This guest post is by Nicola Ibberson of Little House In Town.
We’re always told in life that we should distinguish between those things we “want” and those things we “need.” The general idea of this is that we need to prioritise the things we do and things we buy according to their necessity.
Generally speaking, this is a pretty sound piece of advice—it ensures we don’t end up sitting on a mountain of chocolate when we have no toilet paper, for example. It ensures we have a roof over our heads before we go out and buy a two-seater soft-top. It ensures we don’t head off on our holidays before we’ve turned off all the lights, switched off the fridge, and put the cats in the cattery.
But I think I’ve found a flaw in this sound advice. I think that sometimes you have to put the “wants” up front. Sometimes, doing something because you need to do it, or buying something because you need to buy it, kind of takes the sparkle out of whatever that thing is. It makes the doing or the purchasing of that thing into a chore. And nobody likes chores.
I’m an extra-curricular blogger. I work full-time hours (sometimes more) and have several out-of-work commitments aside from my blog, as do many of you. At some point in time, I set myself a mental target to write two blog posts a week, minimum. It’s an amount that kept my blog looking up-to-date when people stumbled across it, it ensured my readers didn’t think I’d fallen off the face of the planet, and it made me feel that I was not wasting all the efforts I’d put into building up the small web presence I have.
Setting myself that target was, in many ways, a big error. It made every blog post I did into a “need.”
“I need to write a blog post tonight; I haven’t posted anything since last Friday” was a phrase my partner heard with alarming regularity.
Sometimes, I wrote a post and made a promise to my readers that I would be featuring a certain something the week after. Most of the time, when I made that promise, the “certain something” wasn’t even written yet. So then I needed to write it, because I said I would.
Mass panic ensued when, five days later, that post still hadn’t been written. So I would write it one night after work, when I was tired, fed-up, hungry, distracted, and my brain had all but turned to mush. I can’t imagine that writing in this state showcased the best of my abilities.
Sound familiar? Perhaps it’s time to make a change.
Changing the “needs” into “wants”
It’s difficult to try and juggle life with blogging, especially with other commitments taking up our time, such as full-time jobs or children. It can be easy to lose track of the reason we started writing in the first place and we can begin to view updating our blogs as a chore.
This is how I felt. For a while, I wallowed in pity and despair, complaining of lack of time and inspiration. Then I got a grip, and decided to actually do something constructive towards reclaiming my blogging pizzazz.
I mined the internet and other blogs looking for inspiration and advice, and have collated my tried and tested favourites here for you:
- Write a blog manifesto: Sometimes we need a reminder of what our blog is all about, and why we started it in the first place. It can help to focus us when we deviate from the intended path, and provide inspiration when our brains are flagging. Write a business plan for your blog. Done properly, it will help you recapture all it is that you love about your blog, and fill you with enthusiasm on every read.
- Give yourself designated blogging time: Most extra-curricular activities take place at designated times. Your pilates class may run from 7-8pm on a Wednesday, for example. You would be frowned upon if you took the kids and dog along with you, and you wouldn’t break away to sort out the washing half way through. Why should your blog be any different? Give your blog some respect, and set aside some designated “blog time.” Even if just for an hour a week, it could be the boost your writing needs.
- Keep a notebook: If you don’t do this already, this is the one thing you really must try. If, like me, you can’t just leap onto a computer and type away whenever inspiration strikes, then please, please, please carry a notebook. Superglue it to your torso if you have to. And for goodness sake, don’t forget a pen. Whenever you have a light-bulb idea, you can scribble it down, and whenever you find yourself with a spare ten minutes, you can do a bit of blog scheduling. Then, when you’re staring gormlessly at your screen without a scrap of inspiration, you can delve into your notebook and pull out a gem of a post.
- Stop worrying: Yes, social media is important. Yes, regular content on your blog is important. No, it isn’t so important that you should panic about it. Posting ill-thought-out content on your blog or your social media sites just so there’s something there could be just as damaging as not saying anything at all. So don’t sweat it.
- Re-evaluate the depth and length of your posts: If you find that you are never able to finish writing a post in the time you have set aside, perhaps you really need to consider altering the length of your posts. I personally have this problem. I waffle. A lot. By capping the length of my posts I feel much more gratified by my writing, as now I can actually write whole posts in one sitting!
- Lose the day job: An extreme solution? Perhaps, but if your blog is generating interest that you just can’t keep up with, and you can see potential for making revenue if only you had time to set up that affliate marketing scheme/write that sponsored post/put some ad spaces on your homepage, then maybe you should seriously look at whether you can make your blog more than just a hobby. Talk to your boss: they may be able to reduce your hours or offer more flexible working patterns. If you’re unsure of how things will turn out, look into career break options or extended holiday to trial the pro blogger life.
What are your blogging needs—and what are your wants? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.
Nicola Ibberson is about to give up the day-job, move to the seaside and embark on a freelance career as a writer, proofreader and whatever-else-comes-her-way-er. Her personal blog, Little House In Town, is a place for all things ethical, sustainable, handmade and seaside-y.