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Finding the Rhythm of Blogging

This guest post is by Stephanie Krishnan of guide2office.com.

I play the African drum: an instrument called the djembe. I’ve been playing it since 2005. Until last year I used to play it as often as four times a week with a local group. My husband requested that I reduce the frequency of my playing (as it took a lot of time away from our time together: he travels a lot for his work). Initially I resisted, however, now I play very infrequently—probably only once every three months when he’s out of town.

rhythm

Image is author's own

One of the things that made it easier to reduce the frequency of my drumming was fear. It wasn’t that I couldn’t play. Our teacher had a series of 20 rhythms of varying complexity and I did fairly well in mastering those. I could play them practically on demand (and still can). I even liked playing them in front of others at performances. The problem was that when it came to improvising and soloing, which was expected of everyone who had played for a couple of years, I believed I was terrible.

I tried various methods for overcoming this.

I would put together a “planned solo”—a rhythm that I could play when it was my turn to go alone. When it came to crunch time I would get nervous and forget it.

I tried to play the rhythm over and over again—on my car stereo, on my iPod, at home—and just play what felt natural to see if anything fit. Nothing seemed to fit together, or if it did, I couldn’t repeat it. Again, when it came time to perform I would go a brilliant shade of red, drum out a few beats and pass it on to the next soloist, convinced I’d just embarrassed myself royally in front of an audience and in front of other players whose opinion I cared about.

Now, I’m not an A-list blogger. I’m not even a P-list blogger (does the list go that low?). I have a passion for Office productivity software (eg. OpenOffice.org, LibreOffice, etc.). I love what it can do and I love the idea of open-source. I love the idea of developing something and giving back to the community. So open-source-office-productivity-software just plain floats my boat. I have also found that others don’t like Office productivity software. They see it more as a necessary evil. They use it because they have a task to do and want to know the best way to achieve that task without the software hanging or producing undesirable results.

I try to fill this gap.

So you would think that I had identified a problem and a solution to my problem?

Possibly—there is no guarantee. The problem I have is not with this. The problem I have is that now I have my “product”, I’m scared and I’m over-thinking everything. I’m back to the same problem I have with my djembe-playing.

Lessons from the djembe

My djembe teacher used to say that there are a few things that you need to do in order to solo well.

  1. Don’t think too much. If you think about what you are going to do too much, you’ll be slow, and you’ll miss the beat. Then your performance will sound as bad as you are afraid it will sound, and you will think even harder. It’s a never-ending cycle.
  2. Let yourself go. You have the knowledge and the skill. Now just let your body do what it feels is right. If it’s wrong, it will find its rhythm again and you will have an opportunity in the next beat to make it right.
  3. Find your voice. Think about what you want to say with your instrument and say it. Joy? Sadness? Love? Express it with your instrument!
  4. Practice. Often. Keep at it. Don’t give up. It will come and it will steadily get better.

I have intellectually known that I have not been applying this to my blogging. I have been letting fears that I am not expert enough, and that I don’t have enough information/expertise/whatever to put out the ebook that’s been sitting in the back of my mind.

I read blogs. I do research. I read on twitter. I read, read, read.

But I forget to write.

I see my figures on Google Analytics—the meagre 100 visitors that I used to get every month are dwindling – 80, 70 and now 60.

It’s time I learned to solo.

From drumming to blogging

Now I will put my djembe master’s guide into practice.

  1. Don’t think too much. I will commit to sitting down and writing Not reading, not researching. Just doing. A minimum of three times per week. Nike’s will be my mantra—”just do it.”
  2. Let myself go. I will start my ebook: first as a series of blog posts that will build into the full book. I can correct the mistakes based on feedback and I can put together solutions that people will be able to follow.
  3. Find my voice. I know what I want to say. I’ve just been afraid of what people will say. But you know what? There will be mistakes. There will be better ways to do things. And I can learn and grow and adapt as my readers do, and my voice can be one that shares this growth with others.
  4. Practice. And this means write. And keep on writing. And don’t stop. It will get better.

I can do this. I know I can. And then maybe I’ll get back to soloing on the djembe as well.

Have you found your blogging rhythm? Tell us how in the comments.

