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November 3, 2011

The Blogging Cycle: How Do You Stay Sane?

View down the center of spiral stairs

My friend Roni Loren wrote a fabulous post yesterday about the life cycle of a blogger.  She echoed thoughts similar to Kait Nolan’s great post, “Social Media Ennui.”

When we first start on social media or reading and/or writing blog posts, everything is shiny and new.  That post about query letters is amazing simply because we haven’t been around to see the 2000 other blog posts about the same subject.  But fast forward a year in our skill set, and the same post would seem redundant.

This creates an odd disconnect between the newbies and those who have been around the block a couple of times.  After all, I still have a lot to learn, so I think of myself as a newbie.  Yet to other writers who are really new to writing, I’m almost like a…*gasp* mentor.

That’s a bizarre concept for me to wrap my head around.  And I’ll admit that my “seen that before” attitude impacts my blog topics and which posts I retweet on Twitter.  There are probably some very good posts about query letters (or grammar, or the publishing industry, etc.) out there that I don’t retweet just because it’s not new to me.

A part of me thinks that’s a shame.  Some of my Twitter followers are new to writing and would get something out of those posts.  Sometimes, I’ll point links their way, usually with a tweet like “Good reminder! Watch out for head-hopping: http://bit.ly/huqYU7.”  That way, my more-advanced followers know to skip the link, but newbie followers still get the information.

But just like how it’s hard to remember the details of our childhood, it can be hard to recognize how far we’ve come, how much we used to not know as writers.  So for those of us who have been around the writing blogosphere for a while, we get (as Kait put it) bored with many of the posts out there.  It’s not that the posts are bad, but we’d all find a math class for 7-year-olds boring too.

I liked Roni’s post because she pointed out how there is a stage past the super-cynical phase.  She called it the sweet spot:

Finding the sweet spot 
I’m only going to do the online things I enjoy. I’m only going to read/interact/participate in the things I have time for and like doing. There are always people coming up with fresh content, I just have to be open to looking in new places. There is always something new to learn and a new friend to make.”

And I truly believe that.  I will never be done learning.  So if the blogs I’ve read in the past are a bit too basic for me now, maybe it’s time to expand my reading.  Edittorrent has been a long-time favorite of mine because they mix basic and advanced concepts.

Can Finding the Right Mix Re-energize Us?

Several blog posts lately have asked the question, “Is blogging dead?”  I think the answer is no, because there are always new people entering the fray, and they need to learn the same stuff we did.  But the writing blogosphere has reached a point where many big-name bloggers are burned out and/or continually repeating posts.

We don’t want to lose their knowledge and experience, but they understandably don’t want to say or read the same things over and over.  Maybe finding a way to reach out to new writers while still pushing ourselves forward will help everyone.

No matter where we are on the learning scale, we all started somewhere and made progress because others were willing to help.  Likewise, I want to help those following behind me.  So ideally, I should aim for a mixture of basic and advanced ideas both in my retweeting and on my blog.

How Can We Help Newbie Writers without Losing Our Mind?

I brainstormed how I could mix basic and advanced information and came up with:

  • Tweet links to well-written posts about things I already know with a “good reminder” tag, as mentioned above.
  • Use my “Ask Jami” blog feature to share what I’ve learned, even if it’s more basic than I’d usually write about.
  • Tweet links to some of my older posts, which sometimes cover more basic information.
  • Repost some of my older articles to expose them to new followers.
  • Reorganize my tags/sidebar to make archived posts easier to find.  (I love how Janice Hardy has her sidebar organized.  In fact, I just plain love her blog. *smile*)
  • Create PDFs of my blog series to make it convenient for readers to find them after the series ends.
  • Use an email autoresponder program to offer older blog series posts as a free email “class” for those who sign up for my newsletter.

I’m not sure which of those would be most helpful to new writers, and I’d love to hear any other suggestions you might have.  Many people use the method of reposting old blog articles, but I personally try to avoid that approach as much as possible.  After all, my goal is to reach out to all my readers/followers, not exclude my long-time readers with repeats.

