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Are Excuses Hurting Your Blogging Success?

KarenThis post has been submitted by Karen Andrews from www.miscmum.com.

Do you believe in writer’s block? Janet Evanovich doesn’t; Peter Straub doesn’t either. In fact, he says, “It should never be mentioned in respectable company.”

Frankly, I agree with them. The truth is, those of us who are blogging or writing professionally can’t afford that kind of mentality; and those who don’t, shouldn’t.

Is it hard to realise ideas to their fullest potential? Sure, sometimes – but one mustn’t use the excuse of having a bad day to write off the next one. Because even on my bad days, the kernel of a story, that spark of something greater? Honestly? I still get about a dozen. I make myself write them down; they’re tithed for entering my brainspace.

I am what some people (occasionally derivatively) call a ‘parent blogger’. I post to a daily schedule. To do so requires discipline and planning. It requires lots of brainstorming and post-it notes stuck around the house for whenever inspiration strikes. Additionally, I am also a ‘naptime blogger’; I write whenever my small children are asleep, or before they get up in the mornings. I also freelance write for other publications. Sounds busy? It is.

And guess what – if you’re serious about blogging and, like everyone on the planet, these days, are as busy as me, then you’ll have to get used to it.

Are you one of the guilty ones?

Do these sound familiar?

“I’m too tired.”
“I’ve got no writing mojo today; so what I’ll write is bound to be piffle.”
“I’ll do it later.”
“Why bother? No one remembers what I write anyway.”

I’m sure there are dozens of other excuses out there. Just remember: stepping up your posting schedule, fleshing out ideas, developing your own personal style and voice are all investments into your skills set, and could hardly be considered a waste or something not to be bothered about.

Consider it this way: if you don’t sit down and at least work your ideas through to some sort of conclusion then you’re doing yourself – and your blog – a disservice.

Recently, two of my posts were featured underneath the Blogher Ad Network banner which can be found on countless other parenting blogs of my ilk. These two posts weren’t easy for me to write (or rewrite). I often thought the time I was spending on them could’ve been better spent elsewhere. But they brought me great traffic. They brought me new readers. They did a whole lot more for than that if they’d just stayed in my head.

So what can I do, you ask?

Here’s an idea:

  • Go into your drafted posts. Find one that’s been sitting there for ages; the one you don’t quite know what to do with, but can’t bring yourself to delete. (We must all have one or two!)
  • Scan it briefly and then write down a word or phrase which best suits its theme/tone. Sometimes it helps to just have that guideline back in the foreground of your mind so you can then develop it further, with the insight you’ve, hopefully, gained since it was originally drafted.
  • After consideration, be honest. If you cannot breathe life into the piece, let it go. Not all ideas come to fruition. Make the decision to keep it ‘just in case’ if you must, but in my experience it’s often best to delete, thus freeing up my mind for the next project.

Summary:

I’m not saying that every post has to be perfect (mine certainly aren’t), but I rest my success on trusting my instincts, staying true to my voice and by making no excuses.

Do you?

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. David Sawyer says:

    I agree, I have a similarly busy lifestyle and try to post every day. For me this is a mixture of pre-planning posts as well as having to write at times when I probably would prefer to be going to bed!

    When I really feel dry I find that is the best time to surf other websites to get ideas flowing (not stealing content). Or alternatively that is the time I tinker with my layout and design.

  2. Jayne says:

    I completely agree! I keep “starred items” in my Google reader that contain stories that struck me that I wanted to write about, and save them for those rainy days.

    Also, when I find myself writing a several-paragraph comment on someone else’s blog, I cut and paste it as a saved draft instead, along with the address of the blog for a pingback.

    On the days I DO feel inspired, and am tempted to write two or more posts, I save one for those less inspired days.

  3. Carol Webb says:

    I still use the old-fashioned folder system. After reading a newspaper or magazine, I cut out the article that has inspired me. Browsing through this gives me inspiration on dry days.

    I also have an editor who asks for a blog on a subject, asap., no matter if I don’t know much about it, I have to research it.

    Everyone needs an editor!

  4. Deborah says:

    I keep myself on a basic schedule which I post something everyday. I then go on hunt for any additional extra daily articles I find interesting to post about that day. But if I don’t find anything that’s okay because I already have the post my readers expected to be published.

  5. Newspapers and magazines cannot use an excuse of writers block – they can’t say “Hey, there’s no news today because our writers just couldn’t get their words on paper”. They have a system to ensure this doesn’t happen. Bloggers need a similar system.

