Mike Becky

On Publishing Frequency

I first started “seriously” writing for the web in my junior year of high school. At the time I was fascinated by computers and all I wanted to do was build them and write about them. I had a small weblog on Blogger but wasn’t able to dedicate much time to it between school and various social activities. But, I knew I was hooked. I was filled with excitement every time I hit the publish button and there was no other way to replicate that feeling — a strange mix of nervousness, fear, and most importantly a sense of accomplishment.

At the time I was writing about new graphics cards, processors, and Microsoft’s upcoming OS (at the time it was only known as Windows Longhorn). And, I was spending a lot of time reading publications like ExtremeTech, PC Magazine, Computer Power User, and The Inquirer. I remember installing the Opera web browser on my Motorola Razr so I could read the latest tech news when I was away from my computer. I was an AMD and Nvidia guy who loved Antec cases and Western Digital hard drives.

That was over ten years ago, and a lot has changed since then. I don’t read any of the same publications, my mobile setup for keeping up with the news has changed drastically, and the areas of technology that I’m most interested in are far from where they started. It was before Apple made the switch to Intel (which initially sparked my interest in Macs), it was before Twitter even existed, and it was just a few months before I started dating the woman I’m now engaged to.

I’ve been doing this a long time. Much longer than a lot of other writers who have already had a great deal more success than I. But I’m not doing it for the success, I’m doing it because of that feeling I get when I hit the publish button. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll gladly take my fair share of success if it comes to me. But, That’s not what it’s all about — it’s like Walt Disney said “we don’t make movies to make money, we make money to make more movies.”

A couple of months ago I purchased a 64GB iPad Air 2 in space gray and it’s drastically changed the way I work. It wasn’t planned that way, but it ended up becoming my primary computing device. From the day the original iPad was announced I always felt that it could be an amazing tool for online publishing. And although the first-generation wasn’t quite up to the task due to its comparatively slow hardware, the iPad Air 2 is plenty powerful enough to be my primary writing machine. And the fact that I want to use it has resulted in an increase in work output. I suppose you could say that buying a new pen can make you a better writer if the pen you were using before didn’t inspire you to write (hopefully someone will get that reference).

From the day I received the new iPad I’ve steadily increased the pace at which I’be been publishing, until just over two weeks ago when I realized that I needed to change the way I write and publish. For the previous ten years worth of writing — the oldest of which that’s still available online is from 2006 (don’t bother reading it, it’s not good) — I’ve always written when I “had time to” or when I was inspired to do so. And, I think the inconsistency in my writing frequency is one of the biggest factors that has held me back over the years.

But, now I’ve designed a writing schedule that will allow me to publish three linked list items every day with Monday being the only exception. On Monday one of those three linked list items will instead be a long-form article. It might be a review, a thought piece, a how-to guide, a program note (like this one), or anything else that’s more than just a few hundred words.

This new schedule will give Initial Charge more consistency in both long- and short-form content, but it doesn’t mean I’ll be writing everyday. There will be days during the week in which I write more than I publish with the excess being scheduled to publish later. This will allow me to have some time to recharge my batteries and spend those days off with the people I love. In the past I’ve dabbled with consistent writing schedules but none of them managed to stick — I didn’t allow myself any free time and I eventually burned out and the site ended up with several days in a row of inactivity. I don’t want that to happen anymore.

I’ve stuck with this schedule for over two weeks now and it feels like something sustainable. I had my third day off from writing yesterday and it felt great. I was able to go for a walk with my fiancée, shop in a few different stores, and not worry about getting “nothing done” — as long as I stuck to the writing schedule, I didn’t need to get anything done that day.

This change in how I manage Initial Charge has also coincided with my recent subscribing to The Weekly Briefly by Shawn Blanc. I’ve found it incredibly inspiring during this transition, but this bit from a recent episode where he describes what he thinks of as productivity really hit home with me:

And productivity is the right word because this is what we’re doing. We want to be productive, we want to — I want to have a productive marriage, I want to have a productive family, I want to have a productive business. I want the work that I do to matter, I want to focus on the most important things for my own personal spiritual life or my physical body. I want to be healthy, I want to be in shape so that I can do this for years to come. I want to have a great relationship with my kids, with my wife, with my team.

For all the Blanc media guys that work with me, I want to serve them, I want to help them, I want to empower them. I want to make enough money to pay them, to put food on my table, to pay my bills, put my kids through college. To me that’s productivity, doing meaningful work having healthy relationships. But so many people think of productivity as “to do list” apps, GTD, calendar apps, stuff being shoved down your throat — this one weird trick that seven seconds per day will make you nine times more productive without even thinking about it. No! There is no such thing as microwave productivity.

While I get a great deal of joy from publishing, I need to remember that I also need to spend more time with my loved ones. And, this new writing schedule should allow me to publish more frequently, write more meaningful things, and still spend more time with my friends and family than I have in the past — to be more productive. All while still reducing the amount anxiety I experience during the times when I’m not writing, something that was difficult before I devised this schedule.

I know this new system will stick because I won’t allow myself to falter. Back in January I created two notes in Vesper that foreshadowed this change for me. One was titled “What I do” with the only line of text being: “I run my own website where I do a weekly column and written commentary on technology news” and the other is simply titled “This year feels different” with no body text. Little did I know that just a few months later I would be into my third week running a website where I consistently published a weekly column and written commentary on technology news and that this would be the reason that this year feels different.