Wednesday, May 11, 2011

How to Blog for the Long Haul



Lisa Gail Green did a great post on Blogging Etiquette, which should be standard reading for everyone starting out a new blog. Lisa's post, and a plea for help from new blogger Lynn Kelley got me thinking. After blogging for about 18 months, what tips did I have to share with someone just starting out?

Lisa's Etiquette covers the Do's and Dont's extremely well (seriously, go read it!).

If you do all those things you will have a professional blog that will attract followers, which is very fine. But that's also a lot of work, and many people look at all the blogs around them and think, How the heck can I do that?

So, here's a few things I've learned along the way that keep me going.

Blog What You're Passionate About
Like an internally conflicted character, whose contradictions are an endless source of fascination for readers, a blogger who talks about their passions will attract readers. Many of us are writers, so that is certainly a passion that we share, but carving your niche within that passion will keep people coming back. I love kids, books, and the tech stuff, so that's my niche. I can (and have) talked endlessly about all the ways those topics intersect! The magic of the blogosphere means that people who share your passions will stick around, while others will move on. It's a wonderful thing, because you end up with a group of people with shared interests ... otherwise known as friends.

Blog Deeper
Some of my most popular posts were ones I concocted when I had no idea what to post. I stared at that blank Blogger "New Post" screen and thought, That's It. I'm done. I don't have one single idea left in my head. And then I dug deeper into what was going on in my life, in my head, at that moment. And that's where the best stuff came from - a deeper sharing that I had to work for. I'm not talking about sharing the intimate details that are no one's business. I'm talking about finding the deeper human struggles that we all have. That's when I came up with On Being Present and Creativity and Failing the Right Way. (And also today's post.) Those posts resonated with readers, but they also helped me become a better writer.

Blog As Much As You Enjoy, and No More
Don't feel guilty about not blogging or not commenting. Don't feel bad that people comment and you can't respond. Don't feel negligent if you don't follow everyone who follows you. Is it nice to do these things? Yes. Should we try to do them? Absolutely. But the only way to stay in this game for the long term is to avoid burnout - and for that, the guilt has to be thrown out the window with no looking back. I'll repeat it, because it's important: Only do as much as you enjoy, and no more. When the fun gets sucked out of it, that's when you need a break. Taking a blogging vacation is totally acceptable - a week or two vacation is far better than a 3 or 4 month hiatus while you recover from your burnout.

These are the things I've learned along the way. I hope they help you stay in the game.

Because I've met some of my best friends here! And I want you to stick around. :)

44 comments:

  1. The most helpful tip I read about blogging was unique, useful, and updated. Sometimes it takes a while to figure out what will be unique about our blog posts. And I soon learned that readers were more interested in useful ones. We figure that out as readers respond to certain posts.

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  2. I think it's a great idea to post about lessons learned every once in awhile. We all know so much more at the end of each year, and we keep seeing new bloggers come along and make mistakes we could help them out with. I should probably do one of these soon...

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  3. @Laura Your blog is wonderfully useful! Which is why I keep coming back. But others I read because they are entertaining, or uplifting, or simply because I like the author. I guess those are "useful" to me in different ways.

    @Ted Yes! Sharing is good, for both parties. :)

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  4. Great post! I agree about blogging only as much as you enjoy. If you try to push too hard, you'll burn out fast.

    Glad I'm not the only one who sits staring at a blank screen thinking "I'm tapped out. I've got nothing creative left to say!"

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  5. Agree. Agree. Agree.

    Your comments about blogging deeper are especially interesting. A significant portion of the time, I find the posts I just blurt out in the moment resonate more than the ones I planned ahead and thought were clever. Blogging's weird like that (tweeting too, for that matter).

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  6. Only as much as you enjoy and no more has become my mantra. I was losing a lot of my writing time trying to respond to comments and visit everyone's blogs. And then feeling guilty when I didn't. I had to remind myself that I'm a writer before I'm a blogger.

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  7. @Lisa Pushing too hard and burning out fast goes double for writing as well! And facing down that blank screen is one thing blogging has taught me to do well!

    @Adam This is why I think blogging helps us improve our writing. It's a discipline that forces us to be uninhibited every once in a while. Funny that!

