On June 17th, 2009, on a Wednesday, at 23.32, I published my first official article on this blog. Tomorrow, there are 12 years from that moment.
On June 15th, 2011, on a Wednesday, at 9.55, I published the film review for Fabled Enemies (2008) on Debug Your Mind. That’s 10 years and a day ago.
(keep reading ↓)
Considering this a double anniversary, I took this special occasion to share some of my story from the backend, which also provides an excellent opportunity for me to reframe these initiatives and draw some conclusions, starting from these questions:
- What were my blogging beginnings?
- How did Analytic Vision get started?
- What did I accomplish or do well, at least in the face?
- What did I do wrong in the beginning?
- What is Debug Your Mind all about?
- What has changed since 2016?
So what now?
What were my blogging beginnings?
Did you ever feel like you have so much to express and missing a platform for people to hear you?
Did you occasionally write something that got published and appreciated but wasn’t sure about starting on your own?
Did you ever feel you were on the brink of doing something special but weren’t really getting the confidence to take the first step?
If you’ve answered “yes” to any of these questions, you would surely be interested in reading my experience with blogging, which started a little BEFORE Analytic Vision and Debug Your Mind. It is essential to know that to understand why I started the way I did.
I was a student for Bachelor’s Degree between 2004-2008 and 2 Master’s Degrees between 2008-2011. As a student, I saw that some of my materials were published in a dozen niche websites and national publications. I was hoping for a little bit more. I wanted to constantly be able to publish somewhere on various professional topics that seemed interesting to me, such as education, NLP, psychology of personality, persuasion, negotiation, self-esteem, and communication. But after the failure of my first printed book in 2005, the failure in some other publishing attempts (such as another book on education that never got published in the end), and reasoned rejections from various publishers, I wasn’t feeling very confident I would be competent enough to take a task such as launch my own blog. So I was conflicted. On the one hand, I became familiar with various online publishing platforms between 2005-2007. On the other, just fiddling around with some posts on a WordPress blog mounted on a company site subdomain didn’t mean actual blogging, and I knew it.
The spark that ignited my first real step towards blogging came in 2007, with an interesting discussion I had with a friend who came to my place to study together. As I read an article that claimed to be on self-esteem, I scoffed at it in discontent. She then thoroughly remarked: “If you don’t like the article, why don’t you write a better one?”. So I did. I sent it to get published on a personal development blog (DaMaiDeparte/Pay It Forward), which was back then nr. 1 in Romania (which previously rejected some other articles I’ve proposed). The article had colossal success (thousands of views in a few days and several comments), and I was invited to write a whole series on the topic. Encouraged by the warm welcome, I also rewrote another article on negotiation and also sent it. It, too, had success in views and comments. So there I was: the author of 2 almost weekly series: one on self-esteem and one on persuasion & negotiation. Besides these 2 series, in 2007, I also published 2 others: one on transactional analysis drivers and one on the neurological levels pyramid.
Now, does that mean that everything I sent got published? No. Corina Marin, the psychologist who founded and was chief editor of the website, taught me how to be a better blogger by giving consistent feedback. She occasionally required rewriting or better structuring of the content and sometimes even refused to publish an article after I improved it, with good reason. These essential lessons supported me in developing an internal frame of reference about what to publish and what not to publish as a blogger. I think this was one of the main advantages I had when I started blogging.
In December 2007, I won a contest for the best article on personal development published in the Romanian blogosphere, which was quite an accomplishment for a blogger who didn’t have a blog.
So about 30+ articles of mine got published between June-December 2007 on DaMaiDeparte, and when I felt that I had finished writing about the topics I wanted to cover then, I stopped. The articles remained on the website until 2011 when. I wanted to develop those topics because the site got sold and management changed.
The success at DaMaiDeparte/Pay It Forward opened other “doors” for me, such as writing on other websites, doing web PR for other websites/blogs, and getting interviews in national publications (primarily magazines and newspapers) while I was a student.
But it was only in the summer of 2009 that I finally started my first blog, Analytic Vision. Why did it take me one year and a half to gain self-confidence? I was asking myself:
“What happens when I seem to exhaust a topic like I did with guest posting on others’ blogs?”;
“Do I really have any interesting or valuable viewpoints to share?;
“Am I willing to put in the marketing effort and the discipline I noticed it required for others to become known?”;
“Who is going to read what I write, and how do I get to them?”;
“What happens when I run out of inspiration?”;
“What happens if I start publishing nonsense because there’s no chief editor to check what I write, and I make a fool of myself?”;
“What if I start this a little bit later when I have a strategy?”.
How did Analytic Vision get started?
