Is Your Blog Eating You Alive?

Are you a blogger who feels like you and your time are being slowly eaten alive by your blog? I ask because I have several friends whose blogs are giving them panicky, vengeful feelings. I just read a post yesterday by a friend who is going from three posts each week to one because her blog is taking over her writing time.

I’m not smarter than any of these wonderful bloggers, or even a better writer, so why am I feeling the exact opposite? I think there are some solutions here but a few key questions need to be asked:

Why do you blog?

If it’s any of the following, the old blog is likely to feel like a ball and chain:

  • You feel like you have to in order to be published.
  • Your agent/editor/critique group made you.
  • Because everyone else is doing it.

What do you want from your blog?

Hopefully you have an answer for this – if not, your blog might be making you feel frantic. If you don’t know what you want from it, then all that time you’re spending will feel wasted because you don’t have goals. Your answer to the above question will be very personal (and I encourage you to share it in the comments section if you feel comfortable!).

Here are some things that I want (and receive) from my blog:

  • Daily writing practice
    If you’re a Julia Cameron fan, you’d call More Cowbell my Morning Pages. With not one, but TWO, blogs to manage I must write every day. (I am one of the founding members of Writers In The Storm and regularly administrate and contribute to that blog as well as this one.) I’ve had years at a time where I didn’t write every day and I’m certain this is part of why I’m not published. Some of that daily writing must be on your current work in progress but why not stimulate your brain by cranking out a blog for 30 minutes too?
  • Building a Community
    I’m an extrovert. (Yes, I know, that’s a shocker for all of you.) Let’s define what that really means…Extroverts get their energy from interacting with others, while introverts get recharged with time spent by themselves.  Writing is time spent solely with oneself and the characters inside your head and, without real-live people to interact with, writing can be draining for an extrovert. This blog, especially the comment section and the subsequent interaction on Twitter, gives me the extra charge of energy and adrenaline I need to keep at the work in progress.
  • Building a body of work
    In today’s publishing climate, the blog-to-book is a tried and true method. Two examples that immediately come to my mind: Are You There Blog? It’s Me, Writer by Kristen Lamb and 1001 Things To Love About Military Life by my cousin, Tara Crooks. Both these women have long run a successful blog and website and both have used their experience as the foundation for their books. If you like to write short (which I do) and there is a topic you find fascinating and entertaining, your blogs can act as the first draft for a non-fiction book.
  • Giving Back to Other Writers
    I feel strongly about the need to give back, particularly in the writing community where people can feel so isolated. With my background in technology training, a technology blog is a simple way for me to give something back to a community that has helped me tremendously. Other bloggers give me tons of tips…the least I can do is simplify “techie  stuff,” which I do here every Techie Tuesday.
  • Building a Brand
    I know this is the number one reason why most people start a blog, and it certainly played a role in me starting More Cowbell. However, this particular reason was so quickly outpaced by the others that it was damn near irrelevant by my second month. I think if I ever had “building a brand” on my mind while I was blogging that I might get to feeling down about the whole business. Building a brand is a nebulous thing that happens very slowly over time. The community, entertainment and generosity I experience with my blog are in real time and that’s MUCH easier for me to focus on.

My final thought on writing every day:
Writing is a muscle that must receive daily or almost-daily workouts or it gets weak and flabby.  The best blog I’ve read on the subject is Joanna Penn’s Writing Every Day vs Binge Writing – the dialogue back and forth between her and Dan Sawyer in the comments is WONDERFUL!

This leaves only the dreaded Time Dilemma.

No one has enough time. Period. And we can’t make time out of thin air. There’s work to be done, families to feed, children to raise. “But I have a dream…” the writer inside you cries. “I want to write (fill in the blank).”

I understand this cry because I have the same dream, as do many of the readers of this blog. But somewhere in your day, extra time is lurking. You just have to find it.

