This blog website is now more than a year old. It’s been a great place to tinker with new tech and techniques, focus some of my anxious energy, and shout into the void without engaging with the festering corporate cesspool of social media. But I had another intention in starting the site; I wanted a venue where I would write more. It seemed like it would be a good incentive to practice the habit and craft of writing, and to garner some of the psychological and self-quantification benefits of journaling.
But I have to confess that I haven’t written near as much as I had hoped. Some of my blogging heroes (like Jeremy Keith or Robin Rendle) post almost daily, and you can tell how much folks like them use their blogs as external brains, jotting down their thoughts and the shiny little finds they make on the web. I want my blog to be like that!
Now, as we all know, habits are difficult to form. I’ve done a pretty good job of writing my month notes at the end of each month (the fixed deadline really helps), but I haven’t made very much headway toward capturing all the interesting thoughts I have and sharing them with the world. And one factor that is a part of that difficult transition has been the way I actually do my writing (though it’s surely not the whole issue).
You see, when I first set up this site using Eleventy, I figured that writing my posts as markdown directly in my code editor would be easy-peasy. Why make it more complicated than that? But my dev environment is only on my laptop, and I often work at my desktop, or on the desktop at my office, or have want to share an interesting article from my phone. And while I constantly make mental notes to return to those thoughts when I’m back at my laptop, follow through is easier planned than done.
So my next idea was to write directly to the repository in Github. A commit in their web interface is every bit as good as one from my terminal, and I can access that from anywhere, so problem solved, right? Only, I kept struggling to remember the exact keys for my YAML frontmatter terms, and the Github code editing interface is just a little clunky on mobile. Again, just a little bit of friction, but enough to deter actually writing casually.
Next plan: do all my writing in Notion. I use Notion as my all-purpose organization hub and life-tracker, and I had already set up a database to organize planned blog posts, so it wasn’t such a leap to move in that direction. Plus, I discovered that if I set up fields in my database to match my frontmatter terms, Notion would export them formatted almost exactly as I would need them. All I’d need to do is export the markdown, massage is just a bit, and commit the file via either my code editor or Github. But, perhaps predictably at this point, I kept dragging on those last steps.
So that brings me to my newest solution, and one I’m feeling pretty good about: I’ve integrated the Forestry.io headless CMS into my site! I suppose it makes sense that if your plan is to write you should use a tool made for writing, which is what a CMS gives you. And Forestry commits markdown files to your repository, which is what I would be doing manually otherwise (brilliantly simple idea, really). And it lets me configure my frontmatter templates upfront and presents them as form fields, so I don’t have to futz about with remembering exactly how to write and format my YAML. The integration process was remarkably painless, so, in spite of some minor chunkiness in the interface, I’m pretty happy so far.
Will I start writing more now that I have my authoring environment set up just so? Well, I don’t know just yet. But fool me four times, and shame on me. At this point I don’t think I can blame it on the technical friction if I don’t post. Then I might have to confront the even more tricky landscape of my own human behavioral psychology. Eek.