One of the founders (Andrei Roșca) of a blog (Empower) where I guest posted gave me a quote from Herb Kelleher: “We have a strategy. It’s called doing things”. So, there I was, 8 years after getting my first article published, 4 years after winning an award for originality in psychology, and 1 ½ years after winning an award for best article in personal development. So, I started Analytic Vision with some event reviews:
Impressions from the GalerIAA Opening (17.06.2009)
Yesterday at Business Edu (19.06.2009)
When You Don’t Need to Promote Your Business (20.06.2009)
I don’t know exactly what I was expecting, but my initial reaction was a little silly: I got discouraged that the posts had few views, and I folded, coming back during the fall, in September.
So I started to write mostly on what got my attention in the professional or cultural landscape and slowly moved to more evergreen topics, such as human resources, management, and Romanian tendencies, but with no clear direction. It seemed as if I flushed down the toilet the discipline and strategy I had proved in my previous work with others, but now I see that during my first years (2009-2011), I mainly was trying to prove myself that:
I have the necessary discipline to persevere even though I wasn’t happy with the results;
Other people do care about my vision over the world by commenting and linking back;
I can express myself in English as well as in Romanian;
I can gather and keep an audience.
Of course, in time, I deleted many original posts, but many were published in 2009-2010. However, I still consider such good evergreen articles that selecting just a few to recommend from the Archive is a chore. So then, in September 2010, after one full year of monthly blogging (3-9 posts published initially every month), I took a break for half a year (while I lived in Belgium, I had no time for blogging, then I had exams session at the masters’), which was pretty sad, because I had started to gather momentum, followers, and offer inspiration.
After a few years, there I was, little me with my tiny blog, trying to inspire the world to which I seemed almost invisible! But, of course, the blog was intended – and served, after all, its intention – as a critical analysis tool on business, marketing, public relations, human resources, and personal development. This a very appreciated, clean, concise, and useful blog (for a limited audience). To quote from what I was writing back then, “Its mission is to provide the necessary and useful information for development: for individuals (may they be independent consultants, entrepreneurs, psychologists or managers) and for organizations (the marketing, PR, and HR functions) for them to make the best decisions from the palette of options which lie ahead of the future.”. But for how many and for how long? (This was a question I should have asked myself earlier).
It was only after that I understood that once I started to blog, I had to keep going, and writing became an understood responsibility towards my readers. It wasn’t acceptable to just write on something whenever I liked and then not write anything for several weeks. One of the unpleasant effects of not publishing regularly is that I “lose” the readers who started following the blog. “Writer’s block” is not an excuse that you can use repeatedly, time after time (annoying effect, right?). So there had to be a balance between my need for expression and the legitimate expectation of the readers to discover something new and worthwhile, whether I was ready to publish something or not.
Another issue was that when, for example, I wanted to share a personal vision with a lot of emotion attached to it (either positive or negative), it was likely that at one point in the future, I would no longer hold that point or that emotion. Rereading a few months after publishing made me think: “What was I thinking?” and came up with the answer: “I wasn’t.” This was one of the article types that a chief editor holds in check. Now, it wasn’t a tragedy that I was writing something today, and then I was changing my mind; that happens to everyone over a long enough period. However, it took me some time to learn to focus more on writing evergreen articles.
At the same time, I felt that Romanians don’t like to read other Romanians in English. In those years, I insisted on living in Romania, mainly writing for Romanians about Romanian realities… in English. It was a little bit odd. I had to choose between:
focusing on writing for a truly international audience and correctly marketing for the USA and UK (the smart long-term bid)
focusing on writing in Romanian for Romanians (the short-sighted perspective)
The latter was more effortless. In retrospect, I regret not choosing the first one. So in the spring of 2011, I opened my first official Romanian blog (Discerne), where, in opposition to what I did on Analytic Vision, I developed a vision, a strategy, and some more apparent structured topics to write a series on. So I started to use that approach simultaneously for Discerne and Analytic Vision. However, it became evident that I focused more on Discerne and less on Analytic Vision. So that trend started to show between November 2011-February 2012; I only published 3 posts on Analytic Vision, and between July-December 2013, zero posts (!). The complete abandonment of this blog culminated with only 3 posts published between April 2014-September 2016. Why was I offering less and less content and value in English? Because it was easier for me to obtain results and provide value in Romanian.
Does that mean I used Analytic Vision between 2009-2016 as a stepping stone for my learning? Of course not.
Here are thoughts from 30+ out of the tens of thousands of readers: Analytic Vision Readers Comment. Most of these were collected in the first 2 years of the blog.
In 2012 (the second-best year according to statistics), there were 20 posts/pageviews per viewer. That means that, on average, one visitor went through at least 20 posts before leaving the blog. That is huge!
I took care that more than 50 articles published on this blog got translated and published in Romanian because I considered them very valuable (and they usually got more views when published in Romanian).