    I wrote an article about this and did a video demo at:

    http://www.grahamjones.co.uk/2007/07/how-to-avoid-bloggers-block.htm

  6. doug m says:

    i started my blog to help people understand technology better, so anytime i head someone say “i don’t understand that” or a similar phrase, i text myself to my email with the topic in question and then try to post about it that day or the next one.

  7. Dana Wallert says:

    I have found that on those days when I feel an excuse coming on, it helps to go back in time a bit. I go back in my mind to my college days, and treat my post for the day as a term paper that must be turned in that afternoon. It’s a good way to get started, and for me, that’s the hardest part. Once I get a few sentences going, I’m usually good to go.

  8. WarriorBlog says:

    Excuses is probably one of the biggest mistake everyone make. Excuses only hold you back from your truth potential and prevent you from accelerating.

  9. Jon says:

    I have spent between 9-12 hours a day, 6 days a week for the last 3 months blogging, reading, commenting, submitting, and setting up advertising.

    For 3 months, I haven’t made a single excuse, and I can’t say that my numbers are any different than when I was doing a couple of hours a day a few days a week.

    Sometimes I wonder if the excuses are really an internal voice of reason.

  10. I can relate so much to having the ideas popping into my head all of the time (usually when I’m away from the computer) and rushing to write them down for future topics. A lot of these haven’t materialized yet and I can see that I’ve used excuses to write some of them.

    You’ve inspired me to get back on my schedule that I had when I first started my blog. Thanks!

  11. Thanks Karen for the inspiration! I have those days all the time with my blog not being able to write, but I take a break listen to some music watch a movie, and then boom an idea will pop into my head. I really liked your tips look forward to hearing more from you.

  12. Some blog writers are not affected by writers block.

    It’s just that when they decide to sit down and start typing, they get distracted by a lot of things on the net — news, mybloglog, stats, adsense, links, links and more links….

    For those who compose blog posts as they surf, being focused takes a lot of effort. A 10-minute writing job can become a 1-hour session if you don’t stay focused.

  13. I have a really busy day, but I look forward to writing blog posts. Admittedly, sometimes I’ll be in the “zone” and pump out 10 articles in a row, and other days I will be less inspired. On those less-inspired days, I will write a short note, or share an outside resource of note, or even move a future-scheduled post to the current day.

    If you constantly find blogging to be a chore, I’d suggest that you picked the wrong niche, or the wrong way to participate in your niche. I have a list of over 300 topics to blog about, and currently my challenge is to keep them at a steady pace so I don’t release a ton of stuff before I’ve started to build a reader base.

  14. Andy Merrett says:

    My water pipes burst this morning, and I didn’t start work until 1pm, but as I’m in my “new regime” week, I’m working late on a Friday to ensure I fulfill what I set out to do today (before the kitchen flooded).

    Other days, excuses are far easier to come up with, pretty much along the lines of what’s posted here. It’s imperative to keep pushing on with writing anyway, or there’s the risk that some days, nothing gets done.

  15. Brad V. says:

    I agree, I don’t believe in “writer’s block” either. I think writer’s block stems from a fear or anxiety about writing, rather than being unable to write anything at all.

    Excuses are quite a different story. I’ve made plenty of them. My most common excuse for not updating my blog is “I’m too tired to do it today.” This excuse seems to pop up a lot more on days when I don’t have my daily injection of coffee – go figure!

    Great post! Thank you!

  16. I can’t ever think of a time when I had absolutely nothing to write. I believe choosing a good niche’ is key here. Mine is so broad, i litterally never run out of topics to write about.

  17. SingForHim says:

    I find that most of the times I have “Writer’s Block,” I am not getting a lot of feedback from my writing, and my motivation wanes.

    Great, motivational post!

  18. So far I’ve only experienced major writer’s block maybe once. After that I learned to either keep a bunch of drafted posts on my blog, with just the titles and first couple of sentences written, and to keep all of my ideas written down.

  19. Ian says:

    I would’ve read this, but I’m too tired. And I have stuff to do…

  20. Although I do have ‘DAILY CONTENT’ streamed on my blog (every single day!), like for example:

    ‘Funny Quote-’ and ‘Joke of the Day’
    (and lots of other ‘Daily Items’)

    I don’t even think about posting every day on my blog myself, because my ‘Blog Posts’ and

    my ‘Syndicated Column’ titled:

    “HP’s Happy Vibe”

    (that you can automatically stream
    on your website BTW)

    Are very…., very…, Special…..,

    So I don’t have a need for an ‘EX – cuse’,
    I call it ‘Marketing’ and

    ‘EX – clusive !!!’

