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Curing the Dreaded Blogger’s Malaise

This guest post is by Steff of steffmetal.com.

Right now, your blog is still new and shiny and everything is awesome, but one day, you’ll be hit with an unsettling dread at the thought of writing another post; the sudden realization that you just don’t care about deleting all the spam comments; the sense that you have nothing left to say to the Internet.

But you love blogging, right? So how come you feel like quitting? Don’t worry—you’re not alone. I could come up with a catchy name for this malaise, like the “blog-bonic plague”, but “Blogger’s Burnout” is now practically an industry term, being written up in the medical journals as I type, so we’ll stick with that.

Signs you’ve caught the dreaded Blogger’s Malaise (or Blogger’s Burnout, or Blog-bonic plague):

  • You haven’t posted in a couple of weeks.
  • You’re out of ideas.
  • Looking at your backup list of posts ideas doesn’t inspire you—you’re still out of ideas.
  • You want to do something else.
  • Anything else.
  • Writing your blog feels like a chore.
  • I mean, you’re looking at seven weeks of smelly, sweaty, unwashed laundry and thinking “that looks like fun.”

I’ve been there—oh lordy, have I been there. I write six posts a week over three blogs, plus blogs for my writing clients. I love blogging, but it’s like eating chocolate every day—sometimes you wake up and think, “chocolate is great and all, but I’d actually rather have … a pony.” And so you go out and eat a pony instead (this is a hypothetical example).

And that’s all well and good, except that if you’re out eating ponies every day when you’ve got a year’s supply of chocolate stashed in the fridge, eventually the police and pony-rights activists are going to come after you, and all your chocolate is going to go yucky and then you don’t get any chocolate or any ponies.

If you really, truly want to be a serious blogger, you have to keep going through the malaise. If you allow yourself to be distracted by the ponies for too long, your readers will get bored of waiting for you to post the chocolate and answer their comments and they will find some other blogger to follow. But how can you post if you have nothing to say? Here are my tips for kicking the backside of Blogger’s Burnout.

Go out and do something that inspires you

I never fail to be inspired by the world around me, so when I feel bored or uninspired, I get out of the house—I read art books at the library, watch a play, visit an art gallery or craft fair, listen to a poetry reading, or bang my head at a heavy metal concert.

With this giant pot of amazing human talent and creativity bubbling over around you, how can you help but feel a new zest for your own creative outlet?

Buy an ebook about blogging

Most of what I learned about blogging I sort of figured out by accident, and when I started reading about other blogger’s techniques, I felt like slapping myself on the forehead and saying “Duh.”

Just reading about another blogger’s struggles in books like 31 Days to Build a Better Blog (ProBlogger), You Don’t Need a Job: You Need Guts (The Middle Finger Project), and the Blogger’s Guide to Freelancing (Aliventures), and learning how they solve their problems shows us we’re not on our own. You feel like you’ve made a friend.

Expand your scope

Sometimes, bloggers feel burntout because they realize they’ve written just about all they can on a topic.

If this is you—if you’ve written 400 articles about dog handling, or wedding planning, or tying balloon animals, and you just can’t face the thought of writing another post, it’s time to expand your scope.

Do you have room on your dog-handling blog for other dog topics, too? What about breeding, or housing, or reviews of dog-related products, or profiles of dogs and owners? Could you expand your blog to include training for other pets?

Do you think the readers of your balloon animal blog might also like to know about other party tricks and games? Maybe some quick and fun recipes would go down a treat. Or a “bloopers” column with reader pictures of balloon animals gone horribly wrong?

Expanding your blog’s scope allows you to open the door to fresh ideas and content. Don’t think you’re locked into a rigid niche or topic—you’re free to write about whatever you please!

Take an “Official Break”

I know you’ve been neglecting your blog for … too long now. But you obviously feel you need a break. So take one. Write a quick post to say you will be taking a breather from posting for the week, and do just that.