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  8. @Sherrie That was liberating for me too! And made my writing less stressful, because I got more of it done.

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  9. This was so helpful to read. I'm beginning to think the way I blog is going to be similar to the way I write--have fun with it, dig deep, and pause to breathe if I'm feeling burned out. (And I really appreciate the comment about not feeling guilty, because I know there's only so much I can manage some days.) Thanks!

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  10. LOL Everyone is blogging about blogging today. Must be something in the air.

    I'm still working on not feeling guilty when someone comments and I don't comment on theirs. But when I get 30-50 comments a post (and I do try to comment on all the blogs who comment on mine), and someone writes a super long rambling post, I'm going to skip it.

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  11. @Laura I'm so glad it helped! Remembering to breathe and enjoy keeps the life in what we do.

    @Stina Must be! And toss that guilt! Think of the Great Nate B - the price of popularity (and you are) is that you can't respond to everyone all the time. But NB is still nice, still himself, and people still keep coming back because they find value in what he's offering.

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  12. I felt a little guilty about a long not-blogging hiatus, but mostly it felt like relief as I was deep in the trenches of manuscript warfare.

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  13. @Bane The writing absolutely has to come first. And blogging also isn't for everyone. The problem with a hiatus is that readers drift away and you end up starting over with building readership and making connections. But not all is lost! I'm glad you are back!! (p.s. ditch the guilt - doesn't do any good)

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  14. You really do delve deeper here. I especially appreciate your second and third points. I find those posts are the most viewed. And yes, only do what you enjoy! Thanks for the wonderful compliments. :D

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  15. Thanks for the encouragement to shed social media guilt! I think we all have to keep reminding one another of that regularly. :-)
    And I so appreciate the thoughtful interactions I always have with you. You make it safe here to express a contrary opinion and have some good back and forth--I really love that! I always have to tread so carefully on some blogs where the expectation is all praise all the time.

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  16. When I first started I had no idea I'd be known for having quotes all the time, but people liked it, so i kept doing it! Great post, Susan.

    And thanks for the share button link--it worked! :-)

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  17. @LisaGG Thanks for sharing all your tips - even if I know it already, it's good to be reminded!

    @Laurel I'm so glad you feel safe here! I love the conversations we have here, and it's important to me that people feel like they can express themselves!

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  18. So much here to take to heart, Susan. Thanks. I have a love-hate relationship with blogging. Sometimes I'm totally excited about it and at others I'd rather do anything but blog. Guess I'll take your advice and only do it when I'm up for it.

    Hope your ROW80 is going well. I'm sure it is.

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  19. @Shannon You are the quote lady! Which I love, because I can never find a good quote when I want one. (p.s. yay for the buttons!)

    @CLee I'm writing like crazy today (making up for last week). Another thing about blogging - if you're not loving it, your readers won't either (just like real writing!). So might as well put that energy where it can do some good!

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  20. Susan, I completely agree. It's funny because some days I really don't know what to blog about so I'll start writing about anything and then this great conversation will follow. I'll get tons of comments and people are really interested. You never know which topics are going to get the best responses, but if you write from your heart and about things you feel passionately about, the comments will come in.

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  21. Hey, I'm all about avoiding burnout. *cough* lazy *cough*

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  22. These are great. Thanks. I'm going to print them to remind me when my mind is a blank, which is most of the time.

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  23. Good advice for the long haul. I blog about once a week, and I can't see forcing out more, but I always felt guilty about it. Now I see that it's right for me, and better than having to take a blog hiatus from burnout.

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  24. @Kelly I love the conversation - it's really what the blogging is about for me.

    @Bryan Go ahead, try to convince me you're lazy. #notworking

    @Bev Ha! A blank mind sounds like a perfect state of Zen. :)

    @Catherine I think keeping a schedule is almost as important as what the exact schedule is. Whatever is right for you is the right thing, and consistency helps people know what to expect from you. Carry on! :)

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  25. Susan, this is the BEST post for me right now! I've been trying to figure out what my 'blogging' personality should be and how often I should be blogging and commenting... And all of these thoughts kept getting heavier and heavier... your post just lightened my load. THANKS!

