In “Internet years” I’ve been blogging for quite some time now, though it’s only been for a fraction of my actual life. This blog has had a substantial readership for the past several years, and the number of visitors continues to increase with each passing month.
While blogging is a fun and satisfying activity for me, and creating something that is widely read by an international audience has been a welcome surprise, it is also a massive time sink that can easily take 40 or 50 hours a week.
It’s a satisfying thing having a blog and nicely complements my various interests. I enjoy writing, so this venue is kind of like my personal writing lab, giving me a place to publish the various mini articles I like to write. I also enjoy the community that has built up around this blog–there’s more motivation to write when you know that close to a thousand people a day will be checking in and seeing what’s new.
This past summer, I decided I needed to dial back my time spent blogging. Through a variety of means (which I’ll duscuss iin this post), I was able to substantially reduce the hours spent writing for and maintaining this blog. For me, blogging had started to feel like a bit of a chore and more work than fun. Decreasing my hours spent blogging caused me to have more fun writing and let me get out and enjoy life, giving me something to write about.
I spent most of my summer traveling in the desert and the mountains–not exactly the right environment for blogging! I therefore got into the habit of blogging ahead, sitting down for a few heavy days where I churned out a month’s worth of posts. I set them to post on a specific day and time, giving the illusion of regular blog updates without actually logging in at all except for the next mammoth session of blogging a few weeks later.
I’ve kept this rhythm up ever since. In fact, I wrote and published this post at least a month before you’re reading it. Almost everything is done many weeks ahead of time. I am currently student teaching, teaching 25 students, and playing gigs to pay the bills. Finding time for daily blogging is simply not an option with that kind of work load.
While I really enjoy maintaining this blog, it’s not something that I want to have as the focal point of my professional career but rather as an adjunct activity to my teaching and performace activities. I also want to have time to kick back and relax without feeling the obligation to monitor flaming commenters, obsessively tweak minute layout details, and write about every single relevant bass happening. Maybe some folks would like to do this as a full-time occupation (and I think that this could be a full-time thing for me if I chose to go in that direction), I have started to lose my mind (or at least my sense of perspective) from too much bogging, and I’m trying to find a good balance. I don’t want to be a full-time blogger–I’d rather keep this as a side activity. Making it a full-time thing would necessitate ramping up the business side of it (advertising, products, seminars, etc.), and I find this side of things to be kind of boring for me. I’d rather make my living playing music and teaching music, with blogging as a side activity.
I’ve therefore been trying to find a good balance for the blog that will ensure that I can continue to maintain it for many years to come. The pace I’ve been blogging for teaching past few years has been pretty intense, and it’s made me ponder the following things:
Do I really need to put out 3-5 posts per day?
Can I dial back the time commitment while maintaining quality?
I realized that, in fact, putting out one post a day cuts my blogging time pretty radically. This is a good start, but I also decided to reorganize my workflow toward the blog further. After some experimentation, I’ve managed to cut my blogging time down to about 20% of what I was putting in while still releasing daily posts. Some of these techniques go against the grain of good blogging practice. Too bad. It’s either cut back or shut the blog down completely, which I don’t want to do! Some of the techniques are plain old common sense, and some are little tricks that work really well for me.
If you’re trapped in a swamp of blog muck, some of these points may help to free up some time for you. Life’s short–how much of it do you want to spend in front of a computer screen? For me, it’s about 20% of what I was doing….
1. Automate – There are countless ways to set up your blog so that it takes care of itself. For me, it’s all about future posting. Writing and posting ahead of time has been the single biggest time saver for me in my day-to-day life. Taking a couple of hours once a week or so to do a focused session of blogging enables me to do what I need to do for the week and leave it until the following week. If it doesn’t get done in that session, it’s not getting done.
I actually do almost all of my original writing these days on the iPhone with the fabulous WordPress for iPhone application. Since I’m currently on the move all the time, I don’t have much opportunity to sit down in a calm environment and write like I’ve been able to do for the past few years. Blogging ends up occuring in little stolen moments throughout the day. This may change when I get settled down and have an office, but for now I’ve become a mobile blogger and am likely to remain so for some time to come.
2. Don’t try to please everybody – Having a popular blog also means that I have a lot of people sending me links, photos, news about events, and the like. This is a good thing! I love the fact that there’s a vibrant community built up around this site, and I try to use as much cool stuff that people send me as I can.
Inevitably, however, things slip through the cracks, especially with my current mobile blogging setup. I try to post what I can, but sometimes I just don’t get to things. I’ll do what I can with the time that I have, and I’m trying to learn to not sweat it if I don’t get to something.
