“It has been a while since my last post, sorry about that”
I read this sentence (or something along those lines) on many blogs on the Internet, including mine. As a matter of fact, I actually didn’t write a meaningful post on my blog for a long time and no, probably this is not going to change that either.
Yesterday I started thinking why this happens, not only to me but to a lot of other non-professional bloggers. A professional blogger &emdash; for what I can tell &emdash; is someone like Michael Arrington or Gina Trapani: someone who has the luck (or course) to be able to just blog for a living.
I don’t blog for a living: my site is self-sustaining via a few very unobtrusive ads, just that. I have a full time job, and I blog in my spare time about my interests, without even trying to make “proper” money from my site. There’s nothing wrong with it: I believe there are some other people in my condition, and that’s quite normal.
That being said, let’s examine the ten most common reasons why I (and you too, maybe) end up not updating my blog, even when I have time to do so.h3. Someone already blogged about it
This is very irritating. I am obsessed with original content. I want to write about something other people never (or hardly ever) wrote about. As a consequence, I often find myself googling the same topic I’m planning my blog post on, and I obviously often get quite a few results, too!
I actually wanted to title this very post “The Blogger’s Block”, but I immediately thought of putting that very title into Google, just to see if someone else already blogged about it. Sure they did! Not original at all, tough luck.
It also happened a few weeks ago: I wanted to write about the current state of tech news sites and Antonio Cangiano comes up with a similar post. Very interesting indeed, but quite annoying as well!
OK scrap that, think about something else…
This can potentially go on for days, and the only solution is of course trying not to worry about it, and just write the damn thing (that’s what I did to write this post).
I didn’t research enough on the subject
This happens tipically with reviews, round-ups, etc. Things I actually enjoy writing, but which may be easily subject to (harsh) criticism unless ou do them right.
I wanted to write a review of the new Treo 750 I bought. I’ve been using for a while, I learnt a few interesting hacks etc. etc. Unfortunately the 3G iPhone came out, so everyone is all hyped up about it. Too bad that I, being Italian and living in Italy, I never actually touched the damn thing!
What has that got to do with my Treo 750? Well, it would be nice to write a review of a Windows Mobile 6 phone comparing to the upcoming Apple wonder, wouldn’t it?
The solution to this would be trying to limit the scope of your post: screw Apple, let’s just focus on my Treo 750 and on the amazing amount of programming languages I can use on it!
After researching for X days, I realized it was all a waste of time
This happens with big articles. I once thought about writing a comprehensive article about all the possible ways to deploy a Ruby on Rails web site. Cool, isn’t it? I started researching about all the most esoteric lightweight web servers, about JRuby, Glassfish, IronRuby, … A lot of things. And new solutions kept coming up, and with them more and more posts, and then even entire books on the subjects.
Very frustrating. I abandoned the whole thing, because there was simply no reason to go on researching: it was all a waste of time.
How to fix this? Again, reduce the scope of your article so that you are able to reduce the time you spend researching about it. Or maybe try to get paid to write it, so that even if there’s plenty of articles about the same subject, at least you have a concrete purpose to write yours.
Erhm, yes, by the way, keep an eye on SitePoint in the next few days/weeks, OK?
I only write when I’m inspired, and now I’m not
Very, very common. I normally think about a very cool article to write in the evening, or early in the morning, or whenever I don’t have access to a computer or the Internet.
Of course I don’t forget about it, but by the time I have a chance to actually write it, I really don’t fancy doing so. Oh, the irony!
It happened today, actually, during my lunch break: I was supposed to write this post but I didn’t feel like it. I lost my inspiration and all my artistic verve, so no, it can’t be done. Tough luck, wait until next time.
How did I solve this? Well, I started writing the post in my coffee break: there was no way to finish it in time, of course, but at least I started it.
I also saved it to my PDA and continued writing it when I had a chance. Eventually, I managed to finish it during my lunch break, the next day.
Try to write whenever you are inspired. If you are not inspired in your lunch break, do some work in your lunch break and then write when, in an hour or so, probably, you feel like writing again.
This won’t make Digg’s front page
Digg, Reddit, DZone, you name it. They are all excellent free tools for promoting your content. Don’t tell me you never wrote a post for the sake of making the front page of one of those sites. I did, I confess.
I didn’t make Digg’s front page in a while, and I’m probably never going to make it again. The reason? When it comes to promoting the right content in a fair way Digg sucks. As a consequence, 80% of the articles which appear on Digg suck. I’m sure you’ll be able to forgive my French when I say that Digg utterly sucks.
No matter how clever your story may be, unless you’re backed up by a swarm or an active community willing to Digg your story, you simply aren’t going to make it. When is the last time a proper programming article made it to Digg? I don’t remember, probably way before I unsubscribed to the Digg’s Technology feed, about a year or so ago.