Below are the ways I’ve seen writers find time:

  • Wake up earlier and use that extra time to write, no matter what.
    As the late, great Stephen J. Cannell said, “If you write for two hours in the morning, it’s done. You start your day with the satisfaction of seeing your writing in the rearview mirror.” My own critique partner, Laura Drake, is at her desk no later than 4 am every morning. She writes for a minimum of two hours before she goes to her full-time job as a CFO. She has sold FOUR books using this method, so obviously it works for her. I do the same thing nowadays, only at night when I am more creative. I don’t go to sleep until the writing is done. I get less sleep but it’s worth it.
  • Goal-based programs like Row80 or NaNoWriMo.
    NaNoWriMo is only held in November, much to the chagrin of most Wrimos! Row80, a program conceived by Kait Nolan, happens year- round. A new Round of Words in 80 Days is starting July 4th and you’ll be hearing about it on this blog because I’m doing it. :-)
  • A television moratorium
    I fall into this camp, as does Laura. We’ve given up television for our writing. I commute to work 2-3 days a week, an hour each way, and I catch up on my news and my long-distance calls to relatives during this drive. It’s a win-win. I still know what’s going on but I find out in a timeframe that would otherwise be wasted.

What are some other ways to recover writing time?

Barbara DeMarco-Barrett wrote a book called Pen on Fire: A Busy Woman’s Guide to Igniting the Writer Within that has been extremely helpful to me. Though the book is targeted to women, it really applies to all writers.

I’ll confess that when I bought it, I wasn’t as busy as I am now. I didn’t have a husband, a child, a house, a garden or a blog. I did have a full-time job and a dog – it wasn’t like I was a slacker – but it didn’t compare to the pulse-pounding busy of a job plus all the aforementioned things. Another big difference is that I am now committed to my writing.

DeMarco-Barrett offers tons of great advice but the tip that stuck with me is at the beginning of the book. It’s called “Stolen Moments” and this is my main technique for squeezing in extra writing time.

  • Combine activities
    Several years ago, I bought an Alphasmart, which is a battery operated portable keyboard. When I’m done with whatever I’m writing in my Alphasmart, I hook it up to my computer with a simple USB cable. I open a Microsoft Word document, hit the Send button on my Alphasmart and walk away to do other things while my writing is transcribed into that Word document.

I write most of my blogs and all of my work in progress on my Alphasmart and I’ve found it has several advantages over the computer:

  1. It’s easy to carry. It fits in a large shoulder bag to carry as I travel. I pull it out at lunch, in Starbucks, on the couch while I’m with Baby Girl, in the car while our family drives from one place to another. I get an extra 12-20 pages written this way every week.
  2. There’s a long battery life – it just uses three AA batteries and they last forever. There’s no cords to worry about AND the Alphasmart is far less interesting to my daughter who lusts after my computer like there’s no tomorrow.
  3. The Alphasmart holds eight files so I can just click from one file to the next if I run dry. This has been a huge bonus to me. Rather than staring at a blank screen, I just switch to the next file and keep working.
  4. Speaking of the dreaded blank screen…there are only three lines of text visible on the Alphasmart display. Sure you can scroll up and down to read more, but I’ve been amazed at how the lack of big screen has cut my internal critic down to size. My writing process and my editing process have become completely separate in a way I simply couldn’t manage on my computer.
  5. Last but not least, there is no internet connection. I don’t have to explain to you how much this helps productivity! To be fair, I still have my phone, which brings me to my next point.
  • Use your phone to the fullest.
    If you can possibly afford to have email and internet on your phone, do it. My phone runs neck and neck with the Alphasmart as my biggest time-saving device. I manage my WordPress blog almost entirely from my phone, approving and replying to comments while I get ready for work in the morning. I tweet from my phone (and did so via text before I ever got a Smart Phone – read here if you wish to manage Twitter through texting).
  • Utilize any Social Media tools that are available.
    If you love Twitter, get Tweet Deck and utilize Social Oomph to schedule your tweets throughout the day. Patrick Thunstrom’s blogs on Tweet Deck are the best I’ve seen, bar none. If HootSuite is more your thing, fine. Whatever you preference is, use it. All these tools allow you to also manage Facebook and your blog, if you’d like to, streamlining your time for more writing.
  • Subscribe to the blogs you love to read.
    This goes back to the point about the phone. If you have email on your phone and you subscribe to the blogs you want to keep up with, you can read them on your phone while you’re doing something else like waiting in line or waiting for your kids. I haven’t subscribed to all the blogs I read, but I’ve done it with about half of them. Once I’ve figured out how to fully balance my current load, I’ll add more.
  • Write all your week’s blog posts in one sitting.
    I’ve heard this advice from several places and it has a lot of merit. If you can sit and write all your posts in one block of time – say 2-3 hours –you can use the rest of your week to write. I haven’t managed this yet, but it is a goal of mine. I’ll let you know how it goes.

