Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Revitalize Your Blog

Doonesbury cartoonist Gary Trudeau might poke fun at bloggers now and then, one of his top aides says, but he doesn't hate us. I want to get to the point in my career where I have a top aide who handles that sort of thing, don't you? Dilbert author Scott Adams, on the other hand, could tell Gary about the reality of blogging -- that it's hard work, and keeping a blog going requires a lot of time, effort, and nonstop creativity.

Still, bloggers are now finding ways to blog without writing at all, as with the new tumblelog format. So if you don't want to write, you can go that way and free yourself of the daily blogrind.

Hey, maybe someday they'll invent the tumblenovel, and we'll all be out of work.

I think most blogs fail within the first year after they're created because their writers jump into them without really knowing how much work they demand. Maintaining a blog requires ingenuity, flexibility, and a certain amount of emotional investment. Blogging is a labor of writing love, and if you hate to write on a regular basis, you might as well save yourself a lot of grief and go do that tumblething.

Let's assume that you do like to write but for whatever reason you're ready to give up your blog. Maybe you've run out of ideas for content, or feel disappointed by the lack of traffic, or you're just tired of working on the damn thing. Whatever the cause, it's not fun anymore, and you're starting to avoid your blog like that aunt who still pinches your cheeks every time she sees you.

Don't feel bad. Everyone gets sick of their blog. If you only knew how many times my cursor has hovered over that Delete This Blog button.

To turn things around, first stop whatever you've been doing with your blog and look at your archives. Pick out five posts you've written that you love, and five that you hate, and study them. Each group will probably have something in common; for example:

Five of my favorite posts: Pride & Publishing, Mary Sue Anonymous, The Devil's Publishing Dictionary, The Last Samurai Agent and The Escapist Artist -- almost all of them are parodies, so I guess I know what I like to write.

Five of my least favorite posts: Filtered (way too long and complicated), Trend Tracking Versus Jumping (I was never happy with how this one turned out; I wanted to flesh it out with more facts and links), Hired Guns (not enough useful/practical info), Another First (I hate interviews, and I pimped my own interview -- ick), and Renting PBW (waaaay too candid) -- I could have done better with all of these, from concept to wording to length, and I probably should never write a blog post after I've had a run-in with an editor.

The point of the exercise is to identify what you like and dislike about your blog, so you write more posts like the ones you love, and skip writing posts like those you hate.

If you're looking for brand-new content, many writing sites like Creativity-Portal.com offer writing prompt links and ideas for jumpstarting your muse. There are also weekly meme-type group participation features out there like The Thursday Thirteen that might help you liven up your blog.

If you're tired of daily blogging, try cutting back to two or three days a week for a while. There is no law that says you have to blog every day.

Spontaneity becomes a challenge after you've blogged for a while, too. To be more spontaneous, introduce random elements into your blogging habits. Pick up a book by an author you've never read and write about what drew you to the book in the store, and how the story compares to your expectations. Take your favorite how-to book, close your eyes, flip through the pages, stop at any point, look, and write about whatever topic is on that page. Hang out at the library for an hour and write a report on what everyone else there was doing or reading. Click on that Next Blog option on the header toolbar up there and write a post about where it takes you.

Look at the blogs you enjoy visiting, too, and see what it is about them that attracts you. If you love to talk shop, you should be talking shop at your place. If you're a link-gathering junkie, why not make a link list post about the best ones you've found?

Keep an open imagination, try new things, and you'll probably discover that blogging isn't quite the chore you think it is.

More ideas:

My RTB post, Don't Dump That Weblog!

Ten Things for Webloggers and Ten Things for Your Weblog

12 comments:

  1. I have to say they I loved the 'Renting PBW' post.

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  2. Did you write this post just for me, PBW? :-D Just kidding. I'm not burned out on blogging yet, but I am trying to figure out how to grow mine. All good ideas, here and at RTB. I'm inspired for some future posting... especially because I want to lay low on my writing front for a bit, but won't stop blogging.

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  3. When I jumped into blogging, I never thought about things like traffic. I just wrote posts to write them, and usually I wrote them to talk to myself. I figured if someone came along and got some value out of my posts, more power to them. I was getting value just writing them. I look at my stats now, and I get a little bummed if the stats drop, but I'm still writing the blog for myself. And hey, I'm happy with that. =o)

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  4. "Five of my favorite posts: Pride & Publishing, Mary Sue Anonymous, The Devil's Publishing Dictionary, The Last Samurai Agent and The Escapist Artist -- almost all of them are parodies, so I guess I know what I like to write. "


    Hey, those are among my favorite too. (I sent my agent a link to your samurai post. She actually read it--wish she'd do the same with my stuff.)

    I guess I know what I like to read.

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  5. I am bored with my blog. I've seriously considered shutting it down several times now--especially since my second blogiversary is looming.

    I keep wondering if my perpetual running around having people blog for me is a symptom of the fact that I am bored or a symptom of something else--no idea what that something else is.

    Either way, once I'm off to university, I won't be blogging every day. Time to practice what I preach to blogging friends who wanna quit.

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  6. I too, see many blogs I love fail. It's a shame, because the ones I do love are carefully selected and have wonderful content.

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  7. oh come on now, PBW... that bit about the interview wasn't pimping.

    That was a statement.

    Pimping is using a sig line ten lines long. Pimping is listing every award that you've, known and unknown. Pimping is having a blog post where every other line reminds the readers that you have this uber cool interview that they absolutely must read.

    :P

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  8. Thank you for the very helpful hints. I've had my blog up for 13 months now, and still feel like I'm getting used to it. I love doing the Thursday 13, you get to meet new people learn some interesting things. I'll try some of your other suggestions and see how they work out.
    P.S. May, I may not always comment on your blog (I usually don't unless I have something to contribute to the discussion other than "Hi"), but I do always read your blog, and I for one will miss it if you delete it. That said, I understand if you can't continue once you get to university. Your education comes first.

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  9. Just went back and read Filtered again and I still think it's funny. And I agree with Shiloh. Pimping is a sig line that's ten lines long that you use when you email everyone--including your friends. You didn't pimp your interview. In fact I can't think of a single time you've pimped yourself.

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  10. I started blogging four (!) years ago mostly for myself. So far, it's been fun when people have stopped in to participate. I do look at the stats. It's been fun to watch them grow.

    I don't have many set themes. I try not to be repetitive. I am frequently surprised at the posts that generate comment -- or lack of comment.

    I have begun to use the programmed posting more. I usually choose my Friday snippet the weekend before and post it to publish Friday after midnight.

    I've gathered enough of a followership that I don't have to seek external plugs for my BookPack giveaways, but I'd still like to give them to all the entrants, because it's simply fun to give books away.

    I hope this post doesn't mean your cursor has been hovering over the "Delete this Blog Button." (As Jean glares sternly into the monitor...Jean's been glaring a lot lately, so it's coming more naturally to her. Yes, she needs a large chill pill, and there's a few people who know just how and where it should be inserted...)

    Happy Fourth.

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  11. I think I end up a lot happier when I don't worry about blog traffic. It makes my posts more natural and means I'm writing for me - not some "others" who may or may not visit.

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  12. Great stuff from you, man. Ive read your stuff before and your just too awesome. I love what you’ve got here, love what your saying and the way you say it. You make it entertaining and you still manage to keep it smart. I cant wait to read more from you. this is really a great blog.

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