Typewriter's block

In terms of writing, 2014 is my worst year ever.

I love writing and I spend lots of time doing. I usually end the year with 2 terrible novels I never show anyone, which is what’s going to happen in 2014 too as I didn’t write a single word of them. And with 26 published posts between January and August, my blogging pace has been the lowest in 12 years.

When I opened this place to split my personal rants from my professional thoughts, I used to write about 220 articles a year. Between 2002 and 2006, I published almost 5000 posts on my now dead personal blog, most of them being longer than what you can read here.

2014 started with a huge writer block. For months, I spent most of my evening staring at my screen, unable to write anything, and words only flew through my fingers to produce some pitiful, terrible content I couldn’t honestly be happy with.

I had many problems, and I had to solve them if I wanted to write again.

Lost in translation

If you’ve been around here for more than a few months, you’ve probably noticed that I don’t write in French anymore. Well played Captain obvious.

I did not do it to enlarge my readership unlike what some of you have been asking me. I’m unable to write in French anymore. It hurts; I’ve been writing since I was 8, and not being able to produce anything in my favorite language is incredibly hard. The positive thing is my written English has drastically improved, which is a good thing as I plan to move abroad soon or later.

In the past, I’ve tried to write both in French and English.

My first blog had bilingual posts. The French version was displayed at the top, and the English one at the bottom. The reading experience was horrible, and you could not filter posts by language, which made browsing impossible.

Second option was maintaining a standalone English version of the blog. It didn’t last because translating every post was taking much more time than I could afford. I tried some translation service, starting with Textmaster, but it was too expensive since this blog is not monetized, and I had to rewrite most of the posts to give them the tone I wanted.

The best option was mixing languages on the same blog, using 2 dedicated tags for French and English posts. Depending on the audience I wanted to address, I picked up one language or another, sometimes publishing both version of the same post.

A huge impostor syndrome

When the language block was not strong enough, I got hit by the impostor syndrome.

It always happened the same way. I started to write a new post, and half way, I was struck by the same questions.

Who am I to write about this? How do I dare to express myself on that topic? Did I produce anything that makes me relevant?

The answer was never obvious. Lots of people have much more credibility than I do on many topics I write about, but it doesn’t mean I don’t have any. Truth is, you don’t need to be a specialist on a topic to do some researches and express a point of view.

The result was unfortunately always the same. I pretended I had something more important to do, closed my laptop and left another draft pile up in Ulysses III.

Whatever the topic, overcoming impostor syndrome is never easy. I don’t have any magic formula, what’s been working with me won’t work with everybody.

This summer, I challenged myself with publishing 1 blog post a day, 5 to 6 days a week. They had to be original posts, I had to write every day, and they had to be still relevant 1 year from now, which excludes commenting the latest news.

I love challenges, I love when they’re tough and I hate losing. Saint August the 15th, I’ve published 79 posts, only missing 4 days, 2 because my brain was melting, and 2 because I was unable to find 30 minutes to write that day.

Setting such a daily commitment had a immediate effect. Whatever the strength my impostor syndrome stroke with, I had to publish something anyway. After a few weeks, I ended not noticing it anymore, even though I know it’s still lurking, waiting to strike when I stop paying attention.

The editorial trap

When I started that blog, I wrote about anything I wanted. I wrote about events to come, events I attended, people I met, stuff I tested…

After a few years, I fell into the editorial trap. Instead of things I liked, I started restraining myself to topics I thought my readers would like.

Unless you’re starting a magazine, this is a really stupid idea. My career and my interests changed a lot since 2006. I moved from the Web world to the ops one. I did project management in Web agencies before I joined blueKiwi as a QA manager. 8 years ago, I was full into CSS and Accessibility, 2 topics I now update about from time to time.

The blog name changed many times, to reflect my new interests, and also for some SEO experiments. It became hard to follow what it was about, and even I got lost at some point.

When I started my mid August blogging challenge, I’ve decided to change the blog name again. It took me some times until I came with Fred Thoughts, after seeing Brad Feld starting all his blog related tweets with « Feld Thoughts ». That new title allows me to write about a wider range of topics without sticking to an editorial I’m not inspired about anymore. So expect me to write about startups, UX, doves things, digital culture, education (in a digital world), Web, tennis, science fiction, and even sometimes about music…

Incidentally, this is a huge step back in time, as this blog was first named « Frédéric de Villamil .com ».

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