What did I accomplish or do well, at least in the beginning? If you are blogging, how many apply for you?
1. I used as the title of my blog something which represents me. Of course, many would argue that it’s best to have a blog with my own name. So, according to several 360 degrees evaluations done between 2006-2018, one of the constant traits (either positive or negative) is my analytic vision, a skill I cultivated. Therefore, I used Analytic Vision as a pseudonym elsewhere as it represented me: Twitter, Scribd, CouchSurfing, and WordPress. This was also the name of the main category on the Analytic Vision blog before restructuring in 2021. All the articles within the previous category got tagged and are available here.
2. Cleanup on the go. I constantly deleted tens of posts with few views, irrelevant or obsolete, before the blog started to have more views. So even though I didn’t have someone to correct me before publishing, I could learn. I used this experience as a do-it-yourself-free, self-taught school. To get an idea, in the first 4 years, I published 232 posts on Analytic Vision, out of which only 96 remained until 2021. This habit is one of the reasons my other blog in Romanian had so much success so fast.
3. I developed many different styles of writing. I may choose my style a priori considering the audience, but usually, I prefer to let the topic and my attitude to it direct it. A good exercise is to write the articles in my mind, asking myself a few questions borrowed from George Orwell:
- What is the message?
- What words express it?
- What expression would nail it the best?
To which I added:
Is it sufficiently documented/reasoned?
4. I habitually used internal linking besides adding a handmade archive. This proved to be a very good and measured practice on all my blogs and for all my clients and collaborators because it really increased visits to related articles. One of my motivations for starting to blog during my master’s degree studies was to share ideas faster with several people so that I wouldn’t have to repeat myself again and again. In speaking, I had the habit of saying: “by the way, if you’re interested in this, then you might also consider…” so adding manual internal linking came naturally; it wasn’t because I didn’t know it was also being done automatically. Au contraire.
5. I enjoyed all the benefits having this blog offered me: invitations to events, free participation in some other circumstances, being chosen to speak in front of certain people, a lot of useful feedback (otherwise paid), getting to know some very special people, free training, free consulting, books and visibility for my personal brand. It has become such an integrated part of my life that I can’t capitalize on its benefits because I can’t imagine how my life would have looked without it.
What did I do wrong in the beginning?
1. I didn’t have an editorial plan or a clear list of topics, and I didn’t plan to publish on a constant calendar that would ensure something got published no matter how I felt. Although the visitors read several posts when they arrived, they didn’t know what or when to expect next, so quality without consistency doesn’t read well with followers.
2. I pointlessly drowned myself in statistics without putting a real marketing effort in place. WordPress always gave you this tool, But in the first years, I used it as a hammer to my head, hallucinating the idea that “blogging is a game of numbers”. I wasn’t even looking at the keywords research terms to choose the titles for the new articles, silly me!
3. I got satisfied with little, such as Analytic Vision performing better in the Zelist than 86.57 % of the Romanian blogs. In retrospect, what seemed like little wins should have been much better and faster.
4. Once a reader, always a reader? Just because a user subscribed as a follower to the newsletter? I hallucinated that a reader read my blog because it was interesting or they liked some of my writing styles, neglecting the importance of proper marketing. So as I was spending more and more time on writing rather than marketing, I was becoming increasingly frustrated by the results.
5. In retrospect, another error was launching and abandoning the 3rd blog, Debug Your Mind. Every blog you throw requires constant work. Niching is good if you can keep up with all the niches simultaneously. This is why next I’m delving into…
What is Debug Your Mind all about?
I launched Debug Your Mind as a spinoff from an original category Analytic Vision in the summer of 2011. In its first years, Debug Your Mind checked a lot of good practices and results:
A niche blog specialized in documentaries, docudrama, and geopolitical thrillers which were revealing essential realities about our world and present history;
When I published the first dedicated post on the blog, there were already 5 posts moved from Analytic Vision;
Short reviews, easy to read, with videos that sometimes comprised of the full-length film;
Constant publishing in the first 4 months of the website;
Every visitor viewed, on average, 24 posts in 2012, although between November 2011-February 2012, I only published 1 post.
The blog still holds 30+ posts with more than 100 film recommendations on various topics, even though some links or videos don’t work anymore.
So what went wrong?
Indiscipline, for once. Watching movies and writing about them are two completely different beasts. That’s why my enthusiasm started to drown after the first 4 months. It’s a wonder that I kept publishing on it until 2013.
Maintenance: most of the external links about movies are short-lived. Videos get deleted, external reviews change address, and sensitive documentation vanishes from the internet, so keeping up with everything that was already published was a chore I didn’t know I signed up for.