Stephanie Krishnan is passionate about Open Source and all Office Productivity Software, and her site at http://www.guide2office.com provides solutions, templates and tutorials on getting you the results you want from your Office software. You can follow Guide2Office on Facebook or Twitter.

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Comments

  1. Blog Rehab says:

    Very good advice. Thanks!

  2. Marie Noelle says:

    I think I found it… I use to start blog and “forget” about them after 1 month or so.

    For my actual blog (a new one… 2 months old tomorrow!), I forced myself to post 6 days a week. I have an editorial calendar and stick to it. I brainstorm every 2 weeks for new topics.

    I really think I’m doing it right! I hope so!

    • Marie – I agree… setting a ‘rhythm’ is important. And making it part my the schedule is also important. That’s what I’ve been starting to do. I like your idea of brainstorming every 2 weeks for new topics. I think I will include this as part of my schedule as well. Thanks!

  3. Hi Stephanie, this is for sure a great article, this is exactly my problem, I know I can make great content, but some times I just think too much or find an excuse not to do it, I am following your advice and “just let myself go”. Thank you!

    • Andrés – I’m glad it helped. It’s harder than I thought it would be, but the rewards are starting to show – more comments and feedback to start with. Keep it going!

  4. Great post, letting things flow naturally is what I do, I write as the spirit moves me to…By doing so, you are also more involved in what you are writing, compared to just wanting to write a post for readers…

    • For me I think it’s a balance between both. Some days I just don’t want to do it, and other days I’m really in a rhythm! I think for me the key might be to grab those days when I am ‘moved by the spirit’, as you put it, and push out all the writing I can in preparation for those days when the spirit has truly departed!

      Thanks for the comments and support!

  5. Nice post! Open source and Drumming, two of my favorite things :)
    My djembe teacher (Khalid Saleem) gives us solo phrases which we practice on our own. It is like building a vocabulary of West African phrases. Playing a solo definitely requires you to let go and not over think it. I agree that playing a prepared and well rehearsed solo is much more difficult than playing what you feel in the moment (but I don’t know why that is). I recommend Famadou Konate for inspiration on playing solos. He has several CDs and his style is really funky with lots of space and breathing room in his solos. However solos can only make sense when the foundation is tight! if the foundation is all over the place the solo cannot make sense. We spend most of our practices with no solos, just playing the base rhythm for 30 minutes to an hour. If you are fortunate enough to have dancers who also study West African style to play for this becomes a very enjoyable practice.
    On a random note. You know what would be cool? Is a java script drum machine that you could pre-load with songs and then give students the ability to select the different parts so they could hear the individual polyrhythms and adjust the tempo.

    • Great to hear from a fellow djembe enthusiast! I’m a Mamady Keita fan (and have had the great pleasure of attending a few of his workshops), and I love Famadou Konate’s work. He has a gentler approach to Mamady. Soofetama is my current favourite!

      We only get dancers in for workshops once or twice a year, so I don’t get that interaction. However it seems I am now getting the equivalent interaction with other bloggers here, and it’s great to meet so many like-minded people.

      And I agree – that drum machine would be rad!

  6. Great succinct post. I particularly liked how you write not to think too much and to let yourself go. It’s so easy to get in our own way and place obstacles in the way of our success. Overthinking and analysis paralysis is a major one.

    Just do it! Thanks for sharing.

  7. Great job,
    Letting myself work is what I do really.I never works on a compelled time table.Whenever I think I got a topic I writes.I never agrees to a lifestyle that restricts my actions.I write post when I think.I promote it and monetize it in the same fashion………………………….

    • Ashik – I think you are truly lucky if you can keep this momentum up! I envy this ability that you have to just write and go. I wish I wasn’t plagued by fear and doubt. Thanks for your comment!

  8. Graham Lutz says:

    Practice is HUGE! Most successful bloggers didn’t become an overnight success. Keep going and your writing will get better and better, and you’ll continue learning and growing.

    The other things is that bloggers, whether blogging for money or as a hobby should be willing to put some money into their blog. If you’re committed to being a great blogger, you’ll need to get some education, get some cool design, and some cool tools.

    • Yes – Site design is something that bothers me – what is the right way. One of the problems I have here is that I can spend endless hours in getting a design right, and ignore the content. Perhaps it is a way to procrastinate and put off writing for me.

