When your goals loom so far in the distance that the path becomes indistinct and the daily grind feels pointless, how do you keep blogging?
I started blogging and learning about social media marketing BEFORE it became a “thing.” Before success stories were plastered across the internet. For several years, I typed up blog posts to tell stories. I explored the college life lessons I learned, chronicled living on my own for the first time and reached out to other military community bloggers when my soldier boyfriend proposed. It was a way to connect with a community that shared my interests. I felt heard, empowered and was thrilled when my words resonated with people I’d never met.
During that time, I took breaks from blogging when my attention was focused on other things. My breaks were rarely longer than a month or two. As a lifelong journal writer, writing is cathartic for me. I never stressed over it because those words and that community were always waiting for me when I came back.
Then blogging becomes a job
Once I began writing professionally, writer’s block became a very real thing. The words weren’t any harder to find. The consequences had changed.
Now, there were external deadlines to meet. There were bills to pay or goals to meet or projects that depended on the words coming when they were scheduled to. I discovered the pressure to make paid opportunities work, even if they weren’t quite the right fit for my audience.
The ever changing algorithms created the importance of maintaining the reach of my social channels. Every day off or vacation required careful planning to ensure no one could really tell I was away from my computer.
It became less about communication or community.
So, I changed direction
I didn’t want my writing to read like commercial copy. There are plenty of other places that readers can find that kind of information. So I changed direction. I refocused my blog content. I explored other monetization strategies besides ads and sponsored content – affiliates that were perfect for my audience, original products, community building for brands and freelance writing. Community became a primary driver for my content decisions. What would get people talking not just to me, but to each other? What could people from different parts of my readership find common ground on?
And, you know what?
I had something to say again. Again, I was putting something out there that resonated, that helped. I came back to most essential part of blogging for me – community.
Work with meaning
Don’t get me wrong here – blogging is always work. Consistent content creation with the accompanying social media promotion, keeping up with new tools and trends and discovering new ways to serve my readers can tax my often tired brain. I diversify my income with a combination of contract content marketing work, consulting, freelance writing, original products and a membership site – which means all of those channels need my attention.
But each of these channels serves a purpose. That work serves communities that I care deeply about and am personally invested in – the military community, adult amateur equestrians, moms blogging to create a life that fits their most important priorities.
Even meaningful work takes organization and has hard days. My day starts at 4 am. I maintain systems that keep me running straight (most of the time). I write between 15,000 and 30,000 words a month. And I frequently run into “blank screen syndrome” where the words simply won’t form in a way that makes sense. Fortunately, I have wonderful blogging friends who are willing to share their strategies for handling those times when you don’t have the words.
Beating the block
I try to figure out what’s the source of my slump. For example, at a recent meeting of the Milspo Project I was talking about my struggle with writer’s block lately and through our conversation I was able to tie my writer’s block to my (lack of) fitness routine. Figuring out why the creativity has stopped let’s you address the root cause of the problem instead of just putting a bandaid on it. -Emilie from BurkeDoes.com
Sometimes I get stuck on trying to make my posts too generic and appealing, when in reality, my readers are just looking for something more real. I try to switch it up, and write about a recent event in my own life, or some upcoming news. I always try to spread my posts across various topics. – Amanda from awaywerun.com
Oddly enough, I find it best to focus on something completely separate from writing. Inspiration is everywhere and sometimes just taking a time out to enjoy a fun pastime can be enough to spark an idea for a post. – Ashley from MoreThanAMilso.com
If I’m struggling with what to write about, I just ask my readers what they want to know. I’ll either ask on social media, send an email out or create a free survey on google forms. Gives me content ideas for weeks and I can tailor my posts to what my readers want to know about. – Kayla at kaylaroof.com
Keep it going
Planning is my secret keep-it-going weapon. As long as I have a plan to execute, I can make forward progress. But I keep some tools tucked in my back pocket for handling those sticky places in the content creation process.
A Running List – I keep an running Evernote Note with blog post ideas, social media posts that inspire me or questions that I would like to answer. When I’m making my editorial calendar, I can always go back to that list to fill in gaps.
Dictation – Sometimes, when the screen is blank and sentences won’t untangle themselves, I go for a walk. On that walk, I talk through the topic that I’m trying to write about like I was explaining it to friend or telling a story. I record all that talking as I walk using Voice tools on a Google Doc. When I get back, I can sit down and edit instead of facing a blank page.
Series – If I’m running dry on inspiration, a series gets me going again. The structure makes it simple and straight forward to write myself back into a groove.
Asking a question – Like Kayla mentioned, simply asking your readers what they need help with provides tremendous inspiration. So when I send my emails, I often ask a question. When my readers write back, I take a minute to engage with them via email. Often, what they are asking is something that applies to my readers as a whole and gives me insight into a topic that is directly valuable to my audience.
I’m sure that out there in the interwebs is someone who claims to have built a successful, income producing blog doing only things they enjoy and never getting stuck. I’m not that person. It’s work – but it is meaningful work.
When did your blogging hit a roadblock? What did you do?