Don’t look at your blog. Don’t think about your blog. Don’t check your emails or moderate your comments or source new advertisers. Instead, go out to dinner with your partner, have a sleepover with some friends, go shopping, see a movie, go to a gig—hang out in the real world.

And when your week is over, come back, fresh and ready to post again. You could start with a post about all the amazing things you did over the last week.

Be wary—this is a last-ditch tactic for a quick pick-me-up. It is like sleeping next to a live hen to cure the bubonic plague—chances are once you start, you won’t be coming back. Don’t take mini-breaks all the time, and don’t take longer than a fortnight, or readers may forget about you.

Revisit your schedule (or make a schedule, if you’re one of those silly people who doesn’t have one)

Are you trying to do too much? I am always trying to do too much, so whenever I feel overwhelmed, I take a look at everything I’m doing on my blogs and decide what will give.

Are you trying to push yourself too hard? If you’re constantly letting yourself down, it’s time to reassess your schedule.

Perhaps you’re putting unrealistic demands on yourself. If you want to write five posts per week, but you can only manage two, then set your schedule at two posts per week for three months. Maybe when three months are up you can decide to increase your post rate to three or four per week.

Remember, it’s better to do one thing really well than lots of things not so well. Write one amazing article instead of four blah ones.

Whether you’ve got the Blogger’s Malaise, the Blog-bonic Plague or the Multiple Blog-personality Disorder, the best cure is to change up your normal routine and inject a little inspiration into your life.

Bloggers, what do you do when you catch the blogger’s malaise?

Note: no ponies were harmed in the writing of this post.

What can a blind metalhead chick teach you about finding your audience and kicking it with your creative business? Steff Metal might surprise you.

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Comments

  1. Steff,

    I’d like to think that there is no end to how much you can talk about something. I’ve never heard it put in those words, “expand your scope,” but the definition behind it is exactly what keeps me pumping out content.

    Whenever this condition took over my brain (which it did at times), a quick 20 minute focused attention meditation session cleared it right up. As soon as you clear out all of that unnecessary and overwhelming clutter in your silly brain, you can start to have the Ahas! again.

    • Steff Metal says:

      I’ve never tried mediation (I imagine it’s hard to meditate with your husband pounding out Slayer on the drums downstairs), but I do find sitting outdoors and listening to the birds, or the cat stalking ladybugs, or the distant sound of “Reign in Blood”, do clear my head.

    • Going to Starbucks and watching people sometimes gives me ideas. In general, getting out in the real world is the best cure for me. Oh, and a good run to clear the head too.

  2. Bo W says:

    I think taking a break is a great idea! Blogging is hard work…everyone needs a vacation sometimes!

    • Yeah, even I felt good about this ‘taking a break’ idea :-)

      By the way Steff, you wrote, “…read art books at the library, watch a play…”

      To this, I will add, “Spend some playful time with your kids.” There an amazing amount of lessons that kids can teach you. I can say from experience.

      Regards,
      Vishal

      • Steff Metal says:

        Yes! Kids! Kids ask the most amazing questions!

        (I don’t have kids, which I why it’s not on my list. Thanks for reminding me what I’m missing out on :))

    • Break idea is good to refresh your mind and that time you can only focus on your blog. And also agree with Vishal. Its an really good lessons for kids.Thanks for an fantastic post.

      Regards
      Deepak Malviya

  3. Adrian W. says:

    I hit a wall just last week… I just had nothing that inspired me. Thankfully, I wrote something anyway and moved on, and now I’m fine again! Perseverance…

  4. Very refreshing and true stuff. I catch this virus once in a while, but before my readers know it, I recover coz I have some posts in stock. Whenever I feel burned out I really either read a book on blogging or simply go out a read other blogs and start commenting. After doing this for one or two full days (without writing anything for my blog) I usually come back with a handful of fresh ideas.

    Sometimes I just go out and get some fresh air, hang out with families and especially shopping helps a lot.