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  26. @Ansha Finding the thin line that allows blogging/socialmedia/etc to be a PLUS not a MINUS to your work as a writer...that's something I grapple with all the time. But that heavier feeling is a good indication that's not the path you want to be on. Best of luck!

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  27. Great points! I love bloggers that dig deeper, and you do that wonderfully. And you're right, blogging more than is fun is just not worth it. A short vacation is definitely the best way to avoid burnout.

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  28. Greawt tips, SKQ! I was/am recovering from a very fun, but exhausting month-long blog challenge in April, and I'm trying to find a schedule that works for me. I have to remember to just blog more or less when I have something to say...I don't want to blog about meaningless stuff, at least not all the time. :-)

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  29. Ugh, maybe I should check over my comments before posting them. "Great" was what I meant, not "greawt." Unless I've invented a new word. Hmm....

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  30. @Nicole Getting refreshed and re-discovering why you like it (writing, blogging, whatever) is why vacations rock. I need to remember to take them more often!

    @Sarah That blog challenge was amazing! Serious stamina. Being silly is fine (banging the same drum all the time gets tiresome), but having something to say is important (for you and your readers). (p.s. I think greawt is sorta like hawt, so I'll take that as a compliment!) :)

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  31. Susan, this is a great/greawt post! Seriously, burn out has been a concern all along about starting a blog, so your comment are soooooooo helpful. And I had decided that if it's not enjoyable and fun for me, I won't commit to blogging. I'm giving it my best shot right now, and so far, so good. Thanks for mentioning me in your blog and for leaving that message on my blog so I could hurry over here and see what you said!

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  32. @Lyn Thanks for sparking the idea for this post! And best of luck navigating the blogo-waters. I look forward to your posts! :)

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  33. Hi Susan,
    You're right about those three posts that you listed as being spontaneous and digging deeper being interesting and things that others want to comment on. I just went back and read all three, and I can relate to each one. Im glad you shared this point because I'll remember to try on-the-spot blogging, writing deep-from-the-heart thoughts when I'm drawing a blank.

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  34. Susan, your post is a perfect compliment to Lisa's. Your insights make me feel like I dipped my toe in the blogging fountain of youth. Thank you for reframing my thinking.

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  35. That last one made me feel better. I always beat myself up about not blogging enough, but I don't get much free time. Thanks for the helpful tips.

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  36. @Lyn Thanks so much for sharing that! (And for reading) Now I'm really looking forward to where you take your blog! :)

    @Leslie Oh, the blogging fountain of youth! I likes. :)

    @Natasha Toss the guilt! Life is seriously too short for any of that. :)

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  37. Great post! I have on occasion deleted all my blog email after I do return visits...but it's been very rare. Blogging daily is too much for me. Then I tried 3 days a week. Finally I settled on twice a week. I can read blogs every night, which I love doing.

    Have a great rest of the week!

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  38. @Sharon It is an iterative process; plus the target of "what works" keeps moving! It was a big adjustment for me to go from 5 days to 3 days, but it's been just right (not counting my ROW80 updates, cuz those are in a different category. :))

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  39. I really enjoyed "Failing the Right Way". Stuck with me a long time

    I fell out of the routine of blogging for a while, and surprisingly enough, I survived. Wow, that was a revelation :) Liberating, as well.

    ......dhole

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  40. @Donna It warms my heart that something I wrote stuck with you! Thanks for sharing that! And yes, life-with-no-blogging is not a bad thing! Just a choice - I think I'm in it for the long haul, but if there's one thing I know: things always change. (p.s. it IS nice to hear from you!!)

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  41. This is really great advice. I've only been blogging regularly for about 6 months and following your first two points has helped me come up with content so far. I love your third point. I can see how bloggers can easily get burnt out. Letting go of the guilt is smart!

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  42. dropped by from Goodreads. Thanks for the tips. I've been blogging since 2006 then decided to quit because of lack of time. But here I am again, itching to type and blog away :) Thanks again!

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  43. @Sheer Thanks for hopping over! 2006 - Wow! I can understand why you're back, too - I'm pretty well addicted. Thanks for stopping by!

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