      At the moment I am itching to redesign my site… and I have just invested in the Genesis / Studiopress theme. However I know within myself that if I start this, I won’t put out content for a week as I fiddle with it. So I have promised myself when I have a week’s worth of articles done in advance then I’ll do the redesign… and as I LOVE redesigning, there is serious motivation!

      Thanks for the comments!

  9. Chris Kahler says:

    I think the biggest point of them all is to not think too much on it. When you think about what you’ve got to do you can see more down the road than you’re capable of handling at once. Even though you can’t do it all at once, your mind sometimes doesn’t compute that and the result is a stressful state of worry or anxiousness.

    It’s funny how you use Nike’s mantra, that is the motto I live by. Knowledge is knowing something AND doing it, & Nike’s little saying helps me to get things done.

    Very great post, really helpful tips!

    • Chris – thanks for the positive feedback. I’m learning to live by Nike’s mantra, and the other one that I am using to get there is “do the next thing”. I have no idea where I heard this from, however when I sit there and look at 500 things that I could do, I need to focus. So I do the next thing. When that is done, then I can do the thing (task, step, process, action… whatever) after that.

      So by doing the next thing, hopefully I’m getting to ‘just do it’ as whole! :-)

  10. I have a few blogs, some with a lot of content and some with not a lot (like my new blog). The hardest part of blogging for me is to get started because I read everyone else’s blog and get lost on what to write about. I lose focus and concentration. I get scared off by the bigger blogs. However, once I get into a rhythm, it falls into place and the blog is “my own”. Another important tip is to not focus on your “stats” or spend time doing too much keyword research because you want the writing to flow.

    • Crystal – this is so true! So many times I would sit and hit refresh to see if some small adjustment had provided an extra hit here or click there. I am now getting statistics emailed to me once a week from Google Analytics and I’m leaving my tweaking and reviewing at that one time a week. It’s probably better because it will be a week (not minutes or hours) before I see the impact of a change. And it’s important to keep writing.

      Thanks for the comments.

  11. I think you’ll do just fine,judging by this post I know you’ll do better than fine,your going to do great! : )

  12. krissy knox says:

    Thanks for the tips, Stephanie!
    I am beginning to find my rhythm. I think what one needs to do is just shake off his fear (or do what he needs to do in spite of his fear), let himself go, and just do it. Of course, as you stated, that is sometimes very hard to do. One thing I have noticed that is good for me, to get through my fear, is to not think about everything that must be done in my blogging future, but to only think about the next few things I will be working on. If you do things little by little, one step at a time, this will enable you to change your attitude about fear, helping you to realize you can conquer it. Instead you will be focusing on succeding on what you are doing in your career, step by step.

    • Yes… I read it somewhere (I can’t remember or I would give it credit here)… sometimes you just need to “do the next thing.” In whatever you’re doing, so that you don’t become paralysed by fear, just do the next thing (the next step, the next whatever it is that has to be done). Focus on the next step, then when that is done, focus on the step after that.

      When I’m sitting there looking at all the things on my list after brainstorming, it’s easy to become overwhelmed! I need to just pick one and make it ‘the next thing’.

      To borrow a quote from your blog – “The road to success is always under construction.” – Lily Tomlin. The next brick is what we need to focus on!

      Thanks for your comments and encouragement, and I wish you success!

  13. vanderjohn says:

    Loved this post.

    The book “No Acting Please” by Eric Berne addresses this exact issue in incredible detail. Though it is intended for acting, the book is really useful for any kind of performance art. Life, really, is a performance art. One of the biggest concepts in the book is the concept of “tension,” which is like a cork in the bottle of your true talent. Sure, you can, and many people do learn to act and perform “above the cork,” but you will never be as good as if you learn to truly remove your tension. That book provides tons and tons of mental, physical, and social exercises for doing that.

    I just watched Black Swan for the second time recently, and I noticed this same theme in that movie. I cannot recommend that book enough!

    • Thanks for the recommendation. So much of life is about performance, and practicing your art in any fashion is important. I’m looking into the book! Thanks again!