    Cheers,
    Jane.

    • Steff Metal says:

      Jane, you have the best idea! Keeping posts in stock is a lifesaver (and by that I mean a delicious candy with a hole in the middle).

  5. Hi Steff,
    I get outside and do something physical to get my mind off of blogging. I still have a ton of things that I want to write about though.

    Going bowling, going to the bookstore getting a coffee and reading, watching a movie, talking to friends, doing something artsy like taking nature photos, drawing, are some ways for me to get my creative juices flowing.

    I find that it is best for me to change my patterns so I don’t go on automatic pilot and lose my inspiration.

  6. Tarrum says:

    I’m pretty sure many of us get this from time to time, I know I had this disease in the beginning. Luckily, I didn’t quit, it was not an option – if you already started a blog, then you probably want to do it, right? I did take a peek at my competition sometimes, to see what they did and it gave me an idea once or twice.

  7. Maaike Quinn says:

    Helpful & funny, just what I like :D

  8. “But it’s like eating chocolate every day—sometimes you wake up and think, ‘chocolate is great and all, but I’d actually rather have … a pony.’ And so you go out and eat a pony instead (this is a hypothetical example).”

    That was hilarious.

  9. yes, i had the same bloggers burnout last week. Just finished my weekend tour and back 2 work. Now I feel fresh..

  10. Mushfique says:

    A great post!! I was indeed a victim of blog-bonic plague! But then i did some of the stuff that you mentioned earlier, i got back to bloggin! With all the helpful tips you just gave, bloggin wont just be a hobby but a part of my life!

  11. Steff,

    I love your post.

    I must say that sometimes taking time to “smell the roses”, might be the BEST way to get inspiration for your blog (or in my case, my video blog)!

    Our environment should be part of the stories/posts we publish!

    I’d recon that taking time away will be an even bigger inspiration.

    Thanks for inspiring us.

    Krizia

  12. mario_monk says:

    I have paused writing since I started to expand my knowledge in the niche. The more I learn, the more unknown I see, and it’s hard to post something without being sure there isn’t something important I may have missed.

    • Steff Metal says:

      This is so true. I found this when I studied archaeology. The higher I went in my studies, the more I realized I didn’t know. The things they told you were facts in first year were highly debatable topics in third year. The same with the music I write about, too. The more you learn, the more you strip away layers, and the more you realize you have to learn.

      I think it’s best to admit you don’t know everything, and write with what you do know and understand. Someone will usually come along in the comments and teach you something you didn’t know. This is what I love the most about blogging :)

  13. patrick says:

    Thanks for the great insights. It can be very hard to stay motivated over long periods of time, even when it is something we really enjoy doing. Being able to take time off and come up with new ideas and perspectives plays a very big role in keeping ourselves entertained with our work. Best wishes to your success!

  14. Lisa M says:

    I have a small blog, but I love reading the articles on this blog. They are very helpful! Thanks!
    As an educator writing about teaching, I sometimes worry whether I am going to run out of steam, but then I go to work, and voila, another topic!

  15. This is exactly what I needed to read tonight. Thank you. I took a break last week and I am forcing myself to write a post for tomorrow, if I don’t I risk never blogging again.
    Hope I am soon over this bout of blog-bonic plague.

    • Steff: Think I found a new blog to follow. Nice stuff. I have been writing my twice-a-week blog for about nine months now and (having gone back to code my subjects) think I am getting better. I liked the idea of reading on blogging. With my blog as varied on topics as it is, I haven’t had any problem with malaise, but I have a tip that you didn’t mention. Search your last few blogs to see what other subjects besid your primary you mentioned. Then use that topic as your next blog. A corollary is what peripheral of your main topuic was in the news that week. Use that as a start to get your juices flowing.

      Great blog!