    All the Best,
    HP

    P.S. For more INSPIRING WORDS go to
    ‘HP’s Happy Blogspot’, and don’t you come up
    with any EXCUSES not to have a visit !!!!! :)

  21. Dereks says:

    I totally agree with you… BUT! I got disappointed about this post, really. I’ve been reading your blog for more than a year, and what I like about it, is your objectiveness and… impersonal (yes, perhaps that’s is the best word for what I’m trying to say). I don’t mean avoiding your own experience, while stating some conclusions, I am talking about excluding emotional, irrational coloring of posts. And on the opposite it this post… Looks like you are being irritated by grumbling and in a cool mood want to say all you think about all these grumblers.
    About the topic, noting new, we have one old expression: “Someone, who wants – will find an opportunity, someone, who doesn’t – will find an excuse”.

  22. Amanda says:

    How did your posts featured underneath the Blogher Ad Network banner? Do you just have to be a member or is it because you have Blogher ad network on your site?

  23. Dereks – Are you speaking of my blog or Darren’s you’ve been reading for over a year? Because, I assure you, my blog is full of the emotive and the coloured :)

    Amanda – Yes, I am a member of the BlogHer Ad network. To have the ads, you need to be. I hope that answers your question.

    Andy Merretts – Sorry about the water pipes!

    To all else, thanks for your comments :)

  24. Amy Letinsky says:

    I’m a college writing instructor, and I always give my students some handy tips for avoiding writer’s block. I’ll share them with you:

    #1. Turn off the computer monitor. Sometimes, it’s just those words on the screen that are scaring us. Mix it up a little, and try it without seeing it.

    #2. Write it until it’s right. Say what you want to say, over and over, until it sounds write. Sometime, my students will write 20 versions of the same sort of line. I tell them to keep going for a few minutes. They get into a rhythm and find one or two they really like, and roll with it.

    #3. Free write. This means pretty much what writer Anne LaMott calls “Crappy” (she uses a different word…one with 4 letters) first drafts. Tell yourself the first draft is going to be awful. Plan on writing something bad. Just get something down. There might be something good in there when you’re done.

    #4. Commit to writing for a certain amount of time, not just pages or words. We get caught up on word limits or page limits. Tell yourself, “I’m going to write for 10 minutes straight.” Don’t think about whether it’s good or not. Just keep writing. Whatever comes to mind.

    Happy Block Breaking.

  25. Jaseem says:

    I feel bad about this. Hey Darren, I am now sure the holiday will decrease the traffic. The posts are not quiet understandable or the writing style is bad. I can’t continue reading those guest posts. They contain useful tips but isn’t much good for reading

  26. CatherineL says:

    Jaseem, I don’t understand where you are coming from with the writing style being bad. I have read both guest posts, and Karen and Tim are clearly experienced writers.

    Karen – great post. I will definitely visit your blog.

    I used to believe in writers block years ago. But once you discipline yourself to write every day it stops happening.
    And if I do ever get stuck I just freewrite or do morning pages.

    I think a lot of bloggers probably get blocked because they choose a blog topic that isn’t interesting enough to motivate them to write about on a regular basis.

  27. Biofuelsimon says:

    As a long-time journalist, and most blogging is a kind of journalism. The best way to get round a writers block is to start writing anything and eventually you’ll find a way round it. Deadlines help, self imposed deadlines are the best way of getting things done and routine. Graham Greene, a novelist, used to work from 9am to 5pm monday to friday and would stop work in the middle of a sentence, that would give him somthing to get going with when he started in the morning. I don’t think that would work for blogs, but if you have half an idea of what you might do tomorrow, it is a darned sight easier than coming at it cold.

  28. SusieJ says:

    And here you are!! What awesome to see you here, miscmum. And, I have to say, with 4 boys, I rarely do have writer’s block. I have a back log of 30 stories in my wordpress dashboard yet to be published.