Of course, I continued to see movies, but the more I learned, the more I figured it out, and the less I previously knew. So, for example, if I was seeing what I thought would be an insightful documentary and sometime later I found out that it was a piece of propaganda (as it happened with Gasland), I had to delete all references to that recommendation throughout the blog.
As I learned to be more skeptical about the content I considered valuable, I concluded I didn’t have the time to check if everything I wanted to recommend was worth spending my time on.
I wasn’t making any money out of it, in opposition to what started to happen indirectly with Discerne.
As an obvious result of not publishing anymore since 2013, the blog has lost visitors, and it took me some time to maintain it. After a few years, I just gave up keeping up with the changes. In 2021, I just rehashed most of the content and scheduled it to be re-published on Analytic Vision, which in the spring of 2021 constantly had about 10 times more views than Debug Your Mind. Most of the opinions are garnered through search engine queries.
Formally, on June 15th, 2021, there was the 10th anniversary, but in this case, it’s just a soft reminder that the blog does exist.
Another thing also put the nail in the coffin of Debug Your Mind. Between August-November 2012, I published weekly reviews for films and books on a specialized Romanian website called Filme-Carti/Films and Books. Basically, I wanted my articles on film to get more views than they were getting on Debug Your Mind, and the audience and the marketing were already available for Films and Books. So, basically, I spent less time writing on Debug Your Mind, my own blog, and I started spending more and more time writing on someone else’s blog. An acceptable trade-off between control and reach. The main issue was the time and money issue: I was spending too much time writing stuff for which I wasn’t getting paid. Writing about film usually takes more time than writing on other topics. So the initial motivation kept me running for about 4 months before parting ways. The Films and Books collaboration experience was professionally beneficial because there was an editorial committee and a competent chief editor checking the quality of what I was sending.
Some people asked me why didn’t I properly keep up a blog only on films since:
I started one (Debug Your Mind)
30+ articles on film on Analytic Vision
20+ articles on film published in Films and Books
20+ out of ~100 articles on film on Jurnalul Bucureștiului în 2014
100+ out of 700+ articles on film on Discerne
The lessons I got from the experience from Debug Your Mind and Films and Books was that maintaining a hobby for sheer contribution’s sake was not worth the time I had to put into it. Developing a monetization model required even more time and effort. This did serve me on the Romanian side, as I started writing about films in Romanian, but I haven’t opened a separate blog on it (despite criticism that I should have niched it). As a result, the articles on film on Discerne still manage to get more views than they would have if I had opened a separate blog between 2014-2016 just for films and then abandoned it, as I did with Debug Your Mind.
What lessons did I learn from this?
There seems to be the impression that there is the ease of expressing yourself and publishing at the end of your fingertips. Still, the possibility of getting published nowadays is not an issue anymore. “Putting yourself out there” and “if you build it, they will come” are sometimes time-wasting encouragements for writers to publish their ideas without acknowledging the increasing need for strategic marketing, which is not a complaint. I knew the rules of the game, and I played well according to them, which is how I managed to earn more than 1 million views, thousands of euros, and many prizes and nominations with the Romanian blog.
What has changed since 2016?
Between Oct 2016-May and 2017, I decided to remember at least once a month that I also had an English blog and published at least one post on Analytic Vision. Then from June 2017, I set the pace to 2 posts a month as an average. Since then, except for May 2018, I have published an average of 2 articles every month. Then, since March 2021, I increased that to 3 posts monthly. As a direct result, 2017 was the best year, according to the statistics counting the number of views and visitors. Even though ever since there was a slight decrease, each year between 2016-2020 was higher in these terms rather than any of the previous years.
Of course, before 2016, I had established some topics to write on this blog about. Some of them, I continued. Of most that I continued, about half the articles appeared before 2016, and the other half since then. There are almost as many new topics that I have covered since 2016 as there were primarily covered before 2016. So this means that the mere change in cases was not responsible for the increase if we considered the traffic directly from human beings and the one directed by the search engine bots.
This shows that constant, predictable practice makes a difference even without changing anything else. Now, to say I had a publishing calendar for Analytic Vision in 2016 would be an overstatement, but I developed one in 2017 and another in 2021. Right now, I have 70+ posts planned for publishing until the end of 2023, at least 2 every month, with the possibility of adding another one every month.
So what now?
If you’ve read this article, you might have caught some of my vision of being a professional blogger for over a decade. Actually, also counting the publishing work I’ve done during high school and faculty, I’m also celebrating 20 years of publishing (more on that next week). Therefore, even though I’m not a world-famous author, you can quickly notice how what I wrote here is merely the tip of the iceberg. You may explore the thematic content of this blog here. How else could I be of service to you regarding your writing, publishing, or blogging? Contact me for a free breakthrough session to discuss how you plan to do in blogging/publishing fits your goals!
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