      • Steff Metal says:

        Hi Dee – you’re right, that’s another great idea! I also find that people might ask questions or make comments on a previous post that spark ideas for new ones. This happens all the time when I write about music – people say “what about such-and-such a band?” or “but Steff, you’ve forgotten about the blackened-death-gore-grind-hardcore metal underground. How COULD you?” and I have to go off and figure out what the hell blackened-death-gore-grind-hardcore metal actually is, and there’s another post!

      • Steff Metal says:

        Hi Dee – you’re right, that’s another great idea! I also find that people might ask questions or make comments on a previous post that spark ideas for new ones. This happens all the time when I write about music – people say “what about such-and-such a band?” or “but Steff, you’ve forgotten about the blackened-death-gore-grind-hardcore metal underground. How COULD you?” and I have to go off and figure out what the hell blackened-death-gore-grind-hardcore metal actually is, and there’s another post!

  16. Archan Mehta says:

    Steff:

    Thank you for writing this guest post: I enjoyed reading it and it resonated with me.

    Many bloggers feel like they are victims of writer’s block. There are too many bloggers sailing in the same boat. They feel uninspired and burnt-out: they feel like they have nothing more to contribute. All the original ideas have already been taken. There are people out there who are smarter and more active in their nice. Such doubts may even be based on facts..

    What can help is to step out of your comfort zone. If you always read detective novels, read books about mathematics or the philosophy of science or even art history. If you are a sports nut, try to join a cooking class. If you are into avante-garde music, try to listen to the folksy tunes of a younger generation from another country. If you are somewhat withdrawn, try to go outside and meet people. Introduce yourself.

    Another way is to try to cultivate a lot of hobbies and interests from a young age. It will help you get through your boredom and you will gravitate to a higher plane of existence. Disparate ideas can lead to a new awakening through associative thinking and you may be able to come up with a new blog post.

    It is also a question of stimulus-response. You have to try to provide your mind with diverse stimuli and pretty soon you will be surprised pleasantly by the attendant responses. You probably feel like you are in a rut because you tend to visit the same things, again and again: old habits die hard, after all.

    Sometimes, when I feel this way, I go outside for a walk; or visit a swimming pool for a workout. The flow of blood to the brain and the circulation of oxygen through the lungs can do wonders for the eureka experience of Archimedes and you can arrive at new understandings. Suddenly, you may come up with new ideas, and it would be nice to capture these ideas in a note pad for a new blog post. Cheerio.

  17. Joe says:

    It shouldn’t feel forced, or like a chore. It should be a topic you have so much to say on-topic that you are bursting with ideas.

  18. Jenny says:

    Thanks for the Great post Steff , i agree with you taking a break its a good idea

  19. The Dame says:

    My blog is 3 months old and Im already getting this. I run another business from home also and Im discovering Im better if I focus on one or the other, not both.

    I hadnt posted in a week but last week I decided to take myself out for lunch and catch up on a book Im reading on my iPad.

    I was hit with so much inspiration while out, taking a breather, that my iPhone’s notes app is full!

    So your first tip is a great idea, get out into the world and find your inspiration, its waiting for you!

  20. Arsalan Alam says:

    Being a newbie to blogging I feel “Expand your scope” is the most important advice among other useful suggestion in Steff’s blog post. It didn’t take me long to realize that a blog will exist and thrive if a blog post or a contribution as I call it contains a diverse nature of contents. From serious issues to purely recreational stuff (like embedded online games, videos etc).

    If you are an expert on something and have this precious talent of providing post after post of quality material in your area of expertise, fine. But if you are a ‘Jack of all trades’ kinda guy (like I am) and on top of it you like blogging and want people to visit your blog regularly than, 1) you should keep the wheel of “diverse content approach” spinning. Search for variety of blogs through http://blogsearch.google.com and observe for yourself how things go in the world of blog. 2) If response to a blog is lukewarm, chances are that a newbie might throw-in the towel very early in their blogging career. So, to put it plainly, don’t do it. Keep a balanced momentum in posting. By that I mean blog at-least two post per week (if not three) and use the in-between time to market your contribution and for that twitter and facebook come to mind immediately.

