This post was first sent to my newsletter on March 19th, 2021.
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I blame Mahe for this post.
Can you please write an article on how to build a website like yours, where I can post my blogs?
This one is squarely aimed at all the young ones, who are convinced that they need to be writing.
(Maybe, it was me who convinced you, in the first place.)
You are young (or like me, forever young) and broke (also like me).
You need a place for your thoughts to call home.
You need a place to write, and grow and focus more on what you want to say about life and what you study or what you work at, or the portfolio/showcase of thoughts you will slowly build.
What you use to write, does not matter at this stage!
So, what now?
And then? … zip, nada, nothing.
The blogs just languished.
This current incarnation of the blog is the only one that I have stuck with and written lots on.
Every one of those previous attempts just withered on the vine.
And not for lack of good intentions.
I was always going to write that perfect post.
I was waiting for more data, so that the post would be complete.
I was researching for depth, because this subject was not just a post. It was a whole series.
I never got around to actually writing though.
It was lack of focus. Lack of intent.
Think about why you are starting the blog and what do you want on there?
And that will give you direction about what to write.
You might realise that you don’t want to write, and just play with technology.
That is fair too. At least you’re being intentional about it.
- to do precisely 1 hour of research, into all the free, hosted blog engines that are out there. Off the top of my head, Write.as, Netlify, Tumblr, Wordpress, and Medium come to mind.
- make dummy blogs and explore all their features over the next day or two (at most). Figure out what interface you are most comfortable with.
- Begin Writing.
I cannot stress this enough.
You will never write perfect posts.
How do I know?
Because I tried so hard, for so many years.
What you can do, is show up on the first day.
Publicly commit to writing everyday.1
Just put words on the page.
The only two things that’d probably matter are,
- That you show up on the time you committed to
- And if your blog needs a general direction in the long run, you kinda sorta write your posts in that general direction.
Even that is a pretty distant second though.
First, master showing up daily.
Build that discipline.
I used Wordpress for a long time and loved it.
Then I thought I wanted to control it all, and so I hosted Wordpress on my own site.
Then I actually understood, what a headache maintaining it all really is.
Then I looked for something simpler.
I backed the Ghost kickstarter and as soon as they released it, I began using it.
It served my needs really well, until they decided to go in a different direction and abandon what I loved most about it. Writing in markdown. (I had written enough, to realise that any blog engine that I would use, needed to support Markdown.)
And by then, like I said, I had written enough to know what I wanted out of a blog.
I was writing for myself, so I did not want comments.
That eliminating comments also got rid of moderating people and spam was just a bonus.
If I wanted, I could actually go spread my message seperately. (the fediverse, email newsletters, social media networks and all that jazz.) But that is an intentional step. Separate from my act of writing.
I mostly wrote words. So I needed something that would have pretty text.
And since it was mostly just text, I could get by with a bunch of Markdown files rendered into static html files.
I did not want to upgrade and patch and maintain a blog engine some place.
I wanted something I could either host on my own server or just on some site somewhere else.
This would be easier once again if it was just a bunch of files that needed to be placed somewhere.
I wanted the ability to write from anywhere.
And finally I wanted a measure of control over where all this was.
All these considerations led me to realise …
A static blog, with a pretty looking theme would address both my bunch of files requirement and my show words well requirement.
There were tons of fonts that I could use. So I chose one that was free to use and I could host myself.
Not just hosting fonts, right now I can afford to host the site myself, so I have a Linode that hosts this blog.
The static blog can just as easily be hosted on some free place like github.io if life takes a turn for the worse.
I was learning Python, so using a static site generator that supports markdown and was built in Python seemed logical. So I picked Nikola.
(Did not really matter in the long run. I have used Go based Hugo, and Ruby based Jekyll too and all of them work essentially the same way. Even the theme I use on the blog, Lanyon, is originally a Jekyll theme, and can be found in Hugo as well).
So I learnt how to install it on my desktop, and customise it to use the fonts I wanted in the weights I wanted.
Then I learnt how to automatically deploy it via ssh to my site. Most static site engines offer to automatically deploy to github.io or are available as hosted services on Netlify. Here’s Nikola on Github/Netlify.
And finally, I’ve always wanted everything to be under my name, ergo the domain which I saved up for and bought.
It’s not essential to your writing, but probably essential to your identity in the long run, so that might be something to consider too.
So there we are.
One more post done :)
If you have questions, mail me! (jason at this domain)
or to a schedule that you are comfortable with and publicly commit to. ↩︎