At Scienceonline 2013, Dr. Zen and I spent some time discussing how to blog “for the long haul”. There’s a full storify of what went down below, and there should be live video feed available for free soon! And below the storify, I’ve included a few thoughts that I personally took away from the session. I’d love to hear yours as well!
For whatever reason, many of us want to continue to blog for the long haul. Maybe it’s our job. Maybe we need practice. Maybe it’s important development of skills for a future career. Maybe it’s a way to build a community or to foster your creativity. Whatever the reason, we want to keep going.
But the question is: how?
The long haul session was a great opportunity for people to share what they did, how well it worked, and what they would recommend. I think we traded some wonderful ideas, and so I’d like to take the opportunity to make…
Sci’s Guidelines for Beating Blog Blowout
Not all of these will work for everyone, it’s best to pick and choose which is best for you. and if there are any that you feel I’ve missed, please do let me know!
No really, relax. Not all of us were meant to post 5 days a week. Heck, some of us weren’t meant to post once a month! If you’re someone who really does just need to feel the inspiration to write, then that’s completely ok. Take a break, and make peace with being sporadic.
2. Push through
If you need to keep going (say, it’s your job), you sometimes need to push through. Maybe that means blogging when you don’t feel like blogging. Maybe it means you write shorter pieces. Maybe it means you post pictures of cats or video clips. Maybe it means you write terrible poetry. That’s ok! As Dr. Zen pointed out, waiting to write something brilliant will just increase your fear. Write something, put it on the page, and publish it. It’s a blog, you can change it or improve as you go. And often, just getting something out there can jump start you a little.
Dr. Zen and I are both big fans of scheduling. In my case, I tend to work in a “feast for famine” mold. During times when I’m relaxed and I have a lot of ideas and enthusiasm (and often, no internet, interestingly), I will write up a good series of posts, and I will space them out. Often I will schedule them ahead for when I know life is going to be tough, or just save them for when I feel very uninspired.
But that is just one kind of scheduling. There’s also the scheduling of just pumping it out. I post three times a week, come hell or high water (ok, sometimes it’s just two for a semester, but never less). Sometimes if I’m very out of it I’ll use a previously written post, but the rest of the time, I have to push through. I tell myself my audience depends on me (though I’m not sure they’d notice), but really, it’s about consistency. Writing consistently, even when I don’t feel like it, makes me a better writer. Every time you write, you learn something, even if it’s just HOW badly you can write!
And writing, really, is like a muscle. There are many days when I don’t feel like running. But I know that running consistently makes me better, stronger. Writing consistently makes you a better writer, it makes you faster, and sometimes, it even spawns new ideas.
4. Keep track of ideas
Someone at the session made a really excellent point. Sometimes it’s great to separate the idea generating and the writing itself. Set aside a time to think of ideas, and set aside a time to write, but don’t make them the same. You can also come up with many ideas at once, and keep a list of them to tackle when you’re feeling uninspired. I know I keep a very large folder of pdfs of papers, all ones that I’ve seen in tables of contents or that people have sent me, that I can write up whenever I don’t have something immediately requiring my attention.
5. Try something new!
Throughout my blog time, I have tried new things. Friday Weird Science stuck around, my guest writing series has done a lot to spark my interest. Sometimes I’ll just try news things (I tried a word of the week series), but they just end up dropped, possibly due to lack of interest. That’s ok! Trying something new can keep you interested. But don’t feel pressured to stick with it.
6. Go at it in groups
Sometimes the presence of someone else, to bounce ideas off of or to discuss things with, or heck, even to provide some competition, can really make a difference. A group blog can also do a lot to share the workload. If you’ve got a blog buddy, or someone who wants to give it a try, it can often do a lot to revitalize your own work.
7. Remember why you do what you do
As you blog for the long haul (or tweet, or any other form of social media), you will make friends, allies, and develop as part of the science online community. For me, the community is a lot of why I’m here, their support, their challenges, and the loads of thought-provoking questions. Remember, you are here because you want to communicate. You want to write. You want to get those words out, and you probably want to improve. Remember why you want to do. Heck, even write about that! And remember that the sci comm community is here, and we all want everyone to give their best.
Secrets of the Universe: Past, Present, FutureX