A new go forward writing model

Going forward from Monday to Friday I’m going to be writing and publishing over at nels.ai which is powered by Substack as a platform. During the weekends I’ll continue my general academic work and post for the Lindahl Letter. Right now I have 11 posts to write for that academic pursuit to get to the 156 mark and complete my 3 years of posts book.

Managing the backlog of writing blocks

A few hours of my time this weekend were devoted to seeding Substack posts from week 55 to current (124) into the blog. I’m not sure how long Substack as a platform will last so I wanted to just put the content into my backlog. That process of seeding content really did take a couple hours of working with the posts to get all that content ported over to the blog. My weekly workflow now has an extra step to stage the future content in both the Substack and the blog, but having that extra set of steps is just a couple minutes of post production work. At some point, I will need to circle back and load up the Substack content from weeks 1 to 54. However, today will not be that day of content loading. Maybe it will happen during the course of watching some playoff hockey games here in the next month or so as the playoffs progress.

Last night, I could not make it all the way to the end of the Colorado Avalanche game last night. I made it to part of the 3rd period and fell asleep. That game simply started too late in the evening. I’m an early morning content creator and those late nights are hard to recover from these days. All the round one match-ups have been pretty exciting this year. It has been a good point in my process to consider managing the backlog of writing blocks. Right now I know what content needs to get created between now and the end of the year. All of my energy and focus needs to be put into making the best possible blocks of content. It’s important to really kick the production quality up a notch here and build blocks of research that can be packaged into research notes, literature reviews, or academic articles. At the end of 2023, I want to be able to see several completed articles. Right now I’m tracking to produce a third year end book in three years and that is good, but it could be better and that is where my focus needs to be right now.

Increasing the velocity of my contributions to the academy is where I want to put my effort. My five year writing plan is about assuming I have that amount of time to do something with my writing efforts and trying to plan to use that time wisely. Part of that is about producing content and writing that does not end up being purely ephemeral in nature. Prose that stands the test of time is rare and impactful. Content that simply fades away is now increasingly becoming nothing more than noise or worse it cannot break through at all and is not even background noise.

Apparently, within the posts section of WordPress I have 225 draft posts that span from 1998 to 2021 to clean up. Over the years my total collection of posts has moved from being a Microsoft FrontPage site to being over on Movable Type to finally landing on WordPress. A couple of times I have had the entire site wiped out which left a bunch of content holes including images and wholesale missing posts. Most of the time I had backups of the actual written words, but the posts that had images were not well backed up over the last twenty years. Even the Wayback Machine does not have all the content anymore.

My routine is set up to produce 52 blocks of content per year

Currently, my routine is set up to produce 52 blocks of content per year. Each week one block of content is getting generated. Within that cycle I have time devoted to writing on the weekend. Both Saturday and Sunday morning I wake up early and focus for several hours without interruption. We are in the third year of this 52 block creation format. The previous two years were moved into a manuscript format and packaged as books. Each of the blocks is shared out as a Substack post along the way. All of that is geared toward my efforts to learn, understand, and explain complex topics. That is the routine that I have setup and am implementing as part of both my daily writing plan and the research trajectory I have set up for myself. All that rolls up into my five year writing plan and I have been successful in adhering to the plan. 

This pattern of production works for me and I’m ok with sustaining it. One of the things I need to really focus on doing is converting some of the blocks into research notes, literature reviews, and the seeds of academic papers. Last year I built a solid literature review in Overleaf and was able to share it out. Pretty much every part of that effort was rewarding. It was good research and the effort put into that made sense. This year we have moved from post 105 to where I am currently working on post 124. That pretty much means that 19 blocks of the 52 for this year have been expended. All of that effort did not yield another publication shifted over to Overleaf for extended sharing. At the moment, I’m deeply considering what that means to have spent the time and effort on that writing effort, but not have turned the corner from building blocks of content to creating publications. 

All that being said, I’m trying to figure out how to take my remaining backlog for the rest of the year and either mix and match blocks to build something or change out some of the remaining blocks for the year to help support the mission of creating better literature reviews. I know that the best possible plan is to probably just sit down and write down the top 5 literature reviews toward the bleeding edge of technology I would like to read and then just produce the ones that do not exist. Working on things within that process is probably the right way to move things forward. Getting to a posture where my routine is generating the output I want over time is really the outcome I’m looking to achieve. Having a routine is great and it is the first step in the process. A good next step is understanding the outcomes of that routine. That is what I have been trying to think about within the last 500 words or so of prose.

Each of those 52 blocks right now is created in a Google Doc and that is where the content stays within the 5 week planning and review cycle. For the whole year I work on content within that document and pull out completed works to share them in Substack. I’m trying to figure out if I should be publishing the content on the blog as well. No real conflict of obligation exists in doing that type of doubling up on posting the content. Generally, each blog post is created in a separate stand alone Google Doc and then that word processing document is just left in storage afterwards. That is very different from the 52 blocks of content where towards the end of the year I take the time to format the content back into a Microsoft Word document and prepare that manuscript for both editing and publication. From what I can tell, old Substack posts don’t really get a ton of traffic and at some point I’m sure that platform will cease to exist. My blog will exist until approximately 5 years after my efforts cease. I tend to pay in advance for domains and hosting.

Considering my writing Schedule

At the moment, my writing schedule for the week looks like this:

  • Sunday:
    • Morning writing session to review my Substack post and work on academic articles for 1-3 hours
    • Publish a note on LinkedIn about the last Substack post
    • Send a Tweet about my last Substack post
  • Monday: AM or PM writing session for 30 minutes to create a weblog post
  • Tuesday: AM or PM writing session for 30 minutes to create a weblog post
  • Wednesday: AM or PM writing session for 30 minutes to create a weblog post
  • Thursday: AM or PM writing session for 30 minutes to create a weblog post
  • Friday: AM or PM writing session for 30 minutes to create a weblog post
  • Saturday: Morning writing session to write a Substack post and work on academic articles for 1-3 hours

The most straightforward part of my planning trifecta (research trajectory statement, writing schedule, and upcoming research plan) of thinking about what I’m going to do next is really the writing schedule. It really just details my plan each week to sit down and be productive at the keyboard. For better or worse that means tracking in advance what my weekend mornings are dedicated to working on and how that time will be best spent. My writing schedule can be summed up as a simple look at weekends vs. weekdays and what needs attention.

I need those 3 hour blocks of writing time

I’m considering mixing things up and spending my early morning weekday writing time on some of the topics for the Lindahl Letter. The last two days have been geared toward that type of effort. Overall that type of writing works out ok during the content production stage of the writing project, but very poorly during the research stage of things. I don’t have enough time on weekdays to really dig in and read content as a part of my weekly article building. That is one of the main reasons that this type of work is shifted to Saturday and Sunday. I need those 3 hour blocks of writing time to really put my best effort forward in terms of research and sharing out on a particular topic. 

However, I think the next few weeks will be geared toward a little bit of thinking and writing in the early hours of my weekdays. Sometimes it is a good plan to mix things up. This might be one of those moments. We will see what the end results yield on this one. The proof will be in the writing output.