10 Things I’ve Learned in 10 Years of Blogging

Unbelievable! I just hit my tenth anniversary for this blog. I can’t believe it. The days are long, but the years are short. 

Certainly, when I started, I had no idea that I was embarking on an project that would become such a big part of my day, my identity, my writing career, and my relationships. In fact, I remember thinking, “Yes, I’m stressed out about writing these first posts, but that’s okay, because no one will ever read them.

That first post, “The Blog Begins,” is here, if you’re curious.

Here are ten things I’ve learned from ten years of blogging:

1. It’s often easier to do something every day than some days.

This sounds counter-intuitive, but I’ve found it to be very true. I write on this site most days, so I don’t debate with myself, “Today, tomorrow? I wrote last week, can I take this week off?” I know I have to write on my blog, so I do. In Better Than Before, I explore this phenomenon more.

2. People like to learn in different ways.

I’m a writer, and I like to provide ideas in text — and no surprise, that’s also the way I learn best. But I’ve found that some people prefer videos, some people prefer audio, some people prefer to get email, some people prefer social media. To reach a wide range of people, we have to think about all of that.

3. People are more wildly creative, insightful, and articulate than I could possibly imagine.

I’m constantly blown away by the comments I get from readers and listeners. Such fascinating stories, such astute comments.  I feel so lucky to live at a time when technology makes this kind of engagement so easy, because it has has deepened my understanding of my subjects immeasurably. To take just one tiny example, when I asked people, “What’s the motto of your Tendency?’ I got brilliant, hilarious answers. My favorite: “You can’t make me, and neither can I” for the Rebels.

4. It’s fun to have a consistent record — any kind of record — of the past.

I often look back to see what I wrote on my site on this date, some years ago. It’s so fun!  I think this is why my One-Sentence Journal: a Five-Year Record has proved so popular. Most people won’t keep a blog, or write long journal entries, but writing one sentence seems manageable and fun, and is enough to bring back memories.

5.For creativity, it’s better to pour out ideas rather than to dole them out with a teaspoon.

When I started blogging — and I confess, I still have this thought, sometimes, ten years later — I’d think, “This is a great idea. I should hold it back, so in case I ever run out of ideas, I’ll have something in reserve.” No! I have to trust in myself, trust that I’ll get more ideas. The more I do, the more I can do.  It’s one of my Personal Commandments: Spend out.

6. As a writer, the biggest challenge is to make readers aware that a book exists.

There’s so much to read, watch, and listen to these days — how does a person hear about a particular book? I’ve found that it’s very helpful to have my own way to connect with an audience that’s interested in my subjects.

7. An atmosphere of growth makes me happier.

In my Eight Splendid Truths about Happiness, the First Splendid Truth is:  To be happier, we must think about feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right, in an atmosphere of growth. We’re happier when we’re growing: when we’re learning something, helping someone, improving something, making things better. With my blog, and also social media and my podcast, I have the feeling of learning new things, engaging in new ways, learning new skills, meeting new people, adding new identities to my sense of myself. Along those lines…

8. Novelty and challenge make me happier.

When I was writing The Happiness Project, I needed to use myself as a human guinea pig for the notion, often suggested by scientist, that novelty and challenge make people happier. I thought, “Well, that might be true for most people, but not for me.” To test the idea, I decided to start a blog — which seemed very novel and challenging to me. I figured I’d give it a short for three or four weeks, decide that it didn’t work, and abandon it — the way I abandoned my gratitude journal. But no! I realized that even for someone like me, novelty and challenge did make me happier. Of course, they also gave me moment of anxiety, frustration, and anger, but those feeling paid off. If you want to read about this, check out the chapter for March, “Aim Higher,” in The Happiness Project.

9. It’s true, as research suggests, that we’re happier when we have many aspects to our identity.

Having many identities protects us: if you get fired from your job, you can think, “People think I’m doing a great job at the church finance committee”; if you can’t play tennis anymore, you can think, “Now I have more time to garden.” Adding the identity of “blogger” (and then “podcaster”) to my professional identity was enormously energizing, interesting, and reassuring.

