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Separate Your Blog Needs from Your Blog Wants

This guest post is by Nicola Ibberson of Little House In Town.

We’re always told in life that we should distinguish between those things we “want” and those things we “need.” The general idea of this is that we need to prioritise the things we do and things we buy according to their necessity.

Generally speaking, this is a pretty sound piece of advice—it ensures we don’t end up sitting on a mountain of chocolate when we have no toilet paper, for example. It ensures we have a roof over our heads before we go out and buy a two-seater soft-top. It ensures we don’t head off on our holidays before we’ve turned off all the lights, switched off the fridge, and put the cats in the cattery.

But I think I’ve found a flaw in this sound advice. I think that sometimes you have to put the “wants” up front. Sometimes, doing something because you need to do it, or buying something because you need to buy it, kind of takes the sparkle out of whatever that thing is. It makes the doing or the purchasing of that thing into a chore. And nobody likes chores.

I’m an extra-curricular blogger. I work full-time hours (sometimes more) and have several out-of-work commitments aside from my blog, as do many of you. At some point in time, I set myself a mental target to write two blog posts a week, minimum. It’s an amount that kept my blog looking up-to-date when people stumbled across it, it ensured my readers didn’t think I’d fallen off the face of the planet, and it made me feel that I was not wasting all the efforts I’d put into building up the small web presence I have.

Setting myself that target was, in many ways, a big error. It made every blog post I did into a “need.”

“I need to write a blog post tonight; I haven’t posted anything since last Friday” was a phrase my partner heard with alarming regularity.

Sometimes, I wrote a post and made a promise to my readers that I would be featuring a certain something the week after. Most of the time, when I made that promise, the “certain something” wasn’t even written yet. So then I needed to write it, because I said I would.

Mass panic ensued when, five days later, that post still hadn’t been written. So I would write it one night after work, when I was tired, fed-up, hungry, distracted, and my brain had all but turned to mush. I can’t imagine that writing in this state showcased the best of my abilities.

Sound familiar? Perhaps it’s time to make a change.

Changing the “needs” into “wants”

It’s difficult to try and juggle life with blogging, especially with other commitments taking up our time, such as full-time jobs or children. It can be easy to lose track of the reason we started writing in the first place and we can begin to view updating our blogs as a chore.

This is how I felt. For a while, I wallowed in pity and despair, complaining of lack of time and inspiration. Then I got a grip, and decided to actually do something constructive towards reclaiming my blogging pizzazz.

I mined the internet and other blogs looking for inspiration and advice, and have collated my tried and tested favourites here for you:

  • Write a blog manifesto: Sometimes we need a reminder of what our blog is all about, and why we started it in the first place. It can help to focus us when we deviate from the intended path, and provide inspiration when our brains are flagging. Write a business plan for your blog. Done properly, it will help you recapture all it is that you love about your blog, and fill you with enthusiasm on every read.
  • Give yourself designated blogging time: Most extra-curricular activities take place at designated times. Your pilates class may run from 7-8pm on a Wednesday, for example. You would be frowned upon if you took the kids and dog along with you, and you wouldn’t break away to sort out the washing half way through. Why should your blog be any different? Give your blog some respect, and set aside some designated “blog time.” Even if just for an hour a week, it could be the boost your writing needs.
  • Keep a notebook: If you don’t do this already, this is the one thing you really must try. If, like me, you can’t just leap onto a computer and type away whenever inspiration strikes, then please, please, please carry a notebook. Superglue it to your torso if you have to. And for goodness sake, don’t forget a pen. Whenever you have a light-bulb idea, you can scribble it down, and whenever you find yourself with a spare ten minutes, you can do a bit of blog scheduling. Then, when you’re staring gormlessly at your screen without a scrap of inspiration, you can delve into your notebook and pull out a gem of a post.
  • Stop worrying: Yes, social media is important. Yes, regular content on your blog is important. No, it isn’t so important that you should panic about it. Posting ill-thought-out content on your blog or your social media sites just so there’s something there could be just as damaging as not saying anything at all. So don’t sweat it.
  • Re-evaluate the depth and length of your posts: If you find that you are never able to finish writing a post in the time you have set aside, perhaps you really need to consider altering the length of your posts. I personally have this problem. I waffle. A lot. By capping the length of my posts I feel much more gratified by my writing, as now I can actually write whole posts in one sitting!
  • Lose the day job: An extreme solution? Perhaps, but if your blog is generating interest that you just can’t keep up with, and you can see potential for making revenue if only you had time to set up that affliate marketing scheme/write that sponsored post/put some ad spaces on your homepage, then maybe you should seriously look at whether you can make your blog more than just a hobby. Talk to your boss: they may be able to reduce your hours or offer more flexible working patterns. If you’re unsure of how things will turn out, look into career break options or extended holiday to trial the pro blogger life.