So, what about you? What time saving tips have you discovered? Are there tricks you’ve found to be more productive with your writing time? If you are a blogger, are you willing to share some of the goals you have for your blog?

Looking forward to reading your comments!
Jenny

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About Jenny Hansen

Avid seeker of "more"...More words, more creativity, More Cowbell! My passion is finding those qualities that are unique in every person and every piece of fiction. Founding blogger at Writers In The Storm (http://writersinthestorm.wordpress.com). Write on!
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48 Responses to Is Your Blog Eating You Alive?

  1. Sherry Isaac says:

    Morning Jenny,

    Great tips and resources. Thanks!
    How an author approaches blogging can be as individual as fingerprints. I’ve learned to delegate.
    Being a member of a group blog breaks up the burden (though I can’t depend on the blog being the only trick to make me write everyday). Sharing my blog with guests helps lighten the load and it helps to broaden both our audiences.

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      I agree, Sherry! I have blogged at Writers In the Storm for more than a year and love both the blog and the group of women. I launched a solo blog mostly because I wanted to blog about things that didn’t fit the writing theme at WITS. A guest blog really, really is a wonderful thing – it’s so nice to share the load and have guests, etc. I’m thinking I should be ready for guests here by the end of the summer.

  2. Terry Odell says:

    I think blogging jump starts my writing brain. I also blog hop over coffee in the mornings (like now) and see what else is out there. I don’t like that I seem to have to “encourage” traffic to my blog by posting to Yahoo groups, etc., but I’ve found many people are more likely to click a link than to drop by on routine visits.

    There are days when blog topics elude me, but I can get ideas from blog hopping, or from a sticky point in my WIP. I’ve been blogging since 2006, yet I still enjoy it — most of the time. I post 3 of my own posts a week, plus host a guest once a week. For the weekends, I deviate from anything writing or even “life” related and share pictures–travel, nature, and I encourage my readers to share theirs as well. As a matter of fact, I’ve just revamped the look of my blog, so I guess I’ll have to continue to keep at it.

    Terry

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      I agree that blogging gets my writing brain humming. I think that what constitutes a blog can vary and be different from day to day and blog to blog. It’s one of the things I treasure so much is the creativity of all the blogs I read. (Hey everyone, click on Terry’s link and go see hers…she’s awesome about changing things up.)

    • Catie Rhodes says:

      Terry said: I don’t like that I seem to have to “encourage” traffic to my blog by posting to Yahoo groups, etc., but I’ve found many people are more likely to click a link than to drop by on routine visits.

      For what it’s worth, Terry, I’ve found the same to be true.

      • Jenny Hansen says:

        Writers In The Storm gets a tremendous amount of traffic from our various chapter loops. I haven’t tried that here at More Cowbell, but it’s good to hear this input from a few of you. Thanks!

  3. Piper Bayard says:

    Some days I definitely feel like my blog is eating me alive. With five posts a week, I easily put in 15 – 20 hours each week feeding, nurturing, and pimping the page. What I find helps, though, is having the blog ready for the “publish” button the night before I post. That way, I can hit publish, do a quick social media circuit, and then get busy on my WIP. Thanks for your tips, Jenny. It always helps to find out how other bloggers manage the load.

    • Terry Odell says:

      Doesn’t your blog let you schedule posts in advance? I’d go bonkers trying to maintain a consistent post time. I have mine set to go at LEAST a day in advance. If I have a post written, I’ll have it on the schedule for automatic upload for whatever day it’s supposed to appear.

      Terry

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      You’re welcome, Piper! You know that my blog wants to be like yours when it grows up, right? :-)

      I do have the same question as Terry…you schedule your posts right? I have a blog on this somewhere in More Cowbell – if you run a search for WordPress, you’ll find it.

