Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Weekly Geeks: Blog Burn Out

This week's Weekly Geeks asks how bloggers deal with blogging burnout. You might not know it, but I blog quite a bit: I have a personal blog, a cool-stuff I found blog, a cool-stuff copied from other blogs blog, a kitschy blog, a collectibles blog, and a few others that I write but don't advertise that they're mine, just as venues to write about things on my mind that I don't care to advertise are going on in my mind. Heck, my list of abandoned blogs is just about as long. With all this blogging going on — and a full-time job, to boot — I can accurately say, yes, I get burned out quite a bit.

So, what do I do?

I take the easy route: I stop blogging. Oh, I can't completely abandon all writing, because Collector's Quest pays me to blog, so I better not fall behind there, and something may suddenly strike my fancy and force me to blog despite my embargo. But this blog and The Infomercantile, both of which have some dedicated followers and some high-profile in-links, each has periodic lulls in which nothing happens. The Infomercantile has been pretty much dormant all summer, with some minor exceptions. It's a research-heavy and scanning-heavy blog, which takes a lot of time; when we've got kids, and the weather is nice, and there's a whole big world out there, who wants to sit at the computer and feed photos into a scanner? From the 10th to the 11th, I was in Minot for work, which took a lot out of me, so last week I didn't blog much at all. Frankly, it's not a big concern.

One thing I learned from a public speaking class a few years ago is that when you stop talking, the listeners' brains stop, too. It's a reason to allow yourself a pause without saying "um" or "uh" for fear of having dead space, or freaking out over having to shuffle your notes a second to figure out where you were. Your listeners don't even register the pause: their listening-bone is locked up, waiting for the next word, and time has ceased to move. Eventually people's brains wake up and realize nothing's happened, but that's a good 10, 20 seconds of time for you, as a speaker, to allow yourself some silence to regroup.

Blogs work the same way. If you're cruising along, posting every day or so, and you've got readers who like what you're putting out, a break will not register with them. Give it a few weeks, eventually they will start to realize, "hey, so-and-so hasn't blogged in a while," but even then it probably won't stop them from checking your blog — that anticipation makes the pause insignificant, because once you start blogging again, they'll start back up reading just as they did before. The probloggers who say, "Update daily! Update hourly! Don't stop to pee, blog's gotta be updated!" are working on the high-volume advertiser-friendly kind of blog. They're not trying to attract readers, they're after eyeballs. Doesn't matter who's looking, as long as they're looking. Their traffic drops precipitously when blogging stops, even for a day. That's not the kind of blog I write: when I stop, it doesn't really register to the reader, not enough to lose the reader. A short pause in blogging to cultivate my sanity doesn't hurt a blog, but it helps my writing overall. When I come back to blogging, there's a spring in my step. By spending my days reading books, going to museums, or doing oft-neglected lawncare, my mind is clean and refreshed and ready to come up with new witty and thoughtful ideas to spread wide and far on the internet.

I do have some other tricks, though: to avoid appearing burned-out, I blog ahead. I generally have several posts scheduled out into the future. If I'm good, posting prodigiously, I'll either fit them in and schedule something else for the future, or just move their scheduled date out further. If you completely walk away from the computer for a week, those pending posts will still trickle out, making it look like you only slowed down instead of stopping. I also don't blog on weekends, usually; it's a schedule people understand, but it's almost a third less content than trying to constantly blog. Both of those help mediate the burn-out feeling, because I have some built-in opportunities to stop blogging without having less of a blog.

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