Good is better than perfect

I don’t like my blog.

To clarify: as of writing, I’m lukewarm on how article titles look. I don’t have per-post tags; I haven’t added pagination to the index. I could go on.

When I launched, about ten months ago, my list of complaints was even longer. I didn’t love my body font; I really didn’t love my <ul>s. I hadn’t written styles for section headers, tables, or asides.

But I had made something.

This is actually the third iteration of my blog; the first two lived only on my local server, each rm -r'd when I realized that something about them wasn’t, and could never be, perfect.

As I laid the groundwork for my third version, I promised myself that this, no matter what, would be what I launched. I was done spinning my wheels on mechanical problems; I needed to move past that and start actually writing.

Because, naturally, my quest for perfection wasn’t just because I wanted to make a good-looking site. It was also a bid to avoid ever writing a single post. After all, if my site wasn't done, how could I publish things on it?

It’s so much easier to write CSS for myself than it is to write English for other people.

But here I am, ten months later, with a still-flawed but productive site, a site which lets me express myself, spread knowledge, and hone my writing skills. It's not perfect. But, perfections included, it's exactly right for me.

How to create something imperfect

Most people I've talked to who self-host a blog get bogged down, as I did, in the creation step. This is a reliable pattern because webdev is hard and writing is even harder. This is fine. You're fine. Make something good, make something that supports what you immediately need it to support, and get it out. the. door.

Here's a few things that helped me:

Create content, then develop to that spec

Since you can't control another separate human's actions, client work usually involves some kind of attempt to anticipate every single possible thing they might want to do, which is a) super obnoxious and b) super fun.

How should we crop and position images if the client tries to upload something 800px by 80px? How should we space out the title if they only make it one word long? What if they create an article and then leave the body completely blank? Et cetera.

When you're your own client, you don't have to build what you don't need.

In my case, I drafted a couple of articles so that I wouldn't deploy an empty blog (SO EMBARASSING RITE???). As soon as they were vaguely done, I switched over to use those, not Lorem Ipsum, as dummy content. I was able to build to my own exact needs, so I made a blog that worked perfectly even though I hadn't written styles for tables or even section headings.

I'm not advising to make bespoke one-offs, or to work without considering stability/extensibility. Make a system, but accept that that system won't be all-encompassing. Make a system that you intend to improve. Make the system that you need.

Remember that you don't work in print

Logically, this isn't difficult, but something about it is emotionally hard for me.

If you think your site is ugly but you push ahead and publish a couple of posts, you can deploy better styles later and everything will now be pretty, even the posts that were originally ugly. Hooray for the internet!

Know that you're not famous

(I assume.)

Anyway, a lot is made of splashy launches and Sticking The Landing, but whoever your idol is is definitely not reading your blog right now. You have plenty of time to find your voice, fix your wonky line-heights, etc. before it's read by Oprah or Dan Abramov or whoever. This time is a rehearsal, and it's valuable.

Don't mistake labor for progress

Is your goal to make a good website, or is it to become a better writer?

I don't know how long it takes to get comfortable writing, to find your voice, to carve out a good schedule, to pick topics that you reliably want to write about. But my blog has been live for ten months and I can tell you that I'm not there yet.

So let's say that it takes two or three years of low-intensity blogging before you develop proficiency.

That timer doesn't start until you're actually publishing posts. You can toil away for a year and a half on an amazing perfect 👌🏻🔥💯 website; this will have zero effect on your writing prowess.

Make something that advances you towards your goal, or at least be honest about what you're working on and whether it's part of that specific journey. I've taken detours and they've been helpful and lovely but I'm not going to pretend that revamping my font-loading made me a better writer.

The journey

Over the past ten months, I've held tight to these maxims -- they've been invaluable not only while creating the blog, but since then, as I continue to write and publish.

If you've been looking for a sign to start a blog or launch a project, let this be it. You'll love your imperfect, real creations a thousand times more than something flawless that's never seen the light of day.

Excited for what you make in 2018! 💃🏻