  14. barry says:

    im with crystal, i get lost on other blogs sometimes, hard for me to stay focused

  15. Merritt says:

    This is good advice. I just recently started blogging and haven’t yet found a focus. When I do, I hope to remember to follow your advice to stop thinking so much and let myself go. That stops me from doing many things in life.

  16. Tamal Anwar says:

    I lost my blogging rhythm for a long time, this year I could not focus much on writing, but I am back with my habit with my company blog. Let’s hope this time I create something better and bigger.

  17. It’s hard to keep a rhythm going with blogging over years. You go through different periods.

  18. Good post!

    Not being a fan of drumming (during live music gigs at my local pub, I use any drum-solo as an opportunity to get to the bar), I wondered at first where you were going with this; but you made the connection well. I will remember this and apply it to my blogging; having just set up a new site, that’s been a good excuse to stop writing for a week “till the site is finished”.

    Other commenters have connected your post to their own performance skills and that’s inspired me to do the same. I sing in an a cappella quartet and now I’ll be encouraging the other guys: “let’s not wait another month till we get this song 100% right. Let’s get out there and perform it and use the feedback to improve it.”

    Like the man said “finished is better than perfect.” I must remember that.

    • I’m not a drum-set drummer.. the African djembe holds a special magic for me. Good luck with the singing and I’m glad you’ve found a place to apply this ‘lose the fear’ post (which is how I intended it).

      Good luck!

  19. Dharmesh says:

    Stephanie,
    I recently started blogging and in the process to find my rhythm, but I loved your first point.. “Don’t Think Too Much”. This is something I practice in general in life. I am not always successful but I remind myself to not think too much about situations and overburden my self unnecessarily.

    Good post..

    • Dharmesh – thanks! The ‘thinking too much’ problem resonates with a number of perfectly capable people, because we care that we do a good job – and that others will look at our work and find it useful. Some call it the perfectionist mentality (my husband accuses me of that often). Sometimes we just need to accept that 80% is good enough to start with… release it and let it grow!

  20. Jodi says:

    Great post. It took me a while to find my rhythm, but now that I have it I think my writing has really improved. I try to make myself post on my dog blog 5 or 6 days a week, but I developed a couple of regular features that I post every week and a special blog feature that allows me a kind of “Get out of Jail Free” card for those days when I am just not feeling it. “You Had Me at Woof” is just a one line micro-blog about some cute/endearing/funny thing that is all part of why I love my dogs. Knowing what I am going to write about and knowing that I have an “out” if I am really stuck has made a huge difference.

    • Jodi – the regular feature idea is a good one. I’m struggling to find it working with my blog, however I haven’t given up on looking for this opportunity. Perhaps when I get more regular readers it will become something I can implement. Thanks.

  21. Stephanie, this is a very enjoyable article and the mantra “just do it” works great for bloggers. I used to get tangled up in my daily business routines so much that I hardly found the time to work on articles. What has tremendously helped me is scheduling two days a week to solely work on my own projects. I refuse any client’s work on those days (unless there are some real emergencies). I was afraid that this could have a negative effect on my business as it could slow projects down etc. You know what, nothing I feared has happened. In addition to finally finding the time to post on my blog again arranging my weekly schedule like that had other positive effects as well. For one it made me feel a lot better. I didn’t try to rush through any projects just to get to work on my own stuff. I had plenty of time to complete whatever was on my list and can enjoy two complete days of blogging each week without disturbance.

  22. Matthew says:

    Heya Stephanie,

    I totally know what you mean. Maltblue is my first blogging foray and I forever have in my mind a certain nervousness of what my peers, whom I respect, may say. The irony is that I’ve not had the kind of scathingly negative criticism I so often fear. Kinda sad but true.

    So to you, go for it! I think your niche is quite worthwhile and very valuable. If you love it, get out there and shout to the hilltops. If you want someone to give your posts a proofread or professional critique, let me know; anytime. I’ve used OpenOffice in its various forms for the better part of 10 years now.

    Matt

    • Matt – thank you for the positive comments… and I may take you up on that! I’m looking to put together a group of bloggers to support each other. I’ll drop you a line via your blog.

  23. Parth says:

    I have just recently started to blog……not very confident & so I used to create blunder in some post. But will try to follow your advice & allow myself to just go with the flow.