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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!