Thursday, September 2, 2010

How To Ease the Pressure of Blogging

Blogging and writing about it surely fit in "work and life" ~ even if unpaid. Why is it (socially) considered (worthwhile) work if we are paid for it?

A few thoughts on Life and Work: categories of work (paid, unpaid, knowledge work, manual labor, housework, volunteer work, drudgery) or not (fired, I quit, downsized, folded, etc) as subsections, not unlike my series "Poetry Matters," "Mountainair Wired," etc on Mountainair Arts. By that mark, blogging is a work phase.

A Guest Post by David Turnbull of Adventures of a Barefoot Geek

After the initial excitement of launching a new blog fades most bloggers are a few steps away from being overwhelmed with the pressure of blogging to the point that they quit, losing the momentum they were building up and all the progress they'd made. This is an unfortunately common occurence.

Writing. Guest posting. Commenting. Responding to emails. Continuous learning. It's a lot to take in and if you're not adequately prepared to face challenges as they appear there's a likelihood that one day you'll choose not to publish another post and then you're back to square one.

Recently, just a fornight ago in fact I became conscious of these feelings as my most recent blog was reaching the 6 month mark. I'd surpassed all the goals I'd set for myself but there was stilll that worry of being locked into my work instead of having control over it. I have no problem with hard work, but when it hits the point of dominating my life I prefer to step back and ask myself "How can I make this easier on myself?"

And that's what I really want to share in this article. This is not about escaping the work of blogging (because I do honestly enjoy it, just not when it causes imbalance in my life) but to relieve yourself of the constant worry and uncertainty that blogging entails.

Set smaller goals

I'm an advocate of thinking big in most areas of life. If you're dedicated and disciplined then ambition can often fuel creativity and drive. But blogging is different. There are so many interwoven components to blogging that a big goal often becomes an aimless goal, and an aimless goal is as bad as no goal.

Writing is the most important task for a blogger, so let's use that as an example. One common belief held by many writers is that you should sit down in the morning at 9am and then not move until 5pm. The idea is that this forces you to write. Do this for 3 days in a row and you'll lose whatever passion for blogging you ever had. The alternative is much more attractive.

When you sit down to write tell yourself this magical phrase: I'll be satisified when I've written X words. Replace X with the smallest amount of words you can be realistically satisfied with. Once you've made this decision and are no longer constricted by outrageous word counts or time frames there's no anxiety as you work and I expect you'll find yourself greatly surpassing the "satisfactory metrics" you set for yourself.

Clarify and simplify

What do you want to get out of blogging? Answer that question at least once a month for as long as you own or write for a blog. I imagine most people will respond "to make money" and that's fine, but there has to be a motivation higher than that, because blogging isn't exactly the most effective approach to generating an income.

Once you understand with crystal clear clarity why you're blogging you can eliminate a ton of the garbage that leads to blogging-based stress.

When I first started blogging I had the "make money" goal lodged in my brain, but over the past few weeks I've had a shift in my thinking, in that what I truly love is writing and making exciting (and sometimes weird) changes in my life. After I had clarified this I realized that my actions were inconsistent with what I wanted. Instead of writing I was spending most of my time leaving comments on blogs, posting in forums, and using other standard blog promotion tactics. Most of this was unfullfilling.

Now my approach to writing and building a readership is far simpler. These days I do 2 things:
  • Write (for my own blog and guest posts such as this).
  • Care (responding to tweets, emails, blog comments etc).
This has been enormous, so don't underestimate it. Clarify exactly what you want out of blogging and shape your actions to accomodate for that. Sure, if I were to leave 20+ comments on blogs per day, or become an active member in lots of communities my readership would probably climb faster. But at the same time the very essence of what I love about blogging would be lost, and that'd be setting myself up for eventual failure. Classic example of short term sacrifice (a small boost in traffic) for long term gain (endless fulfillment).

Become a "what matters" blogger

Conventional blogging advice indicates that you should write 3-5 times per week without fail. Yes, in the early days of blogging (at least the first 5-6 months) consistency is crucial. You need to prove that you've got the chops and that you're not going to abandon your readership. But, aside from news blogs and blogs that have multiple contributors, I'd suggest you lower the frequency significantly.

This is something I lifted from Tina of who is well known for taking multiple months away from her blog. I doubt everyone could be met with success using that approach, but the lesson still holds true: to ease the pressure of writing and heighten the respect from your readership only write and publish content that truly matters.

What "matters" is a subjective gauge of course, but at its core it's your own highest inner standard that you must hold yourself too. Through this approach you will end up spending more time writing individual posts, but:
  • Each post will provide you and your readers with lasting fulfillment.
  • There'll be less of a frantic rush to publish content.
  • Freeing yourself from a strict deadline and schedule is incredibly liberating.
As a poll here on Problogger indicated, lowering your frequency is not what causes people to unsubscribe from your blog, it's posting too much that readers dislike. Here's a quote from Darren himself:
I've lost count of the number of bloggers who tell me that scaling back their posting frequency a little brings a new life to their blog…scaling back a little means that they are able to develop better quality posts, that they get more comments per post (the posts remain on the front page of the blog longer) and readers say that they appreciate it.
People don't unsubscribe from blogs when every piece of content provides them with genuine value.

Successful blogging requires sustained effort over a long period of time. I don't want to make it seem like you can eliminate hard work and the anxiety that comes with the process. But you can make it easier on yourself. Take action to ease the pressure of blogging and refocus on what you truly care about.

What strategies do you use to ease the pressure of blogging?

David Turnbull is a life-long geek who loves to write about life hacking, simplicity and technology at his blog Adventures of a Barefoot Geek.

Post from: Blog Tips at ProBlogger.

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