Also, the level of discourse on the Internet can be surprisingly low once you get a popular site cranking. You’d be amazed at the number of rude, demanding, or downright offensive messages and blog comments that I get in any given day. You have to learn to hunker down an do your own thing, realizing that any old jerk out there can fire off a message at you without much recourse on your part. It’s up to you whether to go into a tizzy every time someone is catty or jerky to you or whether to just let it slide off of you like water off a duck’s back.
3. Don’t try to reply to every comment – Many bloggers reply to every single comment that they get. I used to do this too, until I realized that I was spending as much time commenting back as I was actually writing. Also, negative comments would get me all riled up and I would spend an hour or so crafting a reply.
I just don’t have the time for this. I’m happy when people comment–please continue to do so!–but I generally don’t respond. It’s a matter of hours in the day. I can’t spare the time. I just can’t. It’s either let comments take care of themselves or shut them down completely, which I don’t want to do.
4. Don’t fuss with minutiae – You be amazed how much time I’ve spent tweaking little layout details on my site in the past. I’d obsess about everything from font size to the amount of space between my left column of text and the border. While it’s important to come up with a look and layout that doesn’t induce nausea in your readers, at the end of the day it really is all about the content, not the look of the site. I try to do a reassessment every six months or so and maybe change up the look and feel, but otherwise I try to set it and leave it. Do I have a perfect blog layout? No. Could I tweak it to make it better? Sure. But I won’t….for another six months, at least.
I have to decide wheter I want to spend my precious few minutes of blog-related time tweaking things or coming up with new content. I choose content.
5. Get collaborators – My site is a perfect space for contributions from other writers, and having a lot of people e-mailing me links, photos, videos, and post ideas is a massive help. Honestly, I don’t know what I’d do without all of the bass players out there sending me material for the blog. It would certainly be a very different site!
I also have several individuals who regularly contribute their own writing fo the blog. Jeff Weisner and Peter Tambroni have both had a lot of contributions published recently, as have several other people over the past few years. Not only do these collaborators offer up a fresh voice to my saber rattling on familiar topics. This site’s collaborators make it a richer experience for readers and a more valuable destination.
6. Blog less frequently but more intensely – I used to spend at least an hour or two (and sometimes much longer) each day on the blog. My time for that has unfortunately passed, so I now try to find one chunk of time (2-3 hours) to crank out new blog posts and do my podast recording and editing. I can only make this kind of time window work if I’ve got my mobile workflow ticking along smoothly, with new posts being written on the iPhone during cracks in my schedule and as much of my podcast dialogue already recorded and ready to go. This one weekly session is more of a copy & paste edit session than a creative writing session.
7. Seize opportunities with mobile blogging – I don’t know where this blog would be if I didn’t have an iPhone. It’s really streamlined my workflow and has become the primary point of entry into my blog and podcast and my main content creation and capture tool.
You’d be amazed at how many tasks associated with desktop or laptop computers can also be done on an iPhone. Even though I have a good laptop, I find that using the iPhone as my primary blog content collection and creation device allows me to seize small windows of opportunity to write a paragraph here and there. I can publish right from the phone and even add photos.
I also use it to record any bass playing I want to capture, save images in email and from the web, and as a way to start more complicated tasks that can then be completed on a full-fledged computer at a later time.
This wacky mobile workflow of mine is likely to change in a couple of months once ny schedule settles down, but I’m sure that I will continue to use the iPhone as a way to seize opportunities for blogging during small holes in my schedule.
8. Write about what you want, not what you think others want – Trying to cover what you think will be popular may be smart in you’re looking for blog traffic, but if I’m not passionate about a subject I quickly grow bored. I’ve attempted to write what I think will make for a popular post time and time again, but it always comes out sounding kind of forced and lame. I quit even trying a while ago. Now, even if I think something might make for a popular post, if I don’t feel that creative spark I just ignore it. I’d probably have some hits with some of those ignored topics, but who cares? That’s the beauty of not doing this full-time. I don’t need to have every little thing I do in my online life “optimized for full value,” and for that I am grateful!
9. Have fun with blogging – If you’re not having a good time writing online, quit. It’s really not worth it if you don’t get some enjoyment out of it. Let me tell you–there are muuuuuuch easier ways to make money, so don’t try to pursue it with that as your sole goal. You’ll probably be let down. Do it because it’s fun. Do it because it augments what you already do. Use it as a creative outlet. Use it to connect with like-minded individuals.
These are my reasons for blogging. If money does happen to come your way because of your blogging, then great (it has for me), but having that as your sole purpose isn’t likely to keep you motivated. Again, there are much easier ways to make money in this world! If you really enjoy blogging, with all of it’s joys and frustrations, then you’ll need little motivation other than the intrinsic urge to create.