I manage to avoid Roni’s “mania” stage most of the time just because I mentally consider myself to be a laid-back lazy bum.  (No one else would consider me lazy because I’m an overachiever in all respects, but inside my head, I’m lazy with a dash of *shrug* and “I can only do what I can do.”)  So I’m able to spend most of my time at Roni’s “sweet spot” stage, but I’d like to make that my permanent residence.  Maybe this attitude adjustment will help.

Do posts about things you already know drive you crazy?  Do you have suggestions for how we can get to Roni’s “sweet spot” stage?  What about other suggestions for ways we can help new writers?  Which of those methods from my brainstormed list would you prefer for learning about “old” information?

What do you think?

48 Comments on "The Blogging Cycle: How Do You Stay Sane?"

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Stacy Green

I think your Ask Jami feature is fantastic, but then again, I’m biased. I do skip posts if it’s something I already know about, but most of the time I’ll skim as many as I can. Time is precious, though, so I try to limit the number of blogs I do follow. But I’m always happy to promote someone else if the post looks interesting.

I certainly consider myself a newbie, and there is always something new to learn about writing. I don’t think you should ever consider yourself a pro. As for the blogging, I’m in Roni’s final stage most of the time. I don’t give myself any other choice, lol.

Daniel Swensen (@surlymuse)

I’ve been blogging on a variety of topics since about 1997. I think I can say I know how burnout feels. But one thing has always worked consistently for me: unplug. If I feel annoyed at people discovering and sharing information on the internet, the internet isn’t the problem, it’s me. If I don’t feel like writing, I withdraw until I think of something interesting to say; if I feel I’m not getting anything out of blog topics, I go bury myself in a book for a day or two.

I think that no matter where we are in our own development, personally, professionally, or blog-wise, we’re just doing what everyone else is doing: learning, experiencing, sharing what we know and what we’ve found out, struggling to bring our own perspective to things, if not necessarily a fresh one. But nihil sub sole novum and so on; everything’s been done before, so ultimately I think it’s a matter of finding people with whom we can relate and from whom we can learn — and let the rest slide.

Susan Sipal

There IS a lot of the same information out there, but sometimes that’s a good thing. I’m so forgetful nowadays that I need all the memory help I can get! The only time it bothers me is when someone is repeating the same story over and over of something that so rarely happens — such as don’t slip your manuscript under the bathroom cubicle to an agent. Ugh! That’s story’s been repeated 100x more often than the incident occurred.

For me, to keep myself fresh, I try to take the pressure off. I’m allowed breaks from blogging and Tweeting. I’m allowed to switch gears and approach my blog in a new way. If somewhere down the line I want to totally switch the subject and format, I can do that. I try to tune in to what’s going on now around me and work with it for new content. Flexibility is key.

Kait Nolan

For me right now it’s about a lot of people blatantly abusing hashtags. They’re slapping 5 or 6 on there with no particular regard to what that hashtag is for, and then a dozen of their friends are RTing it without changing them at all, so I’m getting blasted in douzlicate (like triplicate, but 12 times) across every hashtag I follow. Kristen Lamb has a marvelous post on how to properly use hashtags and I continually want to forward it to people: http://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/2011/05/24/twitter-tuesday-18/

There’s so much RTing of stuff just to RT it these days, without any thought given to whether the post or link is worth RTing and sharing. Which means we have to wade through a lot of junk to find the good stuff–and many of us just don’t have the energy. I don’t subscribe to the fact that I should RT something just because I know who posted it first. If I RT something it’s because I think my followers will get something of value out of it–whether that’s informational, humor, or whatever. Which means that I generally earn (or hope I do) a reputation for only sharing GOOD information. I wish more people would adopt that kind of method for handling Twitter and RTing.