What are your blogging needs—and what are your wants? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.

Nicola Ibberson is about to give up the day-job, move to the seaside and embark on a freelance career as a writer, proofreader and whatever-else-comes-her-way-er. Her personal blog, Little House In Town, is a place for all things ethical, sustainable, handmade and seaside-y. 

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Comments

  1. Burl says:

    Great post! My wife and I have an expression, “‘Need’ is such a strong word.” One thing I have found that really helps me with the “need to write the blog” issue is to use the scheduler! I have about 30 blog posts written that haven’t been posted yet. This way, I am not writing today’s post. I am writing for a few weeks out. If I have a brilliant idea that is time sensitive, I can always add that in and then move the originally scheduled post to later on. It keeps me from having to do the urgent instead of the important. Have an awesome day! Thanks for the great tips!

    • Nicola says:

      Wow, that’s great that you are so organised! Having a collection of posts to choose from is great when you have a ‘brain freeze’ moment too – just takes that bit of pressure off. I’m not quite at the 30 written post stage yet, but I’m working about a week in front. I dream of one day being as organised as you are! Thanks for your comment!

  2. Shelly Cone says:

    I love the advice about carrying a notebook. I should I know, but instead I am constantly writing ideas down on pieces of receipts, the backs of envelops or napkins, which my husband inevitable tosses. Maybe it’s time for me to get the notebook. But yes, jotting down those thoughts really helps.

  3. My blog is new, so right now I need READERS, LOL. On a serious note, the tip about scheduling time is a good one, not only because it helps you to focus, but also because it can help you with interruptions from others. It can be hard for friends and family to understand that you aren’t available even if you are at home. If you schedule a time, you can also let them know, so you can plan social events around that schedule.

  4. Anshu says:

    This post hit a nerve.
    Been there! more times than I care to count.
    Solution for me has been to stop making promises. Like I had this series where I would post a an easy to sew garment tutorial every week and nearly killed myself in trying to come up with a brilliant easy to sew garment and actually sewing it, taking the pictures, writing the tutorial and posting it in time. Finally, I resorted to more of an “When stars align..then I will post it” approach. In this season of life thats the only thing that works. Great article by the way.

  5. Kacey says:

    Sooo, glad to know that I’m not alone in falling into this trap. Matter of fact, I was due to publish a follow-up post on Friday but ended up with a bug and didn’t feel up to writing. I felt bad about not keeping my word, but finally realized that my readers will be ok (if they noticed the absence at all). Thanks for the suggestions. I’ll definitely be putting these into action.

  6. Hi Nicola,

    The energy behind our acts means everything. The shift between needing and wanting to do something makes all the difference because the energetic difference between desperation and desire is marked. Excellent points here.

    I have felt the blogging and social media needing, for sure. Taking frequent breaks – both hourly, and entire days off – helps me to pull back, relax, recuperate, and observe my energy from a more objective place.

    I force out posts less and write with a helpful intent more of the time. I do things “because I am supposed to” less of the time. I write posts because the content helps people and I feel inspired to pen the post, at least most of the time. The difference? I observe my energy before acting, letting go the needing and embracing the wanting.

    Perfect example: my commenting on ProBlogger. I used to comment on each post, even if the topic didn’t interest me, out of a need to comment and drive traffic to my blog. Now I comment on posts which interest me, which feels so much better than reading through an uninteresting post and forcing out a comment. If it feels better, it means I am attracting feel better ideas, people and circumstances to me, which works for me and all of the people I help daily.

    Thanks Nicola!

    Ryan

  7. Robin says:

    Wow! I can absolutely relate to what you’re saying. It is so easy for me to become obsessed/consumed with putting together posts because I feel I have to! The reason that I began blogging was to have a creative outlet where I could write about my favorite activities crochet and reading. Somehow I turned it into an obligation instead of recreation. I’m getting better about maintaining balance, but I do have to pay attention or it can easily get out of hand. Thanks for sharing your story and tips.
    Robin

  8. liyong says:

    This post hit a nerve.
    Been there! more times than I care to count.

  9. Nicola says:

    Thank you for all your lovely comments, they are very much appreciated. I think it’s nice for us bloggers to hear that other bloggers have the same troubles and niggles as we do – sometimes reading another blog you can fall in to the trap of thinking ‘oh god, this blogger is so organised and has amazing ideas all the time. I wish I was as fabulous as this blogger’, when in reality there are probably a ton of readers thinking the same thing about your blog!

    @Shelly Cone – I have a memory like a sieve. My notebook is literally the only way I remember things! I have a really tiny one in my handbag, and a A5 one on my nightstand (always have good ideas before bed!).

    @Stephanie – I hear you! Getting readers is tough at first, but they will come. :) I agree about scheduling, especially if you have a family. It can be a blogsaver!

