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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The goal of avoiding blogging burnout (belated Geekery and BBAW leftovers)

Lots of things catch my eye as they make their way around the blogiverse, but sometimes it takes me awhile to get around to doing something with them myself.

Part of the "assignment" for the final day of Book Blogger Appreciation Week was to consider blogging goals:
"Tell us in 50 words or less where you want your blog to be by the next BBAW!"
Since it's no longer BBAW, to heck with the 50-word limit! And I've mentioned previously that I have a conflicted relationship with the whole idea of "goals:"
"It's not that I don't have goals, but as an attempting-to-recover control freak, I try not to get too caught up in them. And when I do have them, I tend to keep them to myself - telling someone about them, or writing them down, means I'm accountable for them now and have to take them seriously."
I also think it's important for goals to be something that will be achieved primarily through my own actions, so I feel the need to keep them pretty conservative. Goals that depend heavily on action from outside factors are goals I can't control...so maybe it's better to just call them "hopes" instead.

I'm actually pretty pleased with where my blog is right now. I like the new layout; I'll probably still tweak it now and then, but I don't foresee big changes for awhile. My subscriber base has grown a lot over the last year, and I hope to see that continue - I care more about cultivating a regular readership than spiking my search-engine traffic, although I doubt I'll ever get tired of seeing which posts Google Analytics says are visited most. Aside from the subscriber numbers, I've gotten much less hung up on my stats in the last year or so, and that's a relief.

My biggest hope for the blog is to engage with that readership better. There's a small group of regular commenters here - and I love y'all for it! - but I'd always like to see more people de-lurk and join the conversation. I respond to all comments on the post where they're left since I do feel that's more conversational, but sometimes I'll e-mail back too. I'm just not sure exactly how to get more folks to come in and comment. Let me know if you have suggestions on that - if there's a magic formula, I'd like to know what it is!

I'd like to think my writing has improved over the two and a half years I've been blogging here (along with the year I've also been contributing to the LA Moms Blog), and that's an ongoing thing (what we call CQI at my workplace - "continuous quality improvement"). I will try to make my book reviews more concise, and I want to write more "think pieces" reflecting on themes and topics in my recent reading - I've been enjoying those. I think my content has become more bookish recently, and I'm happy with that, but this is never going to be an exclusively-books blog. I like being a "hybrid blogger" who can go off in any direction.

At the end of BBAW, Unfinishedperson brought up the question of burnout in Weekly Geeks 2009-36:
"Personally, after such weeks, I feel almost burnt out and think, 'Why am I doing this? I'm not getting paid for this.' Do you ever feel the same way after weeks like the ones mentioned above? If you do, what do you to counter it? How do you keep going? Do you take a break from posts after that, or do you just 'soldier on'?

Or if you don't feel burnt out after such weeks, why not?"
I think that not being exclusive in my content is one thing that helps me avoid burnout, really. If I don't have anything book-related to talk about, I'll post about TV...or something in the news...or music...or something my dog did...or come up with an unnecessarily wordy response to a meme or writing prompt. I do all my post-drafting in Google Docs, and I open a new document whenever I get a post idea. Luckily, I haven't run out of those documents yet. One of the great things about BBAW was that it did offer prompts for daily themed posts; they were optional, but helpful, and gave me the opportunity to prepare my posts in advance. When I've found enough time to write that I have posts scheduled out for several days to come, I feel pretty good.

Something close to burnout hits me when I don't have that nice backlog of posts, however - but I usually call it "anxiety." If I haven't finished any books lately, there aren't any reviews to write, and there are times when I just don't find inspiration in my usual sources for prompts. That's when all of this starts to feel too much like work, and I just get stalled. Unfortunately, those occasions often seem to coincide with a time crunch, and that can lead to one of my "you may see a little less of me for awhile" posts. But I never seem to end up going away for more than a few days at a time. I'm sure part of the reason for that is fear of disappearing readers, but truly, I just can't keep myself from doing this for very long. Most of the time, it's just too much fun.

I get more burnt out sometimes with reading other blogs than with writing, I'm sorry to admit. But I've changed my Google Reader habits a little recently, and that's helped; I've also chosen not to feel guilty about judicious use of the "mark all as read" button.

I think "avoid blogging burnout" may be a pretty good goal, actually. What do you say to that?

16 comments:

  1. I do think it's a good goal! I think it's nice to have non bookish things to write about too. I personally keep my blog bookish -- but I find tons of non-reviews that I'm always wanting to write.

    I'm feeling some degree of "burn-out" as well. Just so much to do. But I need to remember this is all for fun!

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  2. Great post - and lots of food for thought, Florinda. I can relate to so very much of this.

    As for changing your schedule, I love The Sunday Salon. I tend to catch up on my blog reading more on the weekends than during the week, so I'm not the best judge of whether you should change the scheduling of posts, etc.

    I did vote that it is your blog, and you should do whatever you like! :) As long as it keeps being fun, and not feeling like work.

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  3. Variety is the spice of life, and of blogging too, I agree. I have a few blogs, each on different subjects, and one main blog that combines most of them, so that helps: crossposting. Eventually, I'd like to combine like you do...anyway, point is I like how you mix it up here. Keep up the good work.