Nancy S. Thompson

You ARE a mentor to me, but that’s not because I’m a relative newbie & you’ve simply been around longer than I have (bloggingly speaking.). It’s because you know what the hell you’re talking (or writing) about & back your thoughts up with well researched facts & examples. I’ve learned a great deal from you and so respect you as a mentor. You’ll always be further along in the process than I, published or otherwise, and I’m at least wise enough to know that experience is everything.

Roni Loren

Thanks for the link love, glad the post resonated with you.

I think your ideas for helping out newbies are great. It’s on my to-do list to organize my blog so that there are easily searchable posts (I also love Janice Hardy’s organizational design.) I just know it’s going to take a lot of time, so I’m kind of dreading it, lol.

Roxanne Skelly
Roxanne Skelly

This is sorta related to something I’ve noticed during my tenure as administratrix of an online forum (for 9 years, shudder). The same topics are repeated again and again.

You’d think people would just go back and read previous posts on those topics, not bringing them up again, but they don’t. Well, here’s my thoughts on why…people go through a process in learning something, and many need to actually discuss or post about those things to work through them. Simply going back and reading posts from other people as truth isn’t enough for them.

This may also be true with blogging. People need to generate their own thoughts on a topic, and work through those thoughts by writing about them. Reading the thoughts of others may help them learn, but to really work through it they need to write about it. Hence, the bazillion blog posts on various topics.

The thing is, each person has a different perspective. There may be only a few topics of interest (just like there are only a handful of fiction plots), but each person adds something unique to the discussion. Something potentially useful. And…it doesn’t matter how experienced a person is in a given topic. Some folk may have twenty years experience writing best-selling novels, but guess what…they do not have my two years experience. I’ve taken my own unique path, so they could potentially learn from me…a beginner.

Sonia G Medeiros

Such a great point! I think people do need to work through a topic by writing/discussing it themselves. Plus, sometimes one person puts information in a way that just hits home more than what everyone else has said. I know that, when I’m interested in a topic, I want to hear a bunch of different takes on it. Usually only a couple of those takes will really give me that “aha” moment.

Andrew Mocete

The most important thing a new blogger can do is to work on finding his/her voice. It’s taken me a a year to get a handle on mine and I see the improvement in my writing. Without a voice, every post is at a disadvantage.

One method that helped me before I had a blog was to comment on other blogs. The topic was already picked out, so all I had to do was add my two cents. Only when I was comfortable with that did I start my own.

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[…] Jami Gold brought her take to the discussion with The Blogging Cycle: How Do You Stay Sane? and detailed how she was going to try and keep us n00bs in mind when tweeting, which I was […]

Gene Lempp

I love the PDF idea, had never thought of that but it makes sense. Re-posting can be fine, as long as it is done sparingly. Once a month. Personally, I’ve only done it once in six months but have considered re-running some of my early posts from when I only had 3 readers.

I’m a big fan of Janice Hardy (her blog is my next stop, by the way) and am hoping to re-organize and freshen up my blog in December. Not sure I could do what Janice does because I don’t blog nearly as much but she is still a great example of how to make the site look good while making the information on it easy to access without overwhelming a guest.

Always excellent well-thought posts, Jami. You are a great mentor *grins*

Gene Lempp

One “other thing” I’ve found helpful is going back and re-doing the tags on older posts. I was horrible at tagging when I first started blogging and changing those over to ones experience has shown work better increase traffic as well.
I like that same feature of WP and while I may not respond to comments on older posts I do read and appreciate all of them.

Stephen T. Harper
Stephen T. Harper

Very interesting topic, Jami.

There are quite a few “hard parts” to beginning blogging that I have seen so far. One of the big ones is time. As a copywriter, novelist, screenwriter, and now blogger, I’m writing something all day long. I admit that my blogging has gotten short shrift. I’m working on an attitude adjustment, with good results so far, I think.

Looking forward to finding that “sweet spot” someday.