    @Anshu + Kacey – You’re both so right, and also brave – I’m yet to do a series of posts as I know I’m terrible at following up! We get told a lot about the value of posting in a timely fashion, but in reality some of my favourite blogs post very haphazardly and I love the unpredictability of them!

    @Ryan – that’s great that you’ve managed to find your blogging balance! I think many people are aspiring to your standard! Totally agree with your commenting strategy too – I think it’s only fair to the blogger writing the post too, as it means they don’t get a false impression of the interest in their writing.

    @Robin – I have definitely been there too. That’s where I found the blog manifesto so handy, as it just reminds me why I wanted to blog in the first place and keeps me on track!

    @liyong – Well, now you know there are tons of us in that same boat :)

  10. Chris Lappin says:

    Thanks for a fabulous post Nicola as it made me see things from a very different perspective and I love it when things are turned on their head.
    I love the idea of the notebook. I find that some of my best ideas come when I’m away from my laptop and my head’s a bit freer with some thinking space. It’s really annoying when later I can’t remember my great idea!
    I also find that when I leave comments on a blog post that it can trigger an idea for a post so I’ve started to copy and paste those comments to then use and elaborate on.
    Ok I’m off to find a notebook! :)

    • Nicola says:

      That’s a fantastic idea! I had never thought of saving my comments on other sites. It really is quite fascinating to hear everyone’s different ways of staying organised.

  11. Great post Nicola. I definitely need to do a bit more evaluating and planning for my blog. Thankfully I did give up the day job a few years back but still find managing my time and keeping the focus where it should be difficult at times.

  12. This blog post hit the nail on the head. Over the weekend I had to weed out my wants and replace them with my needs. I’ve also been having some trouble with being organized and sticking to a schedule. This post was right on time. Great advice Nicola, I will be implementing your advice as needed.

  13. David Sneen says:

    I thoroughly agree with your keeping an old-fashioned pen and notebook handy to write whenever the inspiration hits, Nicola. Many of my ideas have been lost because I did not!

    Your blog needs attention if it is going to get noticed. Our best work will be done with undivided attention. Your analogy pointed that out. Why should the family, dog, or household chores interrupt when you are working on your blog? They don’t interrupt you when you are working out. …and the blog has the potential to do so much more!

  14. Wade says:

    It seems as though you are promoting bloggers to write great content, which I agree with. You can’t rush a blog post and expect to get great content from it. You best idea was to keep a notebook or pad with you. This is what I do every day, and it allows me to write down my thoughts on something anywhere I’m at. This is a great way to keep your topics interesting and informative.

  15. Ayaz says:

    Hi Niccola!

    Very interesting topic you discussed and certainly if you have made a proper plan with the research and having a proper plan written down on the note book and eventually sticking to that plan is really crucial to get your goals.

  16. Just the situation I am in, yielding more to the needs rather than focusing on ‘wants’.

    I hope the tips gets me out of the situation and allows me to do what I want instead of filling the needs.

  17. Dominick says:

    Very useful advice thanks!

    I’ve always kept a notebook with me, I recently upgraded to a Samsung Note and that has been brilliant as I can blog as and when I have “idle” time, or makes notes/write a draft post.

    As for losing the day job, not quite there yet. I did however take a few days off recently to focus on my blog, which has been invaluable, that may be a solution for those, not able to (or who don’t want to) loose their day job.

    Setting quality time aside is key, as is not worrying, I’ve a few times been desperate to blog about something but life got in the way, let it go, if the blog is late or doesn’t get to publish button stage, let it go and work on next blog post.

    Thanks again

    Dominick

  18. Really useful. I actually started blogging because of having a notebook with me all the time. It doesn’t have to be an super 5$ app for a smartphone, just plain paper and a pen does the job. (Either way I don’t like to write “creatively” on a small keyboard…).

    I should know how to apply to myself the “stop worrying” issue… I worry a lot when I’m on the mood of blogging; but when I’m not I just forget about tweeting, or updating G+ (which is, sometimes, annoying, not to have an automated service). So, yes, I need to work on that. I don’t really have problems with procrastination; I am capable of turn on my old Nintendo and play TLOZ for hours, but when I know I must do something, I do it, without being distracted (a lot) by anything.

    As a last comment, I couldn’t apply the last solution… I’m in high school so leaving high school for the sake of blogging is like… dumb? (xD). Anyway I don’t plan to leave school or job for blogging. Not now, perhaps in the future, 10 years from now…

    Oh! one last thing (really, the last one). Just wrote a post talking about this one and how its arguments can be used in a non-blogging environment. It’s scheduled for July 15th, for those who want to read it. (If the author or anyone of the site have a problem with the article they may contact me and we’ll solve things out).

  19. Permalink says:

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  20. Heather says:

    Such a great reminder to go back to the “why”. When inspired I keep notes in my phone or if can’t even write it down(have 4 boys all under 7years old)…I record a voice memo.