  4. Laura Drake says:

    Brilliant post, Jenny. Made me think about why I actually enjoy blogging. I have one additional reason to add to yours – blogging helps me work out in my head how I actually feel about things.

    We writers tend to live in our own heads, and putting my thoughts on paper, in black and white, makes me dig deeper, and I’m almost always suprised at what ends up on the page. . . it’s always true, but I didn’t know it before I wrote it! Love it when that happens.

    I agree with you; if you’re a writer, and you don’t enjoy blogging, you’ve either chosen the wrong subject, or you’re doing it for the wrong reasons.

    Thanks for this!
    Laura

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      That’s a wonderful reason, Laura, and I agree. There are times when I sit down to write a post and end up with something completely different than I planned.

  5. Catie Rhodes says:

    I’m so new to blogging that I’m still struggling through the muck and mud, trying to figure out who to balance this new, time-consuming practice with my fiction writing.

    What I’m learning from blogging: How to keep it short and interesting despite having a massive amount of info I’d like to share.

    What I’d like to learn: How to do all my blogs in a short period of time. Right now, writing them is very time consuming. I hope there’s a learning curve and that I’m conquering it. :D

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Hi Catie…I’m with you there! I think the Alphasmart helps me be faster but maybe I’m fooling myself. Definitely scheduling time to do all the posts for the week makes things go faster. If you click that link to Joanna Penn’s blog and read the comments, it seems that you CAN train yourself to write faster. Who knew?

  6. Excellent post!!

    I have two blogs as well, one is a personal blog more for family to keep up with us than anything else and I just post to that one when I’ve got something, the other is the one I set up for my “brand” and right now I’m only committed to one post a week (I’m hoping to expand that in the near future). I completely agree with your comment about writing up as many blog posts as you can in one sitting and scheduling them! I do this as much as possible around family stuff.

    I LOVE your use of the blog as your morning pages!

    The getting up early or staying up late is also a great tip. I get up at 5 but that has become my dog walking time. I’d say sadly as it has taken over my early morning writing time but it energizes me and I’m able to mull over all those half dreamed thoughts so when I do sit down I usually have good fetter for the WiP.

    My biggest challenge is reading and commenting on other people’s blogs. I use Facebook and Twitter as rewards for getting the writing done — write/edit for X and get 15 minutes.

    Great tips Jenny, I’m bookmarking this one :)

  7. I have found lately that I think about what posts to write during the week, while reading other blogs, news, etc. Then on the weekend I normally write 1-2 blog posts for the week. If I end up with a 3rd on at the end of the week, then that’s just a bonus of inspiration. Writing the posts themselves do take me some time though because they usually involve research and locating visuals. So at the moment my blog is not eating me alive, but I can only hope my following will grow so much that I can’t keep up. :)

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      LOL, Nicole. I don’t think the following and commenting is what’s eating up people’s time, I think it’s the writing and the posting. I’ve done a few blogs on making WordPress and Blogger a bit easier (I’ll confess that I hate Blogger with a passion) but the only thing that makes the writing take less time is combining activities the way I do or just writing faster. It sounds like you have your blogging time dialed in just fine.

  8. I will NOT give up my TV! :)

  9. I’m really not a fast writer. I’m better than I was and I feel that in part is due to blogging. It helps me to clarify my thoughts and get them written in coherent form. Being coherent is important in writing a story. Duh!. Lol. I still have a ways to go but then I’ve come a long ways thanks to Kristen, you and the other WANA friends. Have a great weekend.

  10. labanan says:

    My blog isn’t eating me alive – I feel I’ve become fairly adept at writing posts and can do it quickly. It has most definitely improved my writing (but oddly, not my spelling). What eats me alive is trying to keep up my connections to everyone else. That’s what takes time and the continual meeting of new fun sounding folks – like yourself. Ah well, an embarrassment of riches. Such a problem!

    Jan Morrison

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      That IS a great problem to have, Jan! It’s nice to see you here. Congrats on your fast writing! I have friends who will want to ask you your secret to this. :-)

    • “What eats me alive is trying to keep up my connections to everyone else. That’s what takes time and the continual meeting of new fun sounding folks…”

      I’m in the same boat Jan!

