Creating Half-Formed Content Is Superior to Creating Nothing at All

Methods for Overcoming Procrastination and Analysis Paralysis

Evergreen content is a term I first heard while working at a newspaper. It means content that can (or will) evolve or change over time, making it continuously useful, as opposed to content about specific events or stories that once read, aren’t typically worth revisiting—and are more static in nature.

I had a specific tag for evergreen content on my old blog system to signify which pieces of content may be updated periodically (albeit at random), so users could always know that it was fresh each time they viewed it. This works especially well for content on technology, various research, tools, and things that are changing rapidly over time.

On a sliding scale, with “picky academic” at one end and “a person who says absolutely anything without thinking about it first” on the other, I would overwhelmingly gravitate towards the academic side, complete with its crushing pressures. Having cut my teeth in environments where people are hungry to rip apart ideas, and as someone who actually really enjoys this process (since it produces better overall results in the end), I have come to understand a critical element of my personal blogging process: in order to even get a single post out of the door, I have to suspend my perfectionism in pursuit of content creation (which inevitably leads to conversation).

As a high-functioning perfectionist, I am constantly second guessing my ideas, and am so skeptical as to be roughly debilitated when writing a post that references important outside data. There is a constant desire to fact check and cite everything, and to create a work that is impenetrable, factual, and completely representative. In the world of blogging, this simply doesn’t work, especially if you have any semblance of a social following. The people need to be fed, and they need their food yesterday.

The quasi-comfortable middle ground I’ve found for myself is to write short-form (several pages is unfortunately short-form for me) posts that generally describe some nebulous idea that popped into my head at who knows what time. I generally save post titles and subtitles so that I can actually write about a topic I find interesting, later. When I finally sit down to crank out a post, my goal is to capture the idea in a “good-enough” fashion. I generally find typos or grammatical errors at some point—hopefully before it goes live, and revise promptly. I then post, and bam—thousands of people may see it. It’s a weirdly intimidating feeling, since I have 7K+ followers on Twitter, and many of them are very technical/academic. It’s like throwing your idea into a paper shredder, only to tape together the resulting pieces into a more refined version of the original thought.

I recently wrote about Universal Basic Income, which was painful for me, since there are so many moving parts—and with all of the literature and news articles on the subject shifting quickly, could easily spend a week deep in the new subject matter. Since I have a fairly decent overall grasp of the subject, and there are several weaknesses worth mentioning with the logic behind UBI, I felt it was helpful to write briefly on it, since many people aren’t familiar with UBI, and for those who are, it could create a discussion about said issues. For me, I plan to eventually retool my blog system to support footnotes and citations, but since doing that along with spending a week studying the issue would keep me from posting at all (given my backlog of other posts), I decided to put it out there as is (which is still fairly well thought-out for a blog format).

I can write some posts super fast, and others will just end up sitting on my machine for weeks—since the subject matter is so overwhelming. A strategy to help with this is to make the content “evergreen,” and to write about a chunk of the overall content instead of tackling the entire subject—which is more similar to writing a research paper—and could take months.

My blog is also a way for me to organize interesting thoughts that I can refer to later, and further study as I have interesting online conversations with various people stemming from my initial posts.

In many cases, having a commenting engine (like Disqus) can be helpful, because I usually notice a trend with blog posts (or articles), where commenters will help error-check and revise incorrect statements, which the author can (hopefully) revise in the article until both the writer and readers reach a plateau regarding the relative “correctness” of the article. That way, any new visitor will have a richer overall experience with a given article. For now, I am using social media as this engine, and will revise as I find any errors.

Until next time!

Nick Warren

Nick is the Founder & CEO of MetaSensor, a venture-backed internet of things startup located in Silicon Valley, and a Behavioural Product Designer at Duke's Center for Advanced Hindsight (with Dan Ariely et al.). | Read Full Bio »

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