Writing about my sabbatical through this blog has not only helped me document the experience, but it has also doubled as a light exploration into one of my career areas: content creation.
Now, content creation is a pretty broad field that spans many different types of media (blogs, videos, podcasts, etc.), and even different types of positions (e.g. independent content creator, producer, content marketing manager).
And some of you who are familiar with my career might be asking — Wait, wasn’t your most recent job centered around creating content?
Well, when I added this to my career exploration list, I was mostly inspired by my favorite YouTube channels, and, thus, focused on learning about being an independent content creator. The idea of being able to have complete control over the content themes, topics, format, and style — not to mention being able to write or speak in my own voice rather than some company’s voice — is really appealing to me.
Blogging lessons so far
Though I do not dedicate my full time to this blog, it is a form of independent content creation, which has already netted some learnings:
1) Preparing a post takes more time than you think
With this blog primarily acting as a documentation of my sabbatical, I initially thought I’d be able to draft each post in no time! I would be thinking and reflecting on all this career exploration work I’m doing anyway, so the words should just flow out, right?
Of course, it doesn’t exactly work that way. At least not for me. Thoughts are jumbled, disorganized, sometimes fractured. Transferring those reflections and ruminations into an organized written post that makes sense for an outside reader really does take effort and time, not to mention a lot of “R” tasks — reading, rewording, rereading, revising, rearranging.
And the more time I dedicate to writing these posts, the less time I have to do the actual career exploration work I’m supposed to be documenting through this blog. Which leads be to my next point …
2) You have to find the schedule and frequency that works for you
When I first launched my blog, I imagined posting at least three times a week, on the same days each week.
I released my first post on a Tuesday and was ready to go with a second post on Thursday. Saturday came around and … nothing. No post. My schedule had filled up. I didn’t have the time to get anything written.
No worries, I thought, let’s try this again the next week. This time, I started the week with my first post on Monday, thinking I’d switch to a Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule. People seemed to have more time to read during the week when they needed a little break from work, so this should be a better schedule.
I started that week with a long post on Monday. Of course, in order to get that post out on Monday, I had to draft it over the weekend. And then Wednesday snuck up on me, and I scrambled that morning to get a short post out. And when Friday arrived … nothing. Once again, I didn’t have the time.
I had started out with this idea that I needed to post three times a week because, for some reason, that seemed like an ideal number. But the reality is my schedule better allows for just two posts a week. And that’s ok! As for the schedule, I find it better to have my first post of the week be on Tuesday rather than Monday, so that I have Monday to get my thoughts together.
3) Having a bank of content ideas saves time
Leading up to the launch of my blog, I had a good idea of what I wanted my first three posts to be, which made writing them really easy. Because I had these topics selected well ahead of actually drafting them, I had a lot of time to think about them and what I’d say, even before I got to the writing stage.
After those initial posts, I didn’t have that many blog post ideas on my list, as I assumed that my career exploration activities would naturally surface a steady flow of topics. But since my that exploration work has not been as robust and varied as I originally planned, my well of blog topics has quickly run dry.
And this, in turn, makes writing each post more arduous and time-consuming. Not only do I need to spend extra time brainstorming what I should write about, but since I’m choosing these blog topics last minute, I’m missing that early time to think about what I’ll include in the post.
I think I’ll take some time this week just dedicated to brainstorming new post topic ideas.
4) Trust your authentic voice
When I was preparing to create and launch this blog, I knew my first post would be the big announcement of my sabbatical and this career exploration journey I was about to embark on. I imagined the post being very upbeat and optimistic and inspirational.
However, when I sat down to write the post, I felt compelled to first give context around what led me to this decision to take a sabbatical. And suddenly, the post was heavier, more serious, and even a little dark.
But it felt a lot more honest, more authentic. I was worried it might put some people off, but I knew I’d be able to defend the post because the words so genuinely reflected my feelings and experience.
And the result? When I shared that first post, I received an outpouring of support. I had numerous people reach out to me expressing that the post really spoke to them and that they had been feeling a lot of the same pressures and dissatisfaction that I had.
I want to deepen my exploration of the content creation arena, but it’s hard to know the best way to tackle that.
I know I need to break this down into both (a) understanding what is takes to actually create the content and (b) determining how to monetize this content (in the case of being an independent content creator).
I’ll likely start by exploring the former, getting an understanding of what goes into creating a blog or a video or a podcast. I can compare working on different media and see if I enjoy one format over the other. It should also give me a better understanding of the time needed for each media and format.
It will also be good to explore different roles within the content creation process. I have the opportunity to act as a producer for a podcast being launched by a couple of friends. It’ll be interesting to see how much I enjoy working as part of a larger content team, focusing on one aspect of the creation process vs. being an independent content creator, where I control pretty much everything.
What I find interesting about being a content creator, particularly an independent content creator, is that it can naturally pair will a lot of the other careers on my list. For example, I can create a video series (Video Producer) on giving new life to old, beat up furniture pieces (Furniture Upcycler).
It seems like the wild, wild west out there. A lot of ways to tackle this. A lot of competition for attention. But as I said in my first post, sometimes you just have to start by starting!