Just write for the sake of writing. Don’t even submit your story to Digg (unless you’re writing about the iPhone, of course, then you may have a chance): post it to a less-known site, maybe, or to Reddit, instead. You won’t get as much traffic, granted, but you also won’t get tons of idiots writing pointless crap on your site and you won’t risk a server crash. If it’s destiny, then some good soul will post it to Digg, but nobody will digg it. That’s just life, I’m afraid.
It has been too long since my last post: the next one will have to make up for it
This happens when you start feeling guilty because you didn’t post in a long time.
“My next post is going to be superb, long, interesting and everyone will start flocking back to my blog!”
Wrong. First of all because statistically people just don’t “flock back” because you bestowed them of one interesting post (you have to keep up, too), and second because by doing so your mind will automatically discard all those bits of things you wanted to write about, but you never did because you’re waiting for that special next post which will be so much better and will bring your blob back to
It happened, it happened… again, all you have to do is just post all the tidbits you need, while you’re preparing your big shot: your blog will remain “fresh” and more people will enjoy your interesting posts, whenever they’ll come.
Nobody gives a damn, anyway
I didn’t want to upset my younger audience by using a nasty f-word in the title, but that’s exactly how it feels like it, sometimes.
I went to Rome last week, did you know? I twittered about it, you ought to know! And of course you’ll all be waiting for the usual 10-page-long article on my awesome vacation. Like when I went to London, remember?
No, sadly not everyone may be interested in this crap. So I probably won’t post about it: who cares? When you start thinking like this, you may stop posting for weeks: not everyone may be interested in everything you post, and I believe that’s normal.
Especially for a blog like mine, which is deliberately open to all my interests: programming, technology, travelling, etc. That’s why most blogs try to be themed: they write about a particular subject, even a single programming project, and they (try to) do it well. The trade-off is that a themed blog may run out of posts amazingly quickly, if you’re not carefula and if you’re not 100% devoted to your blog’s theme.
A themed blog will build up a faithful audience, like when I was writing almost exclusively about CakePHP: a lot of PHP programmers where flocking here daily. Then things went wrong and I really couldn’t be bothered to write about the same crap. Which leads us to the next topic…
If I write about this, a large chunk of my audience is going to be upset
This applies especially to themed blogs: if you’re a well-known Firefox addict, you can’t suddenly start writing about Opera, praising its speed and the features it offers out-of-the box!
If you take a side, you’d better stick to it, if you want your audience to stick to you: the ten people who happen to read this blog are probably quite shocked by the amount of times I “changed side”: from CakePHP and PHP to Rails and Ruby, from Firefox to Opera (well, wait until my next SitePoint article comes out, at least…). Probably they are not the same people who read this blog a year or so ago.
In the end, it’s entirely up to you: if you are prone to radically change our opinion (and this happen in technology, much more than in politics), which involves changing the whole theme of your blog, maybe you should consider not having a themed blog at all.
And if you don’t feel 100% sure you want a themed blog, you definitely shouldn’t go for a themed domain name, or you may end up abandoning it afterwards. And when that happens, unless you’re writing damn cool posts like Why, it’s going to hurt your audience. On the other hand, if you’re sure you’ll get ten times more visitors, go for it.
No, h3rald.com stays… I may end up raving about Safari at some point within the next ten years though, don’t be upset!
I’m not an expert on the subject, so I shouldn’t blog about it
This is a common problem I have when I try to write about something I don’t know extensively enough. When I started to learn Ruby, I was eager to start writing about it: it seemed just too cool to be true!
I thought about writing a longish post on learning Ruby from scratch, but then I realized it wouldn’t have been a great idea: I was just starting to learn a new language, I didn’t know all the nitty-gritty and writing about it to teach others was going to be a bit presumptuous, maybe!
Instead, I opted for a lighted 10 reasons to learn Ruby article, clearly stating in the first paragraph that I was just a noob getting excited about his new toy. It worked, actually: people seemed to enjoy it, and I was partially excused for the few mistakes I made here and there.
You don’t have to be an expert to blog about something: you just have to be totally honest about what you know, and what you don’t know.
There are a lot of professional bloggers out there, and I’m not one of them
Finally, this can be summarized in two words: inferiority complex. “Proper” blogs fire out 10+ posts per day, and I don’t even write ten points in a month! Again, those a professional bloggers: they live for blogging (and make an awful lot of money out of it), and they most likely have someone else blogging for them, too!
Think of TechCrunch or LifeHacker, for example: they have a small legion of talented writers working for them &emdash; even if Michael Harrington does rant about Twitter about three times a week himself, though.
At the end of the day, what matters is the quality of your posts. Not the length minf, the Quality. I personally think that non-professionals (I said “non-professionals”, not “amateurs”!) are allowed to write about once a week, if they can provide good content, that is.
But you still do have to write at least once a week (OK, let’s make it ten days), otherwise either you’re justified (you genuinely don’t have time) or you may be a victim of one of these common fears. Watch out, and happy blogging!