  29. Thanks for these great suggestions Karen! Fortunately I haven’t found writer’s block to be a problem for me so far. I am able to make use of the lives of people around me, friends, personal experiences etc to create posts on a variety of relationship topics and so far the well has not run dry, and I don’t figure it will. I love the idea of the post-it notes! That’ll be my excuse to go shopping today, I need Posties!!! ;-)

  30. Excellent post, Karen. Very well written.

  31. Nicole says:

    Dear Karen,

    I tried to check out your blog at http://www.miscmum.com from the link on this post, by search and by searching on BlogHer. The links do not work and BlogHer search says that there are no results to match the query. It would be nice to read your latest parenting posts.

    Back on track: Good points made here. While it may be true that writer’s block should not exist to professional writers and bloggers, there are days where some topics and ideas have been exhausted to the point that there needs to be some kind of “off time” to increase the frequency of writing. Everyone is not the same and cannot always pump out blog posts or articles for other mediums 24/7.

    There are many helpful exercises that writers can use to maintain a steady level of productivity (like the great tips mentioned in your post). However, it does not necessarily mean that writer’s block is non-existent.

  32. Well, indeed, it is a saying that instead of complaining about a situation, ask yourself what can you do to overcome it.

  33. CatherineL says:

    Biofuelsimon – thank you. I had forgotten all about that Graham Greene tip until you reminded me of it. And it works.

  34. Maddy says:

    Sounds pretty fiendish to me.

    I have lots of excuses, all of them genuine, although strangely none of the ones you mention in your list.

    I must be a hybrid.

    Cheers

  35. Graham Greene did it? Wow – it’s a nice trick, I see. Hemingway swore by it too. They must have remarkable memories, because I don’t know if I could trust myself not to finish a thought and rely it on being there the next day!

  36. Darren Rowse says:

    Nicole – not sure why you can’t see Karen’s post – the links are working for me. It’s at http://www.miscmum.com/

    Darren

  37. Darren Rowse says:

    Jaseem – all I can say is that Karen is a professional writer and Tim is the author of a book that made the New York Times best seller list – they’ve both proven themselves as writers. If you have something against their tips then I’d understand your criticism – but these two leave me for dead when it comes to writing.

  38. Nicole – wow, so sorry I missed replying to your post. I had a few emails this morning from people saying they couldn’t get through. Must’ve been a glitch during the night. I hope it doesn’t happen again….

    Darren – thanks :)

  39. Allan says:

    Wow, this is such a inspiring post. Thank you so much. Too many times find myself making excuses (for about 3 months now!!). I really need to get on the ball.

  40. Karen: So true. I don’t believe in writer’s block. Writing can come easy or hard, but if you have the chops, it always comes.

    Think about newspaper editors and copyeditors, often working under intense pressure — some studies of stress rank those jobs up there with air-traffic controlling. When it’s time to roll the presses, editors always find a way to write that impossible headline. (With minute-to-minute online newspapering, the stakes are even higher.)

    Writing is a craft as well as an art. If you develop a basic set of tricks and prompts, you’ll always be able to bypass mental barriers.

    There’s a list of tips if you follow the hot link.

  41. Tamra Engle says:

    When my tanks low I go to my notebook, I am forever writing down a thought or line someone has said that evokes a thought or emotion… or one of my favorite tricks to “prime the pump” is to Jack Kerouak…. just write stream of conscience. as the thoughts flow out it “clears out the nonsense and a theme may begin to reappear, or the clutter is moved out of the way where some fresh ideas pop up…. the Kerouak method always does the trick when done in conjunction with lots of steaming hot coffee WHhhhheeeeee

  42. Darren, interesting guest post . . . I just wrote on this very topic today — in a roundabout way. It all boils down to discipline. As a freelance writer, lord knows I don’t feel like writing yet another web page on “How to Clean Your Tools,” but I do.

    As I wrote in my post entitled Freelance Writers, Suck it Up!, “Clients will forgive the occasional grammatical error, an error on an invoice and maybe even a completed project they didn’t exactly love. BUT, most will not forgive tardiness. This can kill your career before you even get it off the ground.”

    Great guest post.

  43. As mentioned in an earlier post – although I do have DAILY CONTENT ‘Streamed’ on my blog – I don’t post on it every day myself.

    Nevertheless sometime ago I did write a special post about ‘Generating Ideas’ that might of special interest to
    the people that read this post.

    You can find it at:

    http://hpshappy.blogspot.com/2007/08/creating-write-ideas-with-igp.html

    All the Best,
    HP

  44. Amy Letinsky says:

    I forgot to include my blog information with my post.

    http://amyletinsky.wordpress.com