All at once? No. Piece by piece? Closer. In increments? Bingo!
Fundamentally, this is not a big discovery. Most contemporary product development processes encourage breaking projects into smaller chunks. It makes sense to approach a personal blog the same way: Build one increment after the other.
Unfortunately, for past blogs, I always tried adding everything at once. I felt like I needed comments, tags, an RSS feed, etc. in order to start writing. All of these features are pretty simple individual tasks, but collectively they suck the joy out of writing.
My goal was to spend more time writing and less time coding.
The concept of “incrementally building a blog” gave me permission to not build anything until I stubbed my toe while writing, publishing, or reading a post.1 It empowered me to worry less about the packaging of my ideas and focus more on how I communicated them.
Practically, how does this process work? First, I write a post in Markdown, either in Roam or Vim. Then, I add it to my local blog site and see how it “looks.” If the post renders incorrectly, I’ll add the simplest fix needed to hit “publish.”
Code snippets are a good example of a lurking stubbed toe. None of my posts contain inline code or code blocks yet. Eventually some probably will. Until they do, there’s no reason to spend time adding support for syntax highlighting or other code-related features.
Another happy side effect of building my blog in increments is it encourages me to write more. There are features I want to add (search, tagging, an archive), but don’t make sense for a blog with only a few posts. There’s no utility in pagination unless I write more posts than fit on a page.
Currently this process works well. I anticipate it will continue. It also protects me from blog envy, where I rush to add a shiny feature I see on another blog.2
- I finally put a name to this idea when I saw Frank and Jonnie’s blogs. Both are redesigning their blogs publicly by documenting changes.↩
- Before this current version, I was so frustrated with my personal blog that I started using Posthaven. I was trying to write every day and Posthaven’s lack of features helped me stay focused. You can visit it at websgrain.com.↩