadline that was the by-product of me believing sheer productivity would render quality irrelevant.
Don’t do that.
It’s important to take some time off. 20% is great for that. To spend 20% of your time thinking about your articles, analyzing them, trying to notice certain patterns.
The creative muscle grows while it’s resting.
It might seem counter-productive, I know, and it might seem that you are investing thousands of hours procrastinating, but the truth is that taking a bit of time off makes a hell of a difference in just how much your abilities grow over time.
No rest means almost no growth.
One surefire way to go creatively bankrupt is to work at 100% every single day. Trust me, I’m quite good at that, and it’s something I always end up regretting.
Teach someone else how to blog
The best decision I ever took was launching The Art of Blogging in 2018.
I became aware of four things:
- how much I know about blogging
- how much I don’t know about blogging
- how important it is to always have a beginner’s mindset towards blogging
- what are the strategies and tips that resonate most with others
There’s no better way to internalize certain concepts than by trying to teach them to someone else. I’ve improved as a blogger more in the 2 years since I launched The Art of Blogging than I did in the previous 6 simply by dissecting my own work in order to provide valuable and actionable advice to others.
I’m not saying that you should start your own side-gig teaching others how to blog, but I do think you can find at least one person (a friend, perhaps?) whom you can coach and mentor.
When you try to explain someone else exactly what are the ingredients that make a great article, or what are the essential steps when networking, you become acutely aware of your own strengths and weaknesses.
You’d be surprised by the questions even a total novice can ask.
And if you can’t explain them in a way they can understand, this means that’s an area you’ve got to improve.
Be deliberate about the way you practice
They say practice makes perfect.
Deliberate practice makes perfect.
What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses?
Are you striving for perfection or are you just a perfectionist?
It’s not enough to show up. You’ve got to show up with the goal of reaching the highest level possible.
This means that you need to aim for improvement. Progress is a slow process, indeed, but it’s far better than focusing your time and energy on producing as much content as possible or on producing a perfect article.
In other words, deliberate practice means the willingness to fail, over and over again, with the goal of failing better the next day.
You are actively failing your way to becoming a master at the art of blogging.
10,000 hours of work is a flawed formula.
10,000 hours of deliberate work, of practice that is aimed at making us better at what we do, that’s something work pursuing.
And odds are, you won’t even need 10,000 hours. If you fine-tune your activities and habits, if you adjust the system you use to create content, odds are you can get away with maybe even half of that.
It’s not just about how much work you invest, but also about the quality of the work you do.
That’s why it’s important to:
- Invest in learning all that you can about the art of blogging and about your niche.
- Build a network of people who can keep you accountable, provide valuable feedback, and encourage you to do great work.
- Develop a daily routine that gives you time to rest, learn from the feedback you receive, and let your creative muscle grow.
- Try to teach someone else about blogging in order to become more aware of the frameworks and rules you have internalized, about your strengths and weaknesses.
- Practice with the clear goal of improving your skills and abilities.
It’s not enough to spend 10,000 hours producing content at a mind-numbing pace.
The trick is to work towards becoming a better content creator, to be clear about your goals and ambitions, so you don’t end up with an impressive portfolio of worthless content.