  11. Time saving tips… not good with time management but squeeze things when possible. That seems to always work. ;-)

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Bravo to you, Marilag! I don’t know if you have kids but if not, just wait! You will have to master some time managment if you ever want to write!

  12. So glad I found this post – everyone’s been talking about it, and could I track it down? Brainfreeze for the man in Vancouver….. Listen, would you mind not shooting down all my excuses until I’ve had a chance to make them?

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      You always give me a chuckle, Damian – thank you! (My insecure writer is saying, “Everybody WHO? Please tell me so I can go give them blog love…)

      You are balancing a lot in your life right now – I think a great goal is always to decide what’s most important and try to balance that first. THEN you can add more. :-)

      Thanks for bringing your sunshine here to More Cowbell!

  13. Femina Athur says:

    Yes, I have been blogging for almost 3 years, sometimes it gets frustrating when results come same well. I put an effort to put a piece together however sometimes no visitors show -up.

    Using TV time for blogging is an excellent idea…may be few channels can give you idea too

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  15. Roni Loren says:

    Love this post. Recently I freed up some blogging time so that I could focus more on my writing. But I realized I was still getting about the same amount of word output each morning whether I blogged or not. I couldn’t figure out why and as I was reading this, I just had a lightbulb go off. My blog acted as my morning pages. Duh.

    Thanks for this. Adding it to my Friday links round up. :)

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Lol…Thanks, Roni! I found that too. Blogging has actually helped raise the output on my WIP because it’s helped me love my writing time again.

      p.s. I love your blog!!

  16. lovinadoptin says:

    Great tips, I look forward to reading more. My blog http://www.tracywhitt.com was taking over any writing life I hoped to have. I slowed down tremendously, to the detriment of my blog. I lost numerous followers, but the sanity I gained was worth it. My main goal is to enjoy writing, and second is to learn by doing it.

  17. Elena Aitken says:

    I think I just found a new blog to read, which goes to that whole, “not enough time” thing. But hey, good stuff!
    You have some great tips here and an easy, fun style!
    Love it.

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  19. katmagendie says:

    The writing of a blog post is the easy part -making it interesting ups the ante – making it compelling enough to draw readers ups it more – etc etc …and I’m sure I fail on this at least 75% of the time *laugh* (some may say more – dang!) But what I have a hard time keeping up with and just haven’t been able to do is visiting other’s blogs. I feel rather strange expecting people to come on over to my place when I rarely have time to visit theirs. I do struggle with this and am not sure what to do, so what I end up doing is visiting in a sporadic way. Lawd.

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  21. 4merjagsfan says:

    Hi Jenny:
    By my latest reckoning, I’ve pocketed over a million dollars in ideas from your miracle of a blog. Immediately, I subscribed to Social Oomph which is going to save me about a half-million in tweet organization (No longer will I have to set my alarm for 3:00 AM to have my tweets sent to my friends across the pond). I already have Tweetdeck, but no longer will it spin and ping on my screen like a banshee marriage ceremony … for now I have Patrick to hold my hand all through the process of taming the beast. Oh, and, sitting atop my birthday list is the Alphasmart word processor. And, there’s the other half-mill.

    Bless you, Jenny, you rock — as does Sonia Medeiros whose blog referred you!

    Jay

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Jay,

      This just might be the most rewarding blog comment I’ve ever received. Of course we always hope the tips will help somebody else – it’s nice to know when they do. Thanks for coming back and giving me the update.

      You’re gonna LOVE the Alphasmart!

  22. My blog isn’t eating me alive, but the overall social media pressure definitely feels carnivorous sometimes. I fall in the introvert writer category and I’m a new author doing both traditional and indie publishing. I do get frustrated with being blogger, commenter, tweeter, publisher, marketer, and supporter of all my author friends, on top of my writing and editing and private investigation contracts. I want more time to WRITE. I am extremely appreciative of how social media in general has widened my world and given me access to so many wonderful sites and people, though. Thanks for the tips; I can use all the help I can get!

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