Stephen T. Harper
Stephen T. Harper

My biggest blogging problem is subject matter. For whatever reason, I decided early on that I didn’t want to talk about writing. I think I need to change that, because reinventing the wheel every time is a lot to bite off. I’ve created no template for me to follow, and no recurring reason for readers to stick around. Sometimes I’ll put up something really good, sometimes it’s kind of “okay, but what is this?” In other words, my blog has no coherent structure, direction or brand.

That’s got to be a rookie mistake. I’ll work it out over time. 🙂

Brooklyn Ann

I don’t mind posts on familiar topics because it’s often fun to see a new take on it and there are things I often needed reminded of. i.e. “No talking heads!”

SEHouston

When I first started writing the blog I knew from the outset the direction I wanted it go in. After advice from my readers, I am now writing in a more personal essay style. I didn’t want to be overwhelmed by advice when I first started, I wanted to just write. But now a month into my first ever blog, I am looking for advice. Thank you for the links and the advice to start labeling now, something I have done from the beginning. But I will look over my labels to see if they mean anything to my readers.
Thanks again.

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[…] few posts on this subject this week. Here are a few thought-provoking ones for your consideration. The Blogging Cycle: How Do You Stay Sane? by Jami Gold. Social Media Ennui by Kait Nolan. Blog Ennui and Platforms Built of Bodies by Susan […]

M.E. Anders, the Cult Slayer
M.E. Anders, the Cult Slayer

I wrote down the last two of your listed ideas for my own blog.

I think the pdf idea is brilliant. Whenever I visit a new website, I get so excited if I can get them as a free download. I typically email them to my Kindle account, so I can read them as an ebook – – like a free book! 🙂

Jeremy Duley

Hi Jami, I was lucky enough to stumble upon great bloggers/writers like yourself, Tawna and Roni. For me it’s the growth aspect that keeps it new plus I don’t have a super specific subject that I always blog on so it gives me a ton of freedom to wander around the interwebs and not paint myself into a corner before I really get started.

And yes I’m one of those newbies who consider you a mentor. Thank you!

PW Creighton

Sane? What’s that? A writer is typically lost in their own world so much so that they need to share their world, to convince others, drag other into their reality. Not quite sane but certainly determined and charismatic …

Natalie Hartford
Fantastic post Jami and I love your positive spin on everything! I’ve only been blogging and tweeting for about 18 months and I still feel so new and everything is fresh and shiny. LOL! I read Kait’s post and my heart went out to her. She sounded so disappointed with the whole experience. So far, my opinion is take what is useful and ignore the rest. I see the RTing going by and I respect what others are trying to do in helping promote either their buddies or great content. I do wish people would take a bit more time to get the hashtags down but even I am guilty of occassionaly forgetting to delete a hashtag or two…alas…it’s not a perfect world but it’s about finding a way to make the blogging and twitter community work for you! Definitely creating your own sweet spot! Out of your list, I really like the idea of: ■Create PDFs of my blog series to make it convenient for readers to find them after the series ends. You could even create a page with some subheadings for great info that packages together nicely. ■Use an email autoresponder program to offer older blog series posts as a free email “class” for those who sign up for my newsletter. Another fab idea! I am a total newbie to this writing, blogging, tweeting thing so I am definitely interested in more basic information but I don’t see it as your responsibility to repost older posts –… Read more »
Ann aka WorkingBoomer
Ann aka WorkingBoomer

Thank you for this post. I consider myself a new blogger. I am finding it just as you stated. I read so many blogs each day and learn from them. Any help and information that I can get is greatly appreciated.

August McLaughlin

Terrific insight, Jami! I feel that writing is like life, other careers and relationships in that feeling bored usually means we’ve become borING. If we come to the page with gusto, our work will be gusto-filled.

And if you don’t have anything intriguing, fresh, passionate or insightful to ‘blog,’ don’t ‘blog’ anything at all. 😉

Clifton Hill

You blog is a veritable pot of gold. Can’t wait to see what I turn up next.

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