Sunday, November 28, 2004

On Blogger Burnout

Wired Magazine recently had a article on "Blogger Burnout". The articles focus is on why people who show initial enthusiasm for blogging often given it up not because they've lost interest in blogging, per se, but because they've simply reached a point where they're mentally and emotionally exhausted by the effort of posting entries.

Certainly I've seen signs of the phenomenon often enough. Some blogs start out at a furious pace of posting article daily or even multiple times a day. Eventually daily posts give way to weekly posts, then monthly posts, then posts on an entirely irregular schedule eventually followed by a persistent silence. Alternatively, some blogs start out on a regular posting schedule and keep it up for a fairly long amount of time and then just stop, one day, for no apparent reason.

I think that one of the problems of blogging is that it's very easy to come to think of it as an obligation. Once that perspective creeps in, it goes from being a hobby to being a task. Essentially, it becomes an unpaid job. One might well continue to post out of a sense of duty to one's readers but that can only go on for so long especially since such an attempt to post out of duty becomes, itself, progressively more of a burden. After awhile, it's inevitable that you're going to simply say "screw it" and walk away.

By like measure, a blog can be killed by a creeping sense of apathy. Most people who start up blogs come to the venture with a head full of ideas. Eventually, however, that initial stock of ideas becomes depleted and a person is left feeling that they either have to write about something that they don't really care about or, alternative, not write anything at all. Many blogs die with a shrug.

When I started Unstructured Musings I was mindful of both of these tendencies. The first and foremost thing that I decided was that I would write to an audience but that I would also write for myself. I want this to be an interesting and informative place for anyone who decides to look in here, of course, but even more important than that is that this remains something fun for me to do. My blogging is very much a hobby and, as such, ought to be a source of enjoyment (and believe me, it has been).

I deliberately started out slow with the goal of publishing an essay once a week on Sunday along with scattered missives, as they struck me, over the remainder of the week. As I grew more comfortable with the weekly posts I eventually added regular "fun" posts on Tuesday as well as samples of my poetry on Thursday. I decided to add those in because finding cool things on the web is easy enough and I also have quite a large stock of poetry (and an utter lack of shame when it comes to subjecting the rest of the world to it).

My biggest concern has been the essays. I enjoy writing essays but essay writing can be demand and I also recognize that every person goes through dry spells. My solution to this problem is two pronged. I publish my essays on a weekly basis but I write them as they come to me. Some weeks I'll only have a single essay come to mind, others I'll have three, and some I'll have none at all. The overall result of this is that I have a pool of pending essays to draw from. As I'm writing this particular essay, I have a further eleven essays in the pool "before" it (I don't always publish them in the order that I wrote them). As such, if I did hit a dry spell, I could go without writing anything for nearly a full three months before I reached a point where I wouldn't have anything to publish on Sunday. This also means that I can relax and deliberate take time off from blogging in order to allow my mental batteries to recharge, without any interruption to my readers, as I have already done at several points.

But what happens if I exhaust the queue? Well, if I run out of general topics, I can always resort to publishing book and film reviews (since I have an avid interest in both). If that grows boring, I can resort to the second prong which is, quite simply, to put the essays on hiatus.

I would still publish the Tuesday Fun and the Thursday Poetry Slam posts (giving my modest readership something to look forward to). In the meanwhile, I would continue to write essays as they came to me. If that meant going a year or two, so be it. Once I had another stock of essays stored up, I'd start publishing them again.

The bottom line, I think, is that a good blogger needs to be in control of their blog and not the other way around. If a blog starts to intrude upon family or work or starts to become a point of stress then, I think, the point of blogging has been lost.

I think that the very best blog strategy is simply to keep a sense of perspective. Being a blogger, there is a temptation to want to be a latter day Samuel Pepys but the truth of the matter is that the majority of blogs (and certainly my own) are only ever going to have a small audience. Some may find that disappointing but I, for one, consider it a liberation. I don't have a vast audience and I am not being critically judged by forces of history; therefore, I can write to my own interests and at my own pace.

I love blogging. I would encourage anyone who's interested in it to give it a whirl. All I would suggest is that you don't lose sight of your motivations for trying it out. Keep it fun and make it an enjoyment unto yourself.

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