My 5 tips for blog maintenance
In December last year I gave a talk about why blogging isn’t what most people think it is. My inspiration for the talk came from Fiona, whom I had been talking to a few weeks prior. She was really keen to hear about any advice I could give as a blogger who had been blogging for twelve years.
I’ve decided to discuss a few things I do to help keep my blog updated regularly.
1. I fucking love calendars
I used to hate calendars.
Whether you do it digitally or not, a calendar is a good way to keep track of your writing and plan it as well. I log any posts I publish as a full-day event in my calendar, and routinely look at the week ahead and add posts where I think I have time to publish one. It helps me see how often I have blogged in a given month, too.
I chose to do this digitally, because as much as I like having a physical calendar to look at, a digital one makes it easier to move events around if I change my mind, and it’s quick to scroll through.
2. Write down ideas, even if they are stupid
I used to dislike writing down ideas.
I thought, ‘If I have a really good idea I would remember it, or I would write about it right now.’
This wasn’t a good way to think. The thing is, ideas flourish. Ideas start small and grow. If you let that slip away, you could be letting some potential posts slip away.
I write my ideas as a quick note in Wunderlist. It’s my favourite to-do list app – I used them from the early days when they were still called Wunderkit, and I tried countless other to-do apps only to find myself going back to them. It’s simple and easy to use, but you choose what works for you.
I still keep ideas until I decide that I don’t want to expand on them anymore. It’s good to at least write down your ideas and let them simmer.
3. Expand on your ideas with drafts
I never used to write drafts.
People were amazed that I used to blog by writing my post without much of a break, spending under an hour to write something and then just posting it after a quick proofread. I’m the blogger who grew from a love for writing and who used to write in diaries. I treated my blog as a very easy-going ‘fun’ and ‘easy’ place to publish my work. A lot of people will treat blogs quite professionally and perfect their blog posts before publishing them, but I find that it’s too much pressure.
However, I’ve grown as a blogger and have written quite a lot of draft posts over the past year. I flesh out ideas I’ve written, and let half-baked posts sit for a while until I find ways to improve them (or until I don’t think they’re good anymore). I also used to think that drafts were silly and a waste of time but that’s wrong. Writing down ideas and writing drafts is where a lot of the practice comes from. And with practice, that is what makes you a better blogger and writer.
Drafts aren’t a waste of time, in fact they can save you time. I often work on them on the train using my phone. It’s good when you’re on the go and your brain starts ticking or you get some inspiration. That’s the other thing – many people will say they don’t have time when they can still think about things while they are travelling, or in their downtime. You will also be surprised how much you can write if you sit down and write for ten minutes without being distracted.
You might want to try The Most Dangerous Writing App in your browser, which will encourage you to write without stopping for more than five seconds – otherwise you lose all your work.
4. Proofread, but don’t be a perfectionist
I used to never proofread my posts.
I still don’t, or rarely. 😛 I give my posts a quick skim read, and yes, sometimes I publish them with errors and then go back and fix them. Nothing is perfect, and I don’t mean that you should be careless when you proofread, but you shouldn’t spend too much time getting stuck in the details. As I mentioned above, some people do treat their blog with extreme perfection. I have had experience writing for formal publications, and this is where work like that is required. For your own personal blog, don’t sweat it too much. 😄
5. Setting an expectation will put pressure on you (so don’t do it)
If you’re going to say ‘I want to blog twice a week’, do it until you can’t do it anymore.
This is one of my favourite takeaways from my talk. I was constantly making myself blog every day or every two days in 2008-2009, and when I was very busy with school work or going to work, I felt so much pressure to keep up to this expectation I had not only set for myself, but for the audience of my blog. Ultimately you are writing for yourself, whether you want to update your blog friends on your life, share something, get more shares, and so on. You are ultimately writing just for yourself.
I recommend not setting up a goal like this unless you are ready to. It often works as motivation, but it’s better to start with smaller goals and gradually increase. And it’s OK if you slip and you can’t keep up with yourself anymore. Let the expectation go.
I’ve experienced this on many series/segments I have started on my blog, that I promised to do every Wednesday, or every second Friday, and have been quite distraught when I haven’t met that expectation. Remember that it’s OK, and it’s your blog, so you play by your rules.
I could go through a lot of ‘myths’ about blogging and what to keep in mind, but that’s quite a separate topic. It does tie into this post though, in the sense that even though your blog might be in full swing, you have to remember that blogging is not a competition and not a chore, so don’t make it feel like one. Your blog, your rules. 😎