    • Steff Metal says:

      Hi Arsalan! Further to your ideas, I love the idea of “niche demographics” as opposed to niche topics. In my area, for example, “metal music” is a niche topic, but “metalheads” is a niche demographic – a group of people united by their love of one particular thing. But if they like metal, they probably have other things in common, too. So I don’t just have to write about music – I write about horror movies, travel, interesting historical eras and inventions, advice, fashion, etc. It gives you a much wider scope and always gives you interesting topics to write about.

  21. Bjorn says:

    Hu… You said something about a schedule…
    Yeah, I’m one of those people :-)
    I am starting to learn though, trying to implement a schedule! Thanks for reminding me!

    • Steff Metal says:

      That’s why I say you need to set a time limit for your break and stick to it, and it should only be a week or so. Most people won’t unsubscribe after a week.

  22. darkduck says:

    Does “taking a break” mean “loose your subscribers”?
    Some people will unsubscribe if they see that feed is not coming for some time…

  23. Corinne Edwards says:

    Dear Dee -

    True and so funny. Love the chicken.

    Couple of things to tide you over -

    Go back a few years and look at an old post. (Who wrote this crap?) Rewrite it. Find a new picture. A crazy title.

    Do a greatest hits post.

    Step out of your niche and write something different. Like a poem. A funny story from when you were a kid.

    A testimonial to your mother. She will love it.

    No one is going to give you niche demerits.

    You have a life outside of your blog. Your readers might love hearing about it.

  24. I’m just wondering.. isn’t it a bit risky when you take a break from writing? I mean, if a blogger has avid followers and then suddenly you just say “I’m not writing for a couple of days or weeks…” well, this might disappoint the readers and not follow anymore.

    Writers block is normal – I think every writer have these moments but isn’t there any way that can be done but not totally ditching the blog for a while?

    • Steff Metal says:

      Most people are pretty understanding. They realize you have a life and a family outside your blog. You’re a human being, not some kind of mad blogging machine. I don’t think a couple of days or a week will matter too much. A month? yes. A few months? Definitely. But a week? Nah. At least, it’s never been so in my experience.

    • Lena says:

      I schedule my blog posts ahead of time. Sometimes I’m two weeks ahead and just waiting for it to post. Gives me more time to think up new ideas and respond to comments and posts on other blogs.

      • Steff Metal says:

        Hi Lena – this is such a good idea. I TRY to do this – and I have several months of posts scheduled in advance for my Gothic Wedding Planner blog – but I always catch up to myself again. You have great discipline to be able to keep this up!

  25. I know all about this. My trick is to go through a period where I forget about my readers and other blogs and just write what satisfies me first. A bit self-indulgent, I know. But it helps me, at least.

  26. Karim says:

    I never get it, I can sometimes feel myself getting into the apathy zone, and cut it out, I had a very tough working life, I did several dead end and physically and mentally draining jobs when I was young, I worked for some of the worst bosses in the world. So every time I get the slightest urge to quit or get lazy, I mentally slap myself. In contrast to my “regular” 9-5 life, I have it so good and so easy

  27. Lena says:

    I haven’t gotten the blog-bonic plague yet. But I keep a journal of ideas for future blog posts. I have hundreds so far. Right now I feel like I have too many ideas, but that’s good. Better too many, than too little.

    • Steff Metal says:

      Exactly! You can even take that one step further and hold a few evergreen posts as backups for a day or week when you just don’t feel like blogging.

  28. Glynis Jolly says:

    I haven’t come to that day yet but chances are I will. I think your idea about a official break is a good one. I would assume that a few readers would fall by the way-side but by telling them ahead, I think most would wait as long as the break didn’t go over a couple of weeks.

    And let’s face it, being chained to your computer is bound to give you brain fog.