    I'm waaaay behind on this, but love your "new" design as well, especially the header. To me, headers set the tone of the blog and yours captures it perfectly.

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  4. Rebecca - After a year of it, I'm finally grasping that my posts for the LA Moms Blog are a good outlet for some of my less-bookish thoughts. However, sometimes those posts find their way back here in somewhat different form, and sometimes things that start here end up there. Still, if this blog does end up shifting more toward book-related content, I do have a place for other writing.

    And sometimes remembering that it's all for fun is much harder than it sounds :-)!

    Melissa - I may take the poll down early; I already signed up for the Salon :-). I think I'm making the change this week. I really like reading other people's Sunday Salon posts, but I don't want to post here seven days a week (seriously, I don't!), so I'll be juggling some features around.

    Thanks for your input!

    Bryan (Unfinishedperson) - As I said in reply to Rebecca's comment, my posts for the Moms Blog do offer some cross-posting opportunities, and I agree that it does help. I just don't have the energy to separate all the content onto different blogs like you do :-)!

    And thanks for your feedback on the design. The header is my husband's work, if you missed my mentioning that earlier - being married to a graphic designer/illustrator has its perks, and I think he did a great job with it too!

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  5. Good luck on your 'hopes'! (rather than goals.) I never have any posts ready in draft form waiting. well, ok RARELY. I had never even thought about not having such as a source of stress. I'm never without ideas and I just write when the mood hits. or when I finish a book.

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  6. I've gotten so bad about commenting on other people's blogs! But hey, it probably has helped ward off complete burn-out. I think we all understand that we can all only do so much.

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  7. I think goals are good for you as long as they are ones you are looking to achieve. I think this is great. and I am having a hard time keeping up with blogs as things get more and more hectic at work and with the freelance gig.

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  8. I think you do a great job of engaging with your readership!

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  9. That's an excellent goal. Commenting is so hard...it's criticla for that conversational element, but it's also time consuming if there are a lot of blogs in the feed reader. It's something that I struggle with daily.

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  10. I think it's a good idea that you don't do just one kind of thing here. I could see that getting old very quickly.

    I'm not sure what the Sunday Salon thing is, but I say go for it. If you don't like it, go back to your old schedule. It's your blog, after all. :)

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  11. I don't think there's a magic formula for getting comments, just working on being conversational, I think. But of course that's no help!

    I think my blogging burnout comes from trying to keep up with the posts on blogs I like to read. I want to read and comment judiciously, but seeing the unread posts number go up gives me anxiety and I tend to put it off. I haven't figured out a great system for dealing with this yet, but I'm trying.

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  12. Care - The stress is more of a time-management thing in general than directly related to not having posts ready. I want to post 5-6 days a week, and I don't like rushing to get them done, so I feel better when I'm able to work ahead a little.

    April - True. If I'm reading and commenting on other blogs more, I'm doing less here, and vice versa. Not to mention the time the REST of my life takes, of course! But I'm glad you commented on this post - I've missed you :-)!

    Serena - It's the same old juggle, isn't it? More reading -> less blogging, etc. But I really want to make sure I keep enjoying the whole thing...or else, why do it?

    Kathy (Bermudaonion) - Thank you! I feel like I try, and I'm glad that you join in so often :-). I'd just like to see even more readers come out to play.

    Jill (Softdrink) - I know what you mean. There are far too many blogs where I read regularly but almost never comment, and I'm sure it's the same way with readers here. I hope so, anyway - I'd hate to think that they're just bored!

    Mike - The Sunday Salon is a book-blogger thing - and I think I can guess how you voted in the poll :-). I think I'm going to take it down early, actually...I've pretty much decided to take the plunge.

    But I definitely want to make sure my non-book-blogging readers stick around, too!

    Kim - I definitely relate to that. I think that's what wears me out sometimes too, and I totally understand the "unread anxiety" feeling!

    If there were a magic formula to encourage comments, I'm sure someone would be making a lot of money selling it :-)!

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  13. I think avoiding burnout is a great goal. Sometimes I get tired of posting but I haven't run out of things to say- yet- so I guess that's a good sign. It's just a blog, after all- not a job- so if I take some time off or whatever, it's not like I'm going to get fired! I've recently stopped accepting review books from burnout- that stuff exhausts me more than posting. Writing about what I love is a pleasure.

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  14. Marie - I've cut back on the review books too, for similar reasons. And I agree - still feeling like you have things to say in your blog is a VERY good sign!

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  15. Florinda,

    I love the new look—and it's actually easier to comment here now (for some reason I'd often encounter technical glitches when I was trying before). Burn out is a huge concern; I've seen it happen to so many. Writing from the heart, writing because we urgently feel that we have something to day, as opposed to something we feel we should be saying, is, I've found, key.

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  16. Beth - I've switched to the pop-up comment window and disabled the embedded form. I actually prefer the embedded, but it did give some people problems at times - including me, on occasion - so I've made the change at a reader's request. I hope it will make it easier for people to comment, so they'll do it more!

    I very much agree with you about writing what we feel the need to say.

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Now it's YOUR turn - speak your piece, please! Or just let me know you were here; I always like that. But you'll have to leave a name - I've disallowed anonymous comments due to some recent spam problems. Thanks!