10. Don’t get it perfect, get it going.

The longest journey starts with a single step. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. All these proverbs are true. When I was starting this blog, I was paralyzed by the desire to do everything right — and there were so many decisions to make! Finally, I decided, “I’m going to talk to a few smart people with blogs, and do whatever they do. I can change things later, if I want.” That was a great way to get started. It’s one of my Secrets of Adulthood: Most decisions don’t require extensive research.

To celebrate the tenth anniversary, I’ve pulled together a short e-book that features my favorite posts from the last decade. It was so much fun to choose what pieces to include.

You can order it here, for $1.99.

Sidenote: I just realized that my blog anniversary is the same day as the wedding anniversary for both my parents and my in-laws. That seems auspicious! Both couples have been married for more than fifty years.

  • Darlene

    Congratulations on your ten year anniversary and best wishes for many more!

    • gretchenrubin

      Thanks so much!

  • mom2luke

    Ten great observations among your many great observations about happiness. I’m so happy that I was an early adopter of your blog and one of the first to read your book when it finally published. And now I eagerly look forward to Wednesdays for your podcasts.

    I’m a questioner and am so jealous of your upholder tendencies, but grateful you figured out why what works for some does not work for all, and I love all the great advice for happiness and habit strategies that do work for the different types as I’ve stopped trying to motivate the rebels in my life the way I used to.

    Congrats on ten year milestone and keep up the great work! Especially I love the demerits and gold stars. Make me feel better about my own hits and misses 🙂

  • Ris

    Gretchen, do you happen to have an article or book you can point me to about the research that suggests that we’re happier when we have many aspects to our identity? My dad is retiring soon and the rest of the family is trying valiantly to think of things he can do once he’s no longer working. For the past 40 years, his work has defined him!

  • Shari

    Your blog has meant so much to me over the years. I have learned so much about myself through your words. I was excited to meet you in person in Plano last year. Your blog has inspired me to write my own. I post five days a week, and like you I don’t allow myself to be talked out of it. I have loved being able to express myself through my writing. Congratulations on ten years, and keep on writing!

    • gretchenrubin

      Terrific, thank you! and congrats on your blog!

  • Kathy

    Congratulations! I’ve enjoyed your blog, and your last three books very much, and hope you continue sharing your thoughts and insights for a long, long time!!

    • gretchenrubin

      Thanks so much!

  • ChrisD

    Congratulations on 10 years.
    I was wondering, you say you write on your blog (almost?) every day but you don’t post every day. Does that mean you just spend a set amount of time on it each day?
    I managed to do 15 minutes a day on my blog during September, it doesn’t seem much yet it quickly produced around a post a week.
    I’d ask if you have any tips for sticking to that daily habit, and indeed you’ve already published a whole book of ideas!

    • gretchenrubin

      Oh, I meant post. I post just about every day. I write the post on the same day that I publish it.
      Yes, for ideas on this, see Better Than Before! It’s a very big and fascinating question.

      • Congrats indeed Gretchen, its also interesting that your journey has taken you from Law and as you mention to building in all the various facets over they years. I am at the tail end of residency and started writing on MedSchoolFinancial about half a year ago, and thus far I have found I prefer a similar approach of writing and publishing a post on the same day. Writing has many benefits and something I hope to similarly look back on with a 10 year anniversary. Enjoyed the post.

        Keep up the great work,
        Dr. J

  • Paria

    Congratulations! Your work has made such a positive difference in my life.

    • gretchenrubin

      I’m so HAPPY to hear that.

  • Melanie

    I love your podcasts and posts. I find them so inspiring and they really motivated me to be more mindful and creative myself. Thank you and Elizabeth for sharing your great ideas, insights and experiences ❤️

  • Adrienne

    Hey Gretchen – Long time reader and listener. You mention the adding to and changing of your professional identity. Have you ever thought about researching or writing on this topic? I am using professional identity as a framework for my dissertation! It is very interesting.

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  • Leanna Partridge

    Thought-provoking discussion . I was fascinated by the details ! Does someone know where I could possibly locate a blank